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“ But whither would
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,
As from a lonely lamp;
A single Island rose
Adorned, and shady boughs.
The Woodman knew, for such the craft.
This Russian vassal plied,
Of archer, there was tried;
From all intrusion free;
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 ;
While, in a hollow nook,
Above a murmuring brook.
His task accomplished to his mind,
The twain ere break of day
Their solitary way;
Their pace from mile to mile,
And reached the lonely Isle.
The sun above the pine-trees showed
A bright and cheerful face;
The promised hiding-place;
No threshold could be seen,
As it had ever been.
Advancing, you might guess an hour,
The front with such nice care
But in they entered are;
With branches intertwined,
And delicately lined :
And bearth was there, and maple dish,
And cups in seemly rows,
For nurture or repose;
That there she may abide
By cautious love supplied.
No queen before a shouting crowd
Led on in bridal state,
Entering her palace gate;
No saintly anchoress
With deeper thankfulness.
“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
165 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,
That monumental grace
That Reason should control;
A statue of the soul,
'Tis sung in ancient minstrelsy
That Phoebus wont to wear
Around his golden hair;
Of his imperious love,
A laurel in the grove.
Then did the Penitent adorn
His brow with laurel green ;
No meaner leaf was seen;
About their temples wound
With laurel chaplets crowned.
Into the mists of fabling Time
So far runs back the praise
Along forbidden ways;
Where mutual love is not;
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, 205 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 hungThe Mother-maid, whose countenance bright
With love abridged the day; And, communed with by taper light, 215
Chased spectral fears away.
And oft, as either Guardian came,
The joy in that retreat
So high their hearts would beat;
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;
That trouble still is near.
Their constancy to prove,
The weakness of their love.
Dark is the past to them, and dark
The future still must be,
Into a safer sea-
And set her Spirit free
In vestal purity.