Life's Stages.

A poem by Eliza Paul Kirkbride Gurney

To the heart of trusting childhood life is all a gilded way,
Wherein a beam of sunny bliss forever seems to play;
It roams about delightedly through pleasure's roseate bower,
And gaily makes a playmate, too, of every bird and flower;
Holds with the rushing of the winds companionship awhile,
And, on the tempest's darkest brow, discerns a brightening smile,
Converses with the babbling waves, as on their way they wend,
And sees, in everything it meets, the features of a friend.
"To-day" is full of rosy joy, "to-morrow" is not here:
When, for an uncreated hour, was childhood known to fear?
Not until hopes, warm hopes, its heart a treasure-house have made,
Like summer flowers to bloom awhile, like them, alas, to fade;
Cherished too fondly and too long, for ah! the rich parterre,
Crushed in its brightest blossoming, leaves but a desert there.

This is life's second stage; the gloss of springtime has passed o'er,
The trusting bosom is deceived, but still it trusts the more;
Its young affections are bound up within a mother's love,
And oh! if blessings ever yet descended from above
And rested on an earthly tie to mark approval given,
A mother's love, assuredly, is sanctioned thus by Heaven.
But soon the ruthless spoiler comes, and all its trust is vain:
The eye that beamed so kindly once, will ne'er unclose again;
The voice of love that still could soothe when all its hopes were o'er,
Alas! those sweetly sacred tones are hushed forever-more;
The smile that lingered round its path when other lights had fled,
Oh! can it be that blessed smile is buried with the dead?
Then what is left the orphan heart thus mournfully bereft?
To call its crushed affections home and count the treasures left,
With trembling fear to count them o'er, and bitterly to sigh,
Remembering they are earthly too, they, too, alas, must die.

Perchance of its remaining joys, its fondly garnered things,
One may be dearer than the rest to that it fondly clings;
And, resting thus confidingly, it half forgets the woe
Which changed the orphan's joyous tones to cadence sad and low.
And can the stern destroyer find naught else to call his own
That he has stamped his fearful mark upon this chosen one?
It boots not to inquire the cause, the why it must be so;
"It is his victim," this alone is pain enough to know.
What's left thee now, poor orphan heart, that entered life so gay,
And fondly dreamed 'twould all have proved a bright and cloudless way?
Where are the joys that wreathed thee round in childhood's reckless hours?
'Twas thine to watch them droop and fall, like pale, decaying flowers.
Where is thy home of love? Ah! well, that thought may cloud thy brow
The dear loved home that sheltered thee is claimed by strangers now;
And does that echoing hall repeat no well-remembered tone?
The stranger's voice, the stranger's step have there familiar grown.

And where the joyous faces now that circled round the hearth?
Gone. Are all gone? Then changed indeed, fearfully changed, is earth!
Alas! poor desolated heart, what more remains for thee?
(A sad and solitary wreck on life's tempestuous sea)
What but to feel, destroying Time, indeed, has roughly past
And blighted fairest dreams of bliss, oh! too, too fair to last;
What but to muse on perished joys to which sad memory clings,
While pleasure's wrecked and ruined hopes, a mournful band, she brings,
Death's trophies, which proclaim his shaft at treasured bliss he threw,
And oh! which mournfully disclose his fearful victory too.

Yes, this is life! but life it is without that heavenly ray
Which ever throws its purest light upon the stormiest way;
Which sweetly gilds the darkest sky and comes like angel voice,
(E'en 'mid the wreck of dearest hopes), to bid the heart rejoice;
Which flings a smile on sorrow's brow, and sunshine on the tomb,
And scatters o'er the bed of death bright buds of deathless bloom.
'Tis true the parting hour will come, "the loved" it cannot save;
But it can teach us with a smile to yield them to the grave;
To watch with chastened sober bliss the spirit's calm release,
Trusting, though life have storms for us, all with the dead is peace.
And even while the bosom aches, aches to its inmost core,
This heavenly beam can bid it joy that earthly ties are o'er.
For oh! our covenant Lord, who ne'er his sacred promise breaks,
Has sweetly said, when all the world, the changing world, forsakes,
He will be all the world to us; then freely may the heart
Resign the fondly coffered bliss that clogs the immortal part,
(In holy trust 'twill all be ours when earth has passed away,)
And calmly wait the unclouded dawn of an eternal day,
Conscious while God is near, earth's best and purest joy is given,
For 'tis His holy presence makes the perfect bliss of Heaven.

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