Beatrice Di Tenda.

A poem by Walter R. Cassels

1.

It was too sweet--such dreams do ever fade
When Sorrow shakes the sleeper from his rest--
Life still to me hath been a masquerade,
Woe in Mirth's wildest, gayest mantle drest,
With the heart hidden--but the face display'd.

But now the vizard droppeth, crush'd and torn,
And there is nought left but some tinsell'd rags,
To mock the wearer in the face of morn,
As through the gaping world she feebly drags
Her day-born measure of reproach and scorn.

But that _his_ hand should pluck the dream away--
And thus--and thus--O Heaven! it strikes too deep!
The knife that wounds me, if not meant to slay,
Stumbles upon my heart the while I weep:
So be it; no hand of mine its course shall stay.

False? false to him? Release me--let me go
Before Heaven's judgment-seat to make appeal;
Unfold the records of this life, and show
All that the secret pages can reveal,
That Heaven and Earth the inmost truth may know!

He cannot think it in his heart of hearts;
He cannot wear this falsehood in his soul,
Or deem me perjur'd; no delusive arts
Can make him blot my name from honour's scroll:
The sun will shine forth when the cloud departs.

Patience, my heart! Error is quick, but Truth
Moves slowly, but moves surely up the earth,
Wiping from age the heresies of youth,
And kindling warmth on the once blasted hearth:
Patience, my heart! and rage will turn to ruth.

There is no blush upon my brow, though tears
Are in mine eyes, and sorrow in my heart;
This sobbing breast heaves not with traitor fears:
No sighs for sin are these that sadly start,
And bear their bitter burden to thine ears.

And though my woman's strength bend like a reed
Before the flowing of Affliction's river,
Not, not for shame, nor for one strumpet deed
Doth this weak frame bow down, or faintly quiver,
As I stand forth alone in deadly need.

No! before thee, Filippo, and the world,
Cased in its petty panoply of scorn,
With myriad slavish lips in mocking curl'd,
Spotless and innocent, though most forlorn,
Here stand I, 'gainst the shafts Falsehood hath hurl'd.


2.

Confess'd! Confess'd the guilty act! What act?
What act, my Lord, that cometh home to me
Closer than each hot word, by torment rack'd,
Flies at the bidding of false tyranny,
That makes at will the pain-wrung falsehood fact?

There are full many sins confess'd, my Lord,
In pain of body and in pain of soul;
Some from the heart unearth'd by fire and sword,
And stealing forth amid the spirit's dole,
With fiery pain-sweat seething every word;

But none, my Lord, that riseth to the sky,
Bears guilt of mine upon its blister'd tongue;
Though torture's fire is quick to forge a lie,
None from these woman's lips could ere be wrung;
No! none, though on the rack-bed bound to die.

Poor youth! This poison from his writhing throat,
Those hellish instruments have haply drawn,
And pain hath conn'd the aspish lies by rote;
But to my heart no poison'd tooth hath gnawn,
For in its pulses lies Truth's antidote.

These limbs, my Lord, can do their task no more;
The rack hath crush'd them in its wild embrace,
So that Truth's firm-set attitude is o'er,
Else had I met my judges face to face,
And challenged justice, as in days of yore.

Yet is the spirit strong within me still,
And bears me up though manhood's strength succumb,
Unbent by any blighting blast of ill,
Through fiery trials, to all false witness dumb;
They cannot stain me, though perchance they kill!

I am a woman--weak to combat wrong,
But innocent, my Lord, I live or die;
And silent, though my God doth tarry long,
He sees me throughly with His holy eye,
And in my sore, sore need, doth make me strong.

This hapless youth! I do forgive him all;
E'en now remorse must rankle in his breast,
And no cool comfort cometh at his call,
To set the tumult of his soul at rest:
God's pity on his human weakness fall!


3.

Nay, falter not, good friend; thy news is sweet;
Thanks, thanks! Ay, sweet as is the welcome wind
That wafts the calm-lock'd seaman, smooth and fleet,
O'er tropic seas unto his sigh'd-for Ind;
Ay! Death will bring rest to my weary feet!

'Tis strange--but now the word falls on mine ear
Soft as the singing of a little child,
Heaven's music on light pinions floateth near,
Through all the strife of Earth, so harsh and wild;
Time's stream is rippling on its marges clear.

The end is nigh--the end of grief and pain,
And Life's broad gates are opening to my soul;
O'er my weak heart no more shall sorrow reign,
Enfranchised soon 'twill spurn the harsh control,
And never feel its empiry again.

No more, Filippo, shall my hapless life
Stand betwixt thee and pleasure,--Duty's knot
Shall soon be sever'd by the headsman's knife;
And upon memory one crimson blot
Shall be the record of a spotless wife.

'Tis well! I would not wander through a haunted mind,
Ghost-like and fearful in the evening hours;
Would God that I could leave my peace behind,
To bless thee when the night of sorrow lours,
And thou art rifted by Affliction's wind!

Shouldst thou awake when I have pass'd away,
Shouldst thou see clear the error and the wrong,
And Truth break on thee with its dazzling ray,
As sure it will, for Innocence is strong,
Then may my prayers thine every pang allay!

For thee, poor youth,--go not unto the grave
With a red lie upon thy trembling tongue--
Not for myself, but for thy soul I crave,--
Death's champions should have sinews tightly strung,
And thou wilt falter where I shall be brave.

In that dim world there flows no cooling stream,
No Lethe for the guilty and the fever'd,
There is no answer to their parching scream,
From hope and mercy they are ever sever'd,
There is no waking from their spectral dream.

Then pause or e'er thou stampest on thy soul
Eternally such misery as thine,
And writest on God's conscience-blasting scroll,
A wife's dishonour, and a tarnish'd line,
To weigh for thee thine everlasting dole...

Friend, let thine arm be strong, good sooth there's need,
Thou cuttest through a weary depth of woe!--
Well! that will pass, and soon rest come indeed,--
Ay, ay! the robe's white now ... will't long be so?...
Yet better far the crimson tide should flow,
Than the heart inly with its anguish bleed.

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