Hark where the bells toll, chiming, dull and steady,
The clock’s slow hand hath reached the appointed time.
Well, be it so–prepare, my soul is ready,
Companions of the grave–the rest for crime!
Now take, O world! my last farewell–receiving
My parting kisses–in these tears they dwell!
Sweet are thy poisons while we taste believing,
Now we are quits–heart-poisoner, fare-thee-well!
Farewell, ye suns that once to joy invited,
Changed for the mould beneath the funeral shade;
Farewell, farewell, thou rosy time delighted,
Luring to soft desire the careless maid,
Pale gossamers of gold, farewell, sweet dreaming
Fancies–the children that an Eden bore!
Blossoms that died while dawn itself was gleaming,
Opening in happy sunlight never more.
Swanlike the robe which innocence bestowing,
Decked with the virgin favors, rosy fair,
In the gay time when many a young rose glowing,
Blushed through the loose train of the amber hair.
Woe, woe! as white the robe that decks me now–
The shroud-like robe hell’s destined victim wears;
Still shall the fillet bind this burning brow–
That sable braid the Doomsman’s hand prepares!
Weep ye, who never fell-for whom, unerring,
The soul’s white lilies keep their virgin hue,
Ye who when thoughts so danger-sweet are stirring,
Take the stern strength that Nature gives the few!
Woe, for too human was this fond heart’s feeling–
Feeling!–my sin’s avenger doomed to be;
Woe–for the false man’s arm around me stealing,
Stole the lulled virtue, charmed to sleep, from me.
Ah, he perhaps shall, round another sighing
(Forgot the serpents stinging at my breast),
Gayly, when I in the dumb grave am lying,
Pour the warm wish or speed the wanton jest,
Or play, perchance, with his new maiden’s tresses,
Answer the kiss her lip enamored brings,
When the dread block the head he cradled presses,
And high the blood his kiss once fevered springs.
Thee, Francis, Francis, league on league, shall follow
The death-dirge of the Lucy once so dear;
From yonder steeple dismal, dull, and hollow,
Shall knell the warning horror on thy ear.
On thy fresh leman’s lips when love is dawning,
And the lisped music glides from that sweet well–
Lo, in that breast a red wound shall be yawning,
And, in the midst of rapture, warn of hell!
Betrayer, what! thy soul relentless closing
To grief–the woman-shame no art can heal–
To that small life beneath my heart reposing!
Man, man, the wild beast for its young can feel!
Proud flew the sails–receding from the land,
I watched them waning from the wistful eye,
Round the gay maids on Seine’s voluptuous strand,
Breathes the false incense of his fatal sigh.
And there the babe! there, on the mother’s bosom,
Lulled in its sweet and golden rest it lay,
Fresh in life’s morning as a rosy blossom,
It smiled, poor harmless one, my tears away.
Deathlike yet lovely, every feature speaking
In such dear calm and beauty to my sadness,
And cradled still the mother’s heart, in breaking,
The softening love and the despairing madness.
“Woman, where is my father?” freezing through me,
Lisped the mute innocence with thunder-sound;
“Woman, where is thy husband?”–called unto me,
In every look, word, whisper, busying round!
Alas, for thee, there is no father’s kiss;–
He fondleth other children on his knee.
How thou wilt curse our momentary bliss,
When bastard on thy name shall branded be!
Thy mother–oh, a hell her heart concealeth,
Lone-sitting, lone in social nature’s all!
Thirsting for that glad fount thy love revealeth,
While still thy look the glad fount turns to gall.
In every infant cry my soul is hearkening,
The haunting happiness forever o’er,
And all the bitterness of death is darkening
The heavenly looks that smiled mine eyes before.
Hell, if my sight those looks a moment misses–
Hell, when my sight upon those looks is turned–
The avenging furies madden in thy kisses,
That slept in his what time my lips they burned.
Out from their graves his oaths spoke back in thunder!
The perjury stalked like murder in the sun–
Forever–God!–sense, reason, soul, sunk under–
The deed was done!
Francis, O Francis! league on league shall chase thee
The shadows hurrying grimly on thy flight–
Still with their icy arms they shall embrace thee,
And mutter thunder in thy dream’s delight!
Down from the soft stars, in their tranquil glory,
Shall look thy dead child with a ghastly stare;
That shape shall haunt thee in its cerements gory,
And scourge thee back from heaven–its home is there!
Lifeless–how lifeless!–see, oh see, before me
It lies cold–stiff–O God!–and with that blood
I feel, as swoops the dizzy darkness o’er me
Mine own life mingled–ebbing in the flood–
Hark, at the door they knock–more loud within me–
More awful still–its sound the dread heart gave!
Gladly I welcome the cold arms that win me–
Fire, quench thy tortures in the icy grave!
Francis–a God that pardons dwells in heaven–
Francis, the sinner–yes–she pardons thee–
So let my wrongs unto the earth be given
Flame seize the wood!–it burns–it kindles–see!
There–there his letters cast–behold are ashes–
His vows–the conquering fire consumes them here
His kisses–see–see–all are only ashes–
All, all–the all that once on earth were dear!
Trust not the roses which your youth enjoyeth,
Sisters, to man’s faith, changeful as the moon!
Beauty to me brought guilt–its bloom destroyeth
Lo, in the judgment court I curse the boon
Tears in the headsman’s gaze–what tears?–’tis spoken!
Quick, bind mine eyes–all soon shall be forgot–
Doomsman–the lily hast thou never broken?
Pale Doomsman–tremble not!