Illustration Of A Picture
They bid me strike the idle strings,
As if my summer days
Had shaken sunbeams from their wings
To warm my autumn lays;
They bring to me their painted urn,
As if it were not time
To lift my gauntlet and to spurn
The lists of boyish rhyme;
And were it not that I have still
Some weakness in my heart
That clings around my stronger will
And pleads for gentler art,
Perchance I had not turned away
The thoughts grown tame with toil,
To cheat this lone and pallid ray,
That wastes the midnight oil.
Alas! with every year I feel
Some roses leave my brow;
Too young for wisdom's tardy seal,
Too old for garlands now.
Yet, while the dewy breath of spring
Steals o'er the tingling air,
And spreads and fans each emerald wing
The forest soon shall wear.
How bright the opening year would seem,
Had I one look like thine
To meet me when the morning beam
Unseals these lids of mine!
Too long I bear this lonely lot,
That bids my heart run wild
To press the lips that love me not,
To clasp the stranger's child.
How oft beyond the dashing seas,
Amidst those royal bowers,
Where danced the lilacs in the breeze,
And swung the chestnut-flowers,
I wandered like a wearied slave
Whose morning task is done,
To watch the little hands that gave
Their whiteness to the sun;
To revel in the bright young eyes,
Whose lustre sparkled through
The sable fringe of Southern skies
Or gleamed in Saxon blue!
How oft I heard another's name
Called in some truant's tone;
Sweet accents! which I longed to claim,
To learn and lisp my own!
Too soon the gentle hands, that pressed
The ringlets of the child,
Are folded on the faithful breast
Where first he breathed and smiled;
Too oft the clinging arms untwine,
The melting lips forget,
And darkness veils the bridal shrine
Where wreaths and torches met;
If Heaven but leaves a single thread
Of Hope's dissolving chain,
Even when her parting plumes are spread,
It bids them fold again;
The cradle rocks beside the tomb;
The cheek now changed and chill
Smiles on us in the morning bloom
Of one that loves us still.
Sweet image! I have done thee wrong
To claim this destined lay;
The leaf that asked an idle song
Must bear my tears away.
Yet, in thy memory shouldst thou keep
This else forgotten strain,
Till years have taught thine eyes to weep,
And flattery's voice is vain;
Oh then, thou fledgling of the nest,
Like the long-wandering dove,
Thy weary heart may faint for rest,
As mine, on changeless love;
And while these sculptured lines retrace
The hours now dancing by,
This vision of thy girlish grace
May cost thee, too, a sigh.