To Isabel

A poem by George W. Sands

A Beautiful Little Girl.

Fair as some sea-child, in her coral bower,
Decked with the rare, rich treasures of the deep;
Mild as the spirit of the dream whose power
Bears back the infant's soul to heaven, in sleep
Brightens the hues of summer's first-born flower
Pure as the tears repentant mourners weep
O'er deeds to which the siren, Sin, beguiled, -
Art thou, sweet, smiling, bright-eyed cherub child.

Thy presence is a spell of holiness,
From which unhallowed thoughts shrink blushing back, -
Thy smile is a warm light that shines to bless,
As beams the beacon o'er the wanderer's track, -
Thy voice is music, at whose sounds Distress
Unbinds her writhing victim from the rack
Of misery, and charmed by what she hears,
Forgets her woes, and smiles upon her tears.

And when I look upon thee, bearing now
The promise of such loveliness, I ask
If time will blight, that promise; if thy brow,
So sunny now, will learn to wear the mask
Of hollow smiles, or cold deceit, whilst thou
Art learning in thy soul the bitter task
Time teaches to all bosoms, when the glow
Of hope is o'er - but this I may not know.

My path will not be near to thine through life, -
Kind ones will guard and fondly shelter thee;
Me bitterness awaits, and care and strife,
And all that sorrow has of agony;
My future, as my past was, will be rife
With heartaches, and the pangs that "pass not by;"
Each hour shall give thee some new pleasure; years,
Long years can bring me only toil 'and tears.

'Tis meet that it should be so, - I have made
A wreck of my own happiness, and cast
Across my heart, in youth, the dull, deep shade
That wrinkled age flings over all at last
But let it go, - I have too long delayed
The remedy, and what is past is past; -
And could I live those vanished moments o'er,
My heart would wander as it strayed before.

I know not how it is, - my heart is stern,
And little giv'n to thoughts of tenderness;
Yet looking on thy young brow it will yearn,
And in my bosom's innermost recess,
Thoughts that have slumbered long awake and burn
With a wild strength which nothing can repress!
Be still, worn heart, be still; does not the cold
And heavy clay - clod mingle with her mould?

Yes, 'tis that in thy soft check's tender bloom,
Thy black eyes' brightness, in each graceful move,
I trace the lineaments of one to whom
My soul was wedded in an early love, -
'Twas in my boyhood; but the insatiate tomb
Claimed her fair form, and for the realms above
Her spirit fled the earth; oh! how I wept
That mine should in its bondage still be kept.

I mind the hour I stood beside the clay
I had so loved in life - it still was fair,
Surpassing fair, in death; and as she lay
With the thick tresses of her long dark hair
Gathered above the brow whence feeling's ray
Had fled, because death's shadow darkened there,
Her more than earthly beauty made her seem
The incarnation of some pure bright dream.

I stood and gazed: the pale grave sheet was wound
About the form from which life's spark was fled,
For ever fled, - wet eyes were weeping round,
And voices full of sorrow mourned the dead;
I could not weep; a sadness more profound
Than that from which those heart-drops, tears, are shed,
Was in my soul, - for then the icy spell
Of desolation freezing o'er me fell.

And from that hour I have been alone,
Alone when crowds were round me. May thy fate
Be coloured with a brighter hue, and strown
With flowers where mine is thorns; - where mine is hate,
And strife, and bitter discord, may thine own
Be love, and hope, and peace - for these create
The sunshine of existence; may their light
Beam ever round thee, warm, and glad, and bright.

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