The Village Girl

I knew a pleasant village, in a lone
And silent valley, on the southern side
Of a long line of mountains, whence a brook
Came gently down, and in its winding flow
Stole through a pansied meadow, where a bank
Of beeches lifted up its tufted slope
To the warm sun of April, as it shone
Tenderly from a hemisphere of blue,
Purer because the earth sent rarer forth
Its dimming exhalations, on whose boughs
Yet hung the leaves of winter, with a low
And plaintive rustling telling to the winds
A sweet Æolian tale, and shining out
In glossy twinkling, as they lightly turned
Their surface to the light, and then veered back
With a quick-glancing motion; in a bend
Of that close thicket, where the mountain gust
Came not, but all was tranquil, and the turf
Was deeper greened, and the new opened flowers
Spread bolder out their tender leaves, and sent
Soft odors on the mellow air, that played
Silently in that hollow, where the quail
Sat often in the clear warm noon, and turned
Her red eye to the silver light, and shook
The dropped leaves in her playfulness; one day,
When all was purely fair, and the chill winds
Were hushed aloft, and as I upwards gazed,
The frosted fir, the pendent pine, and all
The sable groves of cedar, stood as still
As when a wood of lances wait the breath
Of the shrill horn and braying clarion,
To sink upon the line of fight, and rush
Forward to meet in conflict, — such a day,
When the young sod first quickens, and the pale
Blue eyes of weeping violets part their lids
To drink the first warm rays, I chanced to bend
My wandering foot along the grassy brink
Of the calm-flowing brooklet, pleased to take
With a quick eye its many turns, and dwell
On the clear dashing of its waterfalls,
And the soft gliding of its molten gold,
Where the sun met it curving o'er a root
That grew across its channel, or the curls,
That like a pigeon's plumage waving played
Over the sandy shallow, or the still
And tranquil mirror where it rested deep
And dark beneath a willow, — as I stood
Looking aside upon the velvet vest
Of the fresh-springing meadow, and above
Where the bent birches hung their tufted flowers,
New purpling like a silken shred, and faint
The scarlet maple buds put out, and fair
The downy willow catkins specked with gold
Their flaxen locks, when life awoke within
The leaf-buds of the forest, then I caught
In that still nook a pale and lovely girl,
With a fair hand fondling a petted lamb,
That bounded light around her, and with long
And oft-repeated fondness licked her hand,
And then renewed its gambols, though it took
Short turns, because a cord of braided blue,
The color of a dove-wing, or the sky
When a full moon shines over it, drew back
Her minion to a narrow circle, for
She thus had bound it in a silken chain,
As if it were a loved one, who would fly
To other lands, and leave her here to sing
Her sad notes to the evening wind, and tell
Her hours in weeping loneliness, and look
Where the far path came o'er the hill to catch
Her long departed lover, till the night
Hid the low vale in darkness, and her eye
Turned from the fruitless quest, and then she wept
Tenderly, and her sweet voice took a tone
In which despair was uttered, till it sunk
Trembling and fainting, as the night-wind falls
Softer along the harp-strings, till a sound
Just whispers through the air, and all is still.

There was a look of calmness in her thin
And delicate features, wasted to a shade,
Like a pure spirit musing on the dark
And sad afflictions of this life below,
And dwelling for a moment on the grief
And sickness of the better few, who trust,
In their most hopeless hours, they yet shall find
A sunshine after darkness, and a calm
After the tempest ceaseth, when the eye
Of love shall rest for ever on the friends
They late have seen departing on their long
And unreturning journey, whose cold lids
They closed with pious care, whose stiffened limbs
They laid in decent order, and composed
Their pale lips to a sweet and dying smile,
And shrouded all in whitest lawn, than which
No flaky snow falls purer, and no curl
Catches a softer tincture from the moon,
To throw a thin veil o'er the stars, and dim
Their brightness to a faint and mellow ray,
Like a lone taper through a curtain, when
Sleep broods above the hamlet, and the sound
Of life is hushed, and this alone reveals
To him who walks in darkness that two hearts
Are pouring out their fulness, or a voice,
In the low, consecrated tone of prayer,
Is talking with the Universal Soul,
And blending with the perfect purity
And majesty of Godhead, or an eye
Is watching o'er the page of lofty thought,
And catching inspiration at the shrine
Of intellect and fancy, till the heart,
Big with its high conceptions, overflows,
And then his lips pour out the eloquence
Of kindled spirit, and a purer stream
Of language, musical, and grand, and full
Of the quick life of mind, is sent abroad,
Than ever meets the anxious ear, when crowds
Drink in the rhetoric of master souls.

Her looks were purely Grecian, such as charm
Taste in an ancient statue, or a gem,
Or fair intaglio, where a perfect white,
Shaped to a nymph-like beauty, sparkles in
A ground of azure; — it was such a face
As had enamored Raphael, or inspired
The pencil of Correggio to the birth
Of a blue-eyed Madonna, or a calm
And pensive spirit looking up to heaven,
Poised on a seraph's wing high in the dome
Of an Italian temple, where the God
Of charity is worshipped, and the form
Of Him who died on Calvary adored.
Her brow was softly arched, and it was pure
And pale as marble, and the dew of death
Seemed resting there, and gave a fearful tint
To its else perfect loveliness, and told
Thoughts were at work beneath it, which might still
Erelong the life within her, but are loved,
Although we know them fatal, as we cling
To the Circean bowl, and dying grasp
At its alluring poison, which conveys
A madness to the brain which hath a touch
Of inspiration in its reveries,
And spreads around the spirit light and calm,
Till earth seems beautiful and life is heaven.

Her hair was of a sunny brown, and fine
As lines of light that stream across a cloud,
Ere the sun rises, or the scarlet tuft,
That floats beneath the green wave, where on rocks
The sea-plume clings, and throws its feeling threads,
Like flowing silk, around it. It was full,
And dropped in light profusion down her neck,
And o'er her bosom; and it parted lay
In native ringlets round her brow, and shone
Deeper beside the snow it rested on,
And that came fairer through the curling shade
That waved above it, as the sighing wind
Sent a sweet-breathing air to shake the leaves,
And crisp the sheeted water. As she hung
Her head in deepest sorrow, some few tears
Stole out and pearled her cheek, but these she brushed
With a light touch aside, and then renewed
A song, half sad, half playful, such as comes
From a crazed brain, that says, it knows not why,
A thousand things which are at first as gay
As wild mirth in a revel, and then fall
To a faint tone, in which despair alone
Can have a concord, and at last a sob
Closes it, and her glistening tears o'erflow.

She lifted up her head, and mutely gazed
Awhile upon the world above, and then
Her ashy lips were moving, but no sound
Came through their parting paleness; still it shone
With a faint hectic flush, like the last tint
The sun casts on a wreath of mists, and then
A most intense cerulean veils it o'er,
So that the sky seems tintless. As she looked
Far in the silent atmosphere, methought
Her blue eye had a fixedness, and saw
A form distinctly featured, and she rose
Half from her seat of turf, and threw her arms,
As if to meet it in a fond embrace,
And a sweet smile broke on her lips, and tears
Stood glistening on her eyelids, such quick joy
Stirred in her heart, and one faint word alone
Escaped, it was L EONI : — then she dropped
Suddenly on her grassy seat, — her head
Drooped languidly, and her long flowing locks
Showered their full ringlets o'er her, big round tears
Dropped thick and freshly through them, and her sobs
Shook her, they were so deep; she pressed her brow
And wrung her hands, and then she cast them down
Clasped on the sod beside her, shook her head,
And with a sweet low voice sighed out, " No more . "

She plucked the flowers that grew around, and kissed
Their purple and their yellow leaves, and long
Inhaled their perfume; then she opened wide
Her lips to the wild laugh that tells despair,
And it rang terribly around, and oft
She uttered it still louder, and her eye
Kindled and flashed intensely, and the spot
Of death stood glowing like a ring of fire
On the blue paleness of her cheek, and full
The dark veins throbbed upon her brow, and shot
Their branches o'er her temples, and she waved
Her hand, that seemed a spirit's, where the light
Shone with a purple glimmer through, and then
She outward turned her palm, and often pushed
Some hateful object from her, and a dark
Mysterious look of madness glazed her eye,
And her pearl teeth were set, and her frame shook
With an internal shuddering; then with slow
And broken sounds she muttered, " False and foul . "

Suddenly she sank down, and, bending low,
Hid her face in her mantle; one weak groan
Stole from her, like a dying wind at eve
Through a sere vine in autumn: then her lamb
Drew to her side, and looked with wistful eye
On her wild sorrow; as her dim eye caught
The innocent eye that gazed so fondly, calm
She lifted up her forehead, and composed
Her scattered tresses, and held out her hand
To the compassionate creature, who was now
The only one she trusted in; — she smiled,
As mourners smile, and, hanging o'er, she spake
Few words of tenderness: " Thou wilt not leave,
Fair face of gentleness, thou wilt not leave,
Though the world leave me. " Then she gathered flowers
And grass-blades, and she wove them in a wreath,
And bound it round her minion's neck, and clasped
Its soft limbs to her bosom, with a kiss
Of sorrow and of love: her soul seemed calm,
And shone serenely through her clear blue eyes,
Which had in them a meek divinity,
All patience and all hope, that as she gazed
Upward to the pure vault and the bright sun,
Methought her spirit parted, and took wing,
And angels came to welcome it, and bear
The weary stranger to a resting-place,
And lay her on a pillow which no thorn
Hath ever entered. Such a sacred calm
Was printed in her look, that she became
Sainted to all my feelings, and I stood
To see her spurn the earth, and soar away
To the pure air above the highest cone,
That still looked white behind me; but she soon
Rose gently from her seat, and threw her hair
With a quick motion backward, closely drew
Her russet cloak, and twined her braided line
Around her marble fingers, then looked down,
And said, " We must go homeward, sweet one, night
Is coming in the far sky, " and ere I
Could trace her, through the silent wood withdrew.
Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.