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"But whither would you, could you, flee?
A poor Man's counsel take;
The Holy Virgin gives to me
A thought for your dear sake;
Rest, shielded by our Lady's grace,
And soon shall you be led
Forth to a safe abiding-place,
Where never foot doth tread.”
THE dwelling of this faithful pair
In a straggling village stood,
For One who breathed unquiet air
A dangerous neighbourhood;
But wide around lay forest ground
With thickets rough and blind;
And pine-trees made a heavy shade
Impervious to the wind.
And there, sequestered from the sight,
Was spread a treacherous swamp,
On which the noonday sun shed light
As from a lonely lamp;
And midway in the unsafe morass,
A single Island rose
Of firm dry ground, with healthful grass
Adorned, and shady boughs.
The Woodman knew, for such the craft.
This Russian vassal plied,
That never fowler's gun, nor shaft
Of archer, there was tried;
A sanctuary seemed the spot
From all intrusion free
And there he planned an artful Cot
For perfect secrecy.
With earnest pains unchecked by dread
Of Power's far-stretching hand,
The bold good Man his labour sped
At nature's pure command;
Heart-soothed, and busy as a wren,
While, in a hollow nook,
She moulds her sight-eluding den
Above a murmuring brook.
His task accomplished to his mind,
The twain ere break of day
Creep forth, and through the forest wind
Their solitary way;
Few words they speak, nor dare to slack
Their pace from mile to mile,
Till they have crossed the quaking marsh,
And reached the lonely Isle.
The sun above the pine-trees showed
A bright and cheerful face;
And Ina looked for her abode,
The promised hiding-place;
She sought in vain, the Woodman smiled;
No threshold could be seen,
Nor roof, nor window ;-all seemed wild
As it had ever been.
Advancing, you might guess an hour,
The front with such nice care
Is masked, "if house it be or bower,"
But in they entered are;
As shaggy as were wall and roof
With branches intertwined,
So smooth was all within, air-proof,
And delicately lined:
And hearth was there, and maple dish,
And cups in seemly rows,
And couch-all ready to a wish
For nurture or repose;
And Heaven doth to her virtue grant
That there she may abide
In solitude, with every want
By cautious love supplied.
No queen before a shouting crowd
Led on in bridal state,
E'er struggled with a heart so proud,
Entering her palace gate;
Rejoiced to bid the world farewell,
No saintly anchoress
E'er took possession of her cell
With deeper thankfulness.
Resolves devotedly serene;
That monumental grace
Of Faith, which doth all passions tame
That Reason should control
And shows in the untrembling frame
A statue of the soul.
“Father of all, upon thy care
And mercy am I thrown;
Be thou my safeguard!"-such her prayer
When she was left alone,
Kneeling amid the wilderness
When joy had passed away,
And smiles, fond efforts of distress
To hide what they betray!
The prayer is heard, the Saints have seen, Diffused through form and face,
"TIs sung in ancient minstrelsy
That Phoebus wont to wear
The leaves of any pleasant tree
Around his golden hair;
Till Daphne, desperate with pursuit
Of his imperious love,
At her own prayer transformed, took root,
A laurel in the grove.
Then did the Penitent adorn
His brow with laurel green;
And 'mid his bright locks never shorn
No meaner leaf was seen;
And poets sage, through every age,
About their temples wound
The bay; and conquerors thanked the Gods,
With laurel chaplets crowned.
Into the mists of fabling Time
So far runs back the praise
Of Beauty, that disdains to climb
Along forbidden ways;
That scorns temptation; power defies
Where mutual love is not;
And to the tomb for rescue flies
When life would be a blot.
To this fair Votaress a fate
More mild doth Heaven ordain Upon her Island desolate ;
And words, not breathed in vain, Might tell what intercourse she found, Her silence to endear
What birds she tamed, what flowers the ground Sent forth her peace to cheer.
To one mute Presence, above all,
Her soothed affections clung,
A picture on the cabin wall
By Russian usage hung-
The Mother-maid, whose countenance bright ·
With love abridged the day;
And, communed with by taper light,
Chased spectral fears away.
And oft, as either Guardian came,
The joy in that retreat
Might any common friendship shame,
So high their hearts would beat ;
And to the lone Recluse, whate'er
They brought, each visiting
Was like the crowding of the year
With a new burst of spring.
But when she of her Parents thought,
The pang was hard to bear;
And, if with all things not enwrought,
That trouble still is near.
Before her flight she had not dared
Their constancy to prove,
Too much the heroic Daughter feared
The weakness of their love.
Dark is the past to them, and dark
The future still must be,
Till pitying Saints conduct her bark
Into a safer sea-
Or gentle Nature close her eyes,
And set her Spirit free
From the altar of this sacrifice,
In vestal purity.