She dwelt within a convent wall
Beside the "blue Moselle,"
And pure and simple was her life
As is the tale I tell.
She never shrank from penance rude,
And was so young and fair,
It was a holy, holy thing,
To see her at her prayer.
Her cheek was very thin and pale;
You would have turned in fear,
If 't were not for the hectic spot
That glowed so soft and clear.
And always, as the evening chime
With measured cadence fell,
Her vespers o'er, she sought alone
A little garden dell.
And when she came to us again,
She moved with lighter air;
We thought the angels ministered
To her while kneeling there.
One eve I followed on her way,
And asked her of her life.
A faint blush mantled cheek and brow,
The sign of inward strife
And when she spoke, the zephyrs caught
The words so soft and clear,
And told them over to the flowers
That bloomed in beauty near.
"I know not," thus she said to me,
"If my young cheek is pale,
But daily do I feel within
This life of mine grow frail.
"There is a flower that hears afar
The coming tempest knell,
And folds its tiny leaves in fear,--
The scarlet Pimpernel:
"And thus my listening spirit heard
The rush of Death's cold wing,
And tremulously folded close,
In childhood's early Spring.
"I never knew a parent's care,
A sister's gentle love:
They early left this world of ours
For better lands above.
"And so I loved not earthly joys,
The merry dance and play,
But sought to commune with the stars,
And learn the wind's wild lay.
"The pure and gentle flowers became
As sisters fair to me:
I needed no interpreter
To read their language free.
"And 'neath the proud and grand old trees
That seemed to touch the sky,
We prayed, alike with lowly head,
The violets and I.
"And years rolled on and brought to me
But woman's lot below,
Intensest hours of happiness,
Intensest hours of woe.
"For one there was whose word and smile
Had power to thrill my heart:
One eve the summons came for him
To battle to depart.
"And when again the setting sun
In crimson robed the west,
They bore him to his childhood's home,--
The life-blood on his breast.
"Another day, at vesper chime,
They laid him low to sleep,
And always at that fated hour
I kneel to pray and weep.
"'T is said the radiant stars of night,
When viewed through different air,
Appear not all in golden robes,
But various colors wear.
"And through another atmosphere,
My spirit seemed to gaze
For never more wore life to me
The hues of other days.
"Once to my soul unbidden came
A strange and fiery guest,
That soon assumed an empire there,
And never is at rest.
"It binds the chords with arm of might,
And strikes with impulse strong;
I know not whence the visitant,
But mortals call it song.
"It never pants for earthly fame,
But chants a mournful wail
For ever o'er the loved and dead,
Like wind-harps in a gale."
She said no more, but lingered long
Upon that quiet spot,
With such a glory on her brow,
'T will never be forgot!
Next eve at nine, for prayers we met,
And missed her from her place;
We found her sleeping with the flowers,
But Death was on her face.
We buried her, as she had asked,
Just at the vesper chime;
The sunbeams seemed to stay their flight,
So holy was the time.
I've heard that when the rainbow fades
From parting clouds on high,
It leaves where smiled the radiant arch
A fragrance in the sky:
It may be fantasy, I know,
But round that hour of Death
I always found an aroma
On every zephyr's breath.
And this is why the twilight hour
Is holier far to me,
Than gorgeous burst of morning light,
Or moonbeams on the sea.