"I leave my child to Heaven." And with these words
Upon her lips, the Lady Mildred passed
Unto the rest prepared for her pure soul;
Words that meant only this: I cannot trust
Unto her earthly parent my young child,
So leave her to her heavenly Father's care;
And Heaven was gentle to the motherless,
And fair and sweet the maiden, Gladys, grew,
A pure white rose in the old castle set,
The while her father rioted abroad.
But as the day drew near when he should give,
By his dead lady's will, his child her own,
He having basely squandered all her wealth
To him intrusted, to his land returned,
And thrilled her trusting heart with terrors vague,
Of peril, of some shame to come to him,
Did she not yield unto his prayer - command,
That she would to Our Lady's convent go,
Forget the world and save him from disgrace.
But hidden as she had been all her life
From tender human ties, she loved the world
With all her loving heart, the fresh, free world
That God had made, and this life seemed to her
As but a living death. A living tomb
The harsh stone walls that from the convent frowned
Upon the peaceful valley sweet with flowers.
The beautiful green valley, threaded by
Bright rivulets that sought the quiet lake,
Dear haunts sought daily by her maiden feet.
And "wilt thou not, for my sake?" and "thou shalt
To save thy sire from shame!" so wore the days,
And still she did not promise, though she wept
At his wild pleadings, trembled at his rage;
Then of her mother's dying words he thought -
Her dying words - "I leave my child to Heaven."
And twisting them with his own wishes, wove
A chain therewith that bound her wavering will;
A chain made mighty by the golden threads
Of rev'rence and of holy memories.
And so with heavy heart she gave her vow,
That in the autumn she would leave the world,
But first for one free summer did she pray.
And through those bright spring days she roamed abroad,
And poured upon the winds her low complaints;
The while her dark soft eyes sought all the earth,
The beauteous earth that she too soon must leave;
And all her mournful murmurs ended thus
With this sad cry of, "Oh, the happy world!"
Ended with these low words as a sigh,
I will obey, but, "oh, the happy world!"
Oh, wondrous beauty of the morning skies!
Oh, wide green fields with beady dew impearled!
The lark soars upward, singing as she flies,
Oh, wave of free, swift wings, oh, happy world!
Oh, wordless wonder of the evening sky,
Far ivory citadels with flags unfurled;
Deep sapphire seas where rosy fleets float by
The golden shores remote; oh, happy world!
Oh, my blue violets by the laughing brook!
My shy, sweet darlings, in your green leaves curled,
Bright eyes, sometime you will all vainly look
For me, your lover. Oh, the happy world!
So passed the days of spring, and she must sign
Dull papers to appease the hungry law,
And to the castle down a writer came;
No graybeard old, and dryer than his tomes,
A tall, fair-faced youth, with bright, bold gaze,
And blood that leaped afresh like crimson wine,
Rash blood that led him to leap o'er a gate
Five-barred, within the mossy park, upon
The knight's old stumbling steed that played him false
To its own harm, for which it lost its life,
More fortunate the youth, though bruised he,
And bleeding from his many grievous wounds,
And Gladys tended him with gentlest care
Till love crept in and took the place of pain,
And in her heart took Pity's weeping place
And dwelt a king. He knew she was the bride
Of Heaven, not to be vexed with earthly love,
But yet, upon the last night of his stay,
As by the lake's low marge he met the maid,
And saw her soft eyes fall before his own,
He laid an almond blossom in her hand,
A blossom that both sweet and bitter is,
And said but this, "Say, is dear love a dream?"
"Nay, not a dream," she murmured, looking out
To where the light upon the waters lay,
A golden pathway leading to the sun,
"Dear love the wakening is, this life we live
Is but a dream." Then with a sudden hope
He would have caught her hands, but no, she clasped
Them o'er the snowy muslin on her breast,
And on her heart like drops of crimson blood,
There lay the almond blossoms, bitter, sweet;
And far away her pure eyes looked adown
That shining path across the summer sea,
"Nay, life a long dream is, a sleep that lasts
Until we waken in the land of love."
But though thus calmly did she speak to him,
When he had gone to hide his breaking heart
As best he might, to bravely bide his time,
And do his life work as she bade him do,
Then all her lonely haunts echoed this cry,
This cry of deeper anguish - "Oh, my heart!"
Why did I pray for one more summer bright,
The outward world but held me in time past;
Now, life and love have added links of might,
A chain that fetters me, that holds me fast;
I will, I will obey, but oh, my heart!
My life was like some little mountain spring
By slight waves stirred till some deep overflow
Swift breaks its peace, then with its risen king
Down to the mighty deep it needs must go;
Thus did I follow love, but oh, my heart!
For dear love sought me, claimed me for his own,
And called me with his voice so strong, so low,
I followed unto bliss, thou hapless one,
I did bethink me of my cruel vow,
The vow I will obey, but oh, my heart!
And through the long, still nights this cry was hers,
As on her couch she lay till dreary dawn,
Her large eyes dark with horror looking out
Upon the pitchy darkness unafraid.
And as the breathings of the new spring breeze,
Soft sights of sad complaint, to autumn's storms
That hold the burdened sorrow of a year,
Was this, her sigh of, "oh, the happy world!"
To this despairing cry of, "oh, my heart!"
And as the year's late winds leave pale and chill
The earth, so did this weary cry of hers
So oft repeated leave her lips like snow.
And oft the lonely midnight heard her moan
Of hopes foregone, that women hold most dear.
"No little ones to ever cling to me
In closest love, look on me through his eyes
And call me mother, bless me with his smile."
Then low in tearful prayer her voice would sound
Despairing, wailing, through the lonely room,
The silent turret chamber steep and high,
"Thou maiden mother, Mary, knows my heart,
Thou who didst love and suffer, look on me,
Oh, pity me, sweet mother of the Christ!"
Then would the passion of her woe die out
In dreary calm, and as a chidden child
Who cries himself to rest, sobs in his sleep,
So pitifully would sound the latest words -
"I will, I will be patient, and obey."
But all the long days' silent anguish, all
These secret trysts she kept alone with pain
Wore her meek face, till like a spirit's looked
It, gleaming white from out her shadowy hair,
And so the last day came, the day of doom,
The dreaded day when she should leave the world.
But He who holdeth little useless birds
In His protecting care, looked tenderly
Upon this patient soul, so sorely tried.
This sweet soul purified by all its pain,
For on this day, so fair a morn, it seemed
A heavenly peace sunk down to this sad earth
From gate ajar, the bright and pearly gate
Swung widely open for an angel guest.
A faithful servant climbed the winding stair,
Sent by her eager father with the dawn
To rouse her, tell her that the hour had come
When she to save his name should leave the world.
And as the woman stood beside the couch
She said, "Sweet soul, she talks out in her sleep."
For there she lay with closed eyes murmuring low,
With mournful brow and sad lips, "oh, dear love."
Then cried out with a sob, "'tis not a dream."
Then spake of blood-red blossoms, bitter, sweet,
And with her white lips sighing this, she sunk
Into what seemed to be a dreamless sleep.
And as the loving servant weeping stood,
Loath to awake her to her evil doom,
She opened her large violet eyes, and gazed
Upon the morning sunlight stealing in;
The clear light trembling, growing on the wall,
And as she looked, her eyes grew like the eyes
Of blessed angels looking on their Lord.
And high toward Heaven she lifted up her hands,
Then clasped them in content upon her breast,
And cried out in a glad voice, "oh, my heart!"
And with such glory lighting up her face,
As if the flood of joy had filled her heart,
And overrun her lips with blissful smiles
She left the world, and saved her sire from shame.