Fair as a wreath of fresh spring flowers, a band of maidens lay
On the velvet sward - enjoying the golden summer day;
And many a ringing silv'ry laugh on the calm air clearly fell,
With fancies sweet, which their rosy lips, half unwilling, seemed to tell.
They spoke, as maidens often speak, of that ideal one
By whom the wealth of their warm young hearts will at length be wooed and won -
Fond girlish dreams! and half in jest and half in serious strain,
Each told of the gifts that could alone the prize of her love obtain.
The first who spoke was a bright-eyed girl, with a form of airy grace,
Mirth beaming in every dimple sweet of her joyous smiling face:
"I ask not much in the favor'd one who this dainty hand would gain; -
No ordeal long would I ask of him - no hours of mental pain.
"Let him but come in the pomp of rank, endowed with wealth and pride,
To woo to a lofty palace home his youthful, worshipped bride,
Heaping my path with presents rare, with radiant jewels and gold, -
Love's flame 'neath poverty's breath, 'tis said, soon waxes faint and cold."
Outspoke another, with proud dark eye, and a stately, regal mien:
"Thou saidst thou wast easily pleased, May, and so thou art, I ween,
Thou askest paltry rank and wealth - aim higher would be mine!
Rare mental gold - the priceless fire of genius divine."
"And I," said a third, with soft sweet voice, "would exact still less than ye,
No need for glitter of lofty state, no gold or jewels for me;
Nor ask I that genius' lofty power in his ardent soul should dwell,
Enough, if he love but me alone, and love me only well!"
Another said that her choice would fall on manly beauty and grace,
That he she would love must matchless stand, the noblest of his race,
Excelling in sports of flood and field, and as lion brave in war,
Yet, with hand and voice, in lady's bower, attuned to light guitar.
And now, with one accord, they turned to a dove-like maiden mild,
With a seraph's purity of look, and soft graces of a child;
"Speak out, speak out now, sweet shy Clare, we anxious wait for thee,
Coy, gentle one! fear not to say what thy heart's young choice will be."
A moment paused she, and then a flush, like sunset, dyed her brow,
And softly she murmured "Sisters, dear, I have made my choice ere now,
And the rarest gifts that you could name, be they earthly or divine.
In strange perfection - God like grace - will be found all, all in mine."
She ceased, and a thoughtful silence stole o'er those youthful brows of mirth,
They knew she spoke of the Bridegroom King - the Lord of Heaven and earth;
And e'er fleet time of another year had sounded the passing knell,
The maiden Clare and her Bridegroom fair were wedded in convent cell.