A poem by John Hartley

Dear little Alice lay dying; -
I see her as if 'twas to-day,
And we stood round her snowy bed, crying,
And watching her life ebb away.

'Twas a beautiful day in the spring,
The sun shone out warmly and clear;
And the wee birds, their love songs to sing
Came and perched on the trees that grew near.

In the distance, the glistening sea,
Could be heard in a deep solemn tone,
As if murmuring in sad sympathy,
For our griefs and our hopes that had flown.

The windows, wide open, allowed
The soft wind to fan her white cheek,
As with uncovered heads, mutely bowed,
We stood watching, not daring to speak.

We were only her playmates, - no tie
Of relationship drew us that way,
We'd been told that dear Alice must die,
And she'd begg'd she might see us that day.

We were all full of sorrow, and tears
We all shed, - but not one showed surprise;
Of her future we harboured no fears,
For we knew she was fit for the skies.

Ever gentle and kind as a dove,
To each one she knew she had been;
She had ruled her dominion by love,
And we all paid her homage as Queen.

Her strange beauty, now, as I look back,
I can see as I ne'er saw it then;
But words to describe it I lack,
It could never be told by a pen.

Half asleep, half awake, as she lay,
With her golden curls round her pale face;
A smile round her lips 'gan to play,
And her eyes gazed intently on space.

With an effort she half raised her head,
And looked lovingly round us on all,
Then she motioned us nearer the bed;
And we silently answered her call.

Then she put out her tiny white hand,
The friend nearest her took it in his;
And so faintly she whispered "Good-bye,"
As he printed upon it a kiss.

One by one, boy and girl, did the same,
And she bade them 'farewell' as they passed
Calling everyone by their name,
'Till it came to my turn; - I was last,

"Good-bye, Harry," she breathed very low,
And her eyes to my soul seemed to speak;
And she strove not to let my hand go,
Till I stooped down and kissed her pale cheek.

Then she wearily laid down her head,
And she closed her blue eyes with a sigh; -
"Don't forget me, dear Harry, when dead,
But meet me in Heaven by-and-bye."

And that whisper I never forgot,
And her hand's dying clasp I feel still;
For I swore, that whatever my lot,
I'd be true to that child, - and I will.

It may be a foolish conceit,
But it oft is a solace for me,
To think, when life's troubles I meet,
There's an angel in Heaven cares for me.

Friends deplore my lone bachelor state,
Some may pity, and others deride;
But they know not for Alice I wait,
Who took with her my heart when she died.

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