THE WIFE'S WILL.
Sit still—a word—a breath may break (As light airs stir a sleeping lake) The glassy calm that soothes my woes— The sweet, the deep, the full repose. O leave me not! for ever be Thus, more than life itself to me! Yes, close beside thee let me kneel— Give me thy hand, that I may feel The friend so true—so tried—so dear, My heart's own chosen—indeed is near; And check me not—this hour divine Belongs to me—is fully mine. 'Tis thy own hearth thou sitt'st beside, After long absence—wandering wide; 'Tis thy own wife reads in thine eyes A promise clear of stormless skies; For faith and true love light the rays Which shine responsive to her gaze. Ay,—well that single tear may fall; Ten thousand might mine eyes recall, Which from their lids ran blinding fast, In hours of grief, yet scarcely past; Well mayst thou speak of love to me, For, oh! most truly—I love thee! Yet smile—for we are happy now. Whence, then, that sadness on thy brow? What sayst thou?" We muse once again, Ere long, be severed by the main!" I knew not this—I deemed no more Thy step would err from Britain's shore. "Duty commands!" 'Tis true—'tis just; Thy slightest word I wholly trust, Nor by request, nor faintest sigh, Would I to turn thy purpose try; But, William, hear my solemn vow— Hear and confirm!—with thee I go. "Distance and suffering," didst thou say? "Danger by night, and toil by day?" Oh, idle words and vain are these; Hear me! I cross with thee the seas. Such risk as thou must meet and dare, I—thy true wife—will duly share. Passive, at home, I will not pine; Thy toils, thy perils shall be mine; Grant this—and be hereafter paid By a warm heart's devoted aid: 'Tis granted—with that yielding kiss, Entered my soul unmingled bliss. Thanks, William, thanks! thy love has joy, Pure, undefiled with base alloy; 'Tis not a passion, false and blind, Inspires, enchains, absorbs my mind; Worthy, I feel, art thou to be Loved with my perfect energy. This evening now shall sweetly flow, Lit by our clear fire's happy glow; And parting's peace-embittering fear, Is warned our hearts to come not near; For fate admits my soul's decree, In bliss or bale—to go with thee!
THE WOOD. But two miles more, and then we rest! Well, there is still an hour of day, And long the brightness of the West Will light us on our devious way; Sit then, awhile, here in this wood— So total is the solitude, We safely may delay. These massive roots afford a seat, Which seems for weary travellers made. There rest. The air is soft and sweet In this sequestered forest glade, And there are scents of flowers around, The evening dew draws from the ground; How soothingly they spread! Yes; I was tired, but not at heart; No—that beats full of sweet content, For now I have my natural part Of action with adventure blent; Cast forth on the wide world with thee, And all my once waste energy To weighty purpose bent. Yet—sayst thou, spies around us roam, Our aims are termed conspiracy? Haply, no more our English home An anchorage for us may be? That there is risk our mutual blood May redden in some lonely wood The knife of treachery? Sayst thou, that where we lodge each night, In each lone farm, or lonelier hall Of Norman Peer—ere morning light Suspicion must as duly fall, As day returns—such vigilance Presides and watches over France, Such rigour governs all? I fear not, William; dost thou fear? So that the knife does not divide, It may be ever hovering near: I could not tremble at thy side, And strenuous love—like mine for thee— Is buckler strong 'gainst treachery, And turns its stab aside. I am resolved that thou shalt learn To trust my strength as I trust thine; I am resolved our souls shall burn With equal, steady, mingling shine; Part of the field is conquered now, Our lives in the same channel flow, Along the self-same line; And while no groaning storm is heard, Thou seem'st content it should be so, But soon as comes a warning word Of danger—straight thine anxious brow Bends over me a mournful shade, As doubting if my powers are made To ford the floods of woe. Know, then it is my spirit swells, And drinks, with eager joy, the air Of freedom—where at last it dwells, Chartered, a common task to share With thee, and then it stirs alert, And pants to learn what menaced hurt Demands for thee its care. Remember, I have crossed the deep, And stood with thee on deck, to gaze On waves that rose in threatening heap, While stagnant lay a heavy haze, Dimly confusing sea with sky, And baffling, even, the pilot's eye, Intent to thread the maze— Of rocks, on Bretagne's dangerous coast, And find a way to steer our band To the one point obscure, which lost, Flung us, as victims, on the strand;— All, elsewhere, gleamed the Gallic sword, And not a wherry could be moored Along the guarded land. I feared not then—I fear not now; The interest of each stirring scene Wakes a new sense, a welcome glow, In every nerve and bounding vein; Alike on turbid Channel sea, Or in still wood of Normandy, I feel as born again. The rain descended that wild morn When, anchoring in the cove at last, Our band, all weary and forlorn Ashore, like wave-worn sailors, cast— Sought for a sheltering roof in vain, And scarce could scanty food obtain To break their morning fast. Thou didst thy crust with me divide, Thou didst thy cloak around me fold; And, sitting silent by thy side, I ate the bread in peace untold: Given kindly from thy hand, 'twas sweet As costly fare or princely treat On royal plate of gold. Sharp blew the sleet upon my face, And, rising wild, the gusty wind Drove on those thundering waves apace, Our crew so late had left behind; But, spite of frozen shower and storm, So close to thee, my heart beat warm, And tranquil slept my mind. So now—nor foot-sore nor opprest With walking all this August day, I taste a heaven in this brief rest, This gipsy-halt beside the way. England's wild flowers are fair to view, Like balm is England's summer dew Like gold her sunset ray. But the white violets, growing here, Are sweeter than I yet have seen, And ne'er did dew so pure and clear Distil on forest mosses green, As now, called forth by summer heat, Perfumes our cool and fresh retreat— These fragrant limes between. That sunset! Look beneath the boughs, Over the copse—beyond the hills; How soft, yet deep and warm it glows, And heaven with rich suffusion fills; With hues where still the opal's tint, Its gleam of prisoned fire is blent, Where flame through azure thrills! Depart we now—for fast will fade That solemn splendour of decline, And deep must be the after-shade As stars alone to-night will shine; No moon is destined—pale—to gaze On such a day's vast Phoenix blaze, A day in fires decayed! There—hand-in-hand we tread again The mazes of this varying wood, And soon, amid a cultured plain, Girt in with fertile solitude, We shall our resting-place descry, Marked by one roof-tree, towering high Above a farmstead rude. Refreshed, erelong, with rustic fare, We'll seek a couch of dreamless ease; Courage will guard thy heart from fear, And Love give mine divinest peace: To-morrow brings more dangerous toil, And through its conflict and turmoil We'll pass, as God shall please. [The preceding composition refers, doubtless, to the scenes acted in France during the last year of the Consulate.]