Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Browse all available works of Walter R. Cassels > Text of Alceste

A poem by Walter R. Cassels


Title:     Alceste
Author: Walter R. Cassels [More Titles by Cassels]


Beautiful Florence! e'en thy very name
Falls on the ear with a strange magic spell,
As though upon the wings of Time there came
A breathing of sweet chances that befell
In days of old, all chronicled by Fame,
Whose faintest whisper makes the bosom swell
With kindred feelings, as a sea-flower waves
Concordant to the tale the ripple laves.


Thou art entwined with all lovely things
That bind a rosy chaplet round the earth;
The life of Poets, whose sweet utterings
Have the soft cadence of an angel's mirth;
The springs of genius--high imaginings
That are the wealth of ages, and the birth
Of Art, beneath whose vivifying wand
The stone, the canvas, animated, stand.


Thy very dust is hallowed, and we tread
The footsteps of the mighty, meeting ever
The prized memorials of the Living Dead,
Those whose sublimed spirits, waning never,
Hover around the struggling world and shed
Their blessings o'er it, which nor time can sever,
Nor can oblivion crush, but which endure
Strong in their greatness, in their truth secure.


Would that some faint ray of the heavenly light
Shower'd on thy children now might rest on me,
Illume my twilight thoughts and grant me sight
Into the depths of Nature's poesie;
And tune my faltering tones to breathe aright
That which my heart so fondly feels of thee,
For 'twere a music sweet as heaven's own lays,
Could love's deep soul be cadenced in thy praise.


There was a garden sloping to the west,
Smooth'd downward from the giant Apennines,
The serried outlines of whose hoary crest
Blent with the distant heavens in mystic lines,
At eventide with golden splendours drest,
When the red sun its farewell greeting shines;
A palace topped it, from whose terraced height
Wound a broad stair of marble, snowy white.


And paths went wandering beneath the sweep
Of Orange boughs and trelliced vines, whose leaves
Gave in their parting many a transient peep
Of the blue sky, as through soft-tinted eaves;
And oft they led to arbours shaded deep,
As are the nooks the midway forest weaves,
And carven forms of nymphs and dryads gleamed
Through leafy screens, as though a Poet dreamed.


A fountain rippled in the midst, and threw
Coolness into the sky; the sculptor's thought
A quaint conceit--Aurora flinging dew
Upon the earth--the marble finely wrought,
Till through the Iris-tinted drops it grew
Warm with existence, all its fair limbs fraught
With grace and motion--'twas a thing so human,
The heart forgot the goddess in the woman.


Beside the marge of this fair fountain stood
A maiden tranced with its melting sound,
For rillet murmurs are to pensive mood
Sweet as the rain-drops to the thirsty ground.
Alas! that youth so soon should feel the rude
And merciless stinging of cold sorrow's wound,
That Nature's sweetest melodies should gain
The heart's full rapture through the ear of pain.


She was a maiden, in whose gentle mien
The spirit mirror'd all its fairest hues,
As on the undimm'd summer sky serene
The noonday sun its golden splendour strews;
Her deep blue eye o'erflowed with tender sheen,
Like sadness through whose frame soft smiles infuse,
Whilst on her lip expression rippling lay,
And limned in silence what the soul would say.


Her's was a beauty vivified by grace,
That made each motion music to the eye,
Beam'd from the sunny sweetness of her face,
And tuned her accents all so tenderly,
That when Alceste spake the heart could trace
A woman's spirit full of motions high,
And kind, and noble, and whose inward bent
Sway'd to all courses pure and innocent.


There were full many suitors who had sigh'd
Their amorous orisons before her shrine,
And with the flutter of a doublet vied
To win the smile they toasted o'er their wine;
There were full many who with blinded pride,
Deem'd that a title could the scale incline,
And flung their lordships, gauntlet-fashion, down,
Daring a Caesar to refuse a crown.


But there was one who loved for love's own sake,
And treasured its dear sweetness in his breast,
Whose spirit thrill'd within him when she spake,
And bowed before her as the flower down-prest
By her light step, and who could ever make
A long day happy and a midnight blest
With brooding on a word, a smile, a glance,
That haply served to sun love's young romance.


They had been playmates in gay childhood's days,
When hearts are open as a summer flower,
And love had wound them slowly in his maze,
And knit them close ere yet they felt his power.
But once a-wandering by green-shaded ways,
The silence drew their souls out, and that hour,
Hand clasped in hand, and lip to lip united,
Their pure young vows of constant love they plighted.


What spirit fused into the blossom'd spray,
And wreathed about them in its waving scent?
What angel echoes tuned the thrushes lay,
And gave the tones such sudden ravishment?
For sure they ne'er were sweet as on that day,
Nor with such magic to the spirit went;
If it was love, then love is wondrous sweet,
The point of life where Earth and Heaven meet.


Yet Love but drew the summer clouds away
That curtain'd heaven from their raptured eyes;
Still from attainment spread an ocean wide,
And bade them pause in sight of paradise:
Her father sternly his fond suit denied,
Nor soften'd to his prayers, nor heard his sighs;
So Julian shrined her image in his soul,
Till happier fortune brought them sweeter dole.


Now at Verona sojourn'd he a space,
Dreaming of her, as he must everywhere;
Unconscious of the woes that grew apace,
And soon might drive his spirit to despair;
Unconscious that his love in grief's embrace
Cradled her panting soul, nigh dead with care,
And wept at noontide, wept at dewy eve,
Till e'en the light that saw her seem'd to grieve.


There was a suitor, who with crooked frame
Crawled in the race for beauty; thither prest,
Not 'fore the gaze of heaven, but as in shame
Hid he the purpose in his own dark breast,
And serpented his motions to his aim,
Like one who stabs a victim in his rest;
For still the heart must feel in its calm time,
That to crush love's true spirit is a crime.


One midnight gather'd round the fatal board
Where wealth's death rattle echoes in the dice,
Her sire, Amieri, with some others pored
In full abstraction of the cursed vice.
Each golden piece raked from his precious hoard,
Froze the vext heart-pulse of the wretch like ice.
There was no sound save the cold ring of gold,
That broke the stillness as a knell had toll'd.


Amieri staked, and lost, and staked again,
Drawn, fascinated, to his ruin fast,
Imploring fortune to his aid in vain,
Till, desperate, he staked all on one cast,
And lost--was ruined--and fell down as slain,
Life, fortune, seeming at a moment past,
Like gambling pledges raked from Earth's rich hoard
By Death's strong hand, whose gains are ne'er restored.


Better if he had staked upon a throw
His honour and his daughter openly,
And thus like some fell fiend at one swift blow
Sunk all he loved in utter misery,
Than yielding unto calculation slow,
Consent to blast them, and a witness be
While sorrow sapped the vigour of her frame,
And with her weakness stronger grew his shame;


For in the morning the betrayer rose,
The crippled Pietro, the false lover, and
With honied phrases, and well studied shows,
Sought from Amieri poor Alceste's hand,
Whilst for his "intercession" he bestows
Full restitution of his wealth and land;
Fortune and Honour, fronted, held the field--
Ah! poor Alceste, why did honour yield!


Amieri humbled like a guilty thing
Beneath shame's level, tremblingly agreed,
And sought by torture of the mind to wring
Her sad consent to save him in his need,
Falsehood and art together minist'ring,
To soften her weak heart, and gild the deed;
By prayers he moved her, and by childish tears,
And fann'd into fierce flame her woman's fears,


Till she, poor fluttering dove, mesh'd in the net,
Panted with bitter anguish and dismay,
By love and fear so grievously beset,
That each would draw her on a diff'rent way.
Her tears at night the sleepless pillow wet,
And coursed along her pallid cheeks by day,
Making life weary, sad, and full of woe,
Her hopes of bliss and rapture shatter'd so.


When did a woman's spirit true and sweet,
E'er close its issues against pity's cry,
E'er hold the field for self without defeat,
Nor yield to prayer, though yielding were to die!
And so she trembled to this calm retreat,
To weep her bitter doom forth silently,
Where in the sadness of the fountain's tone,
She heard a gentle echo of her own.


A feeble step trail'd o'er the gravell'd way,
At which she thrill'd and turned in sudden fright,
Whilst in her eyes there shot a fitful ray,
That scorched the tears up with its flashing light.
He was a weak old man, and time's decay
Stood on his brow and thin locks snowy white,
And trembling hands that shook upon his staff,
As though, alive, they wrote their epitaph.


Slowly he came, reading with anxious eyes
The thoughts that flicker'd on Alceste's mien,
Veiling dishonour under Virtue's guise,
And avarice as though 'twere sorrow keen;
And still 'mid tears, and groans, and piping sighs,
He querulled forth his plaints the space between,
"Must thy poor father beg so near the grave,
"Be not so cruel--O! my daughter--save!"


"Sir!" softly said she, while the colour fled
From her smooth cheeks till they grew ashy pale,
"Cast off your mourning features--I will wed
"Though Death should be the bridegroom, and not quail;
"The sorrows of our house be on my head;
"What though a woman's--'tis no novel tale,--
"Within her weakness does my comfort lie,
"For if the storm be sore, the flower will die.


"Think not, sir," she said on with noble scorn,
"This husband of your choosing loses aught
"In that the world doth know him basely born,
"And with a shrine that fits the inner thought;
"Think not a silly woman's heart will mourn
"A shape in Nature's merry moments wrought,
"Or weep the finding of each broad defect,
"Or wish the form less wry or more erect.


"No! sir! each twisted joint will be my pride,
"The blazon of my fortunes to the crowd,
"Till envy shall pursue the happy bride
"Sworn to a lord with graces so endowed;
"And fame shall bear his virtues far and wide,
"And trumpet them unto the world aloud;
"Then let them say--'Ah! she is over-bought;
"'He is a jewel rare, and she is naught'!


"But, sir, although I would not have men hold
"My love won by his merits or his charms,
"This tongue shall ne'er the bitter truth unfold,
"Though falsehood soil me with its sneering harms;
"'Tis meet to you the secret should be told,
"But henceforth a stern law my grief disarms;
"Pray heaven, sir, that your conscience may be dumb,
"And his, as my lips for the time to come!"


Thus far her woman's indignation ran,
Roused into conflict by the cruel wrong,
Standing erect before that crouching man,
Weak in his shame--she in her virtue strong;
Whilst on her quivering lips and cheeks so wan,
Reproach and scorn alternate coursed along--
But to her heart the silence went, and then
She swept past in her gentleness again,


The tresses rustling on her neck, and she
A woman meek and tender as a dove,
Yet to her full heart stricken utterly;
And as she went, her moist eyes turn'd above,
Sighing, "Poor Julian, heaven have care of thee,
"And grant thee mercy for thy hapless love!"
She said no more, but 'twas a piteous thing
To see a helpless maid so sorrowing.


She wept her tears full out, for on the day
That was to make her bride, the lids were bare;
And such cold sternness on her lips did stay,
It seemed as though a smile had ne'er been there.
They clad her graceful form in white array,
And twined sweet blossoms with her golden hair,
And made her lovely who must still be so
E'en 'mid despair, and tears, and cruel woe.


He darken'd by her side with honied smile,
And fawning courtesy, and limping stride,
Showing to those who knew the heart, more vile
The baseness that his gilding sought to hide;
But she went on unmoved, and stood the while
Still as a marble statue at his side;
Certes, a terror o'er the spirit crept,
It had been mercy had the lady wept.


Julian heard it, and with passion burning
Sped he to Florence--to the spoiler's den,
Knock'd at the portals, and the lacqueys spurning,
Rush'd into presence of the guilty men,
Father and husband from the church returning,
Alceste standing by them--paler then,
She thrill'd as though she would have fled to him,
Then calm'd again to stone in every limb.


He said--"Alceste!"--he said nothing more,
But gazed a space into her melting eyes
So woefully, her poor heart flutter'd sore,
Like a caged lark that thrills to mount the skies.
He said, "Is this the bliss we pictured o'er?
"Is this the rapture, this the Paradise?
"O perjured vows! O cruel love!" he said,
"Thus at a blow to strike hope's spirit dead."


He said, "Shame on a venal love like thine,
"That barters truth for every gilded toy;
"Shame on the heart that kneels at mammon's shrine,
"There calmly immolates another's joy;
"Shame on the tongue that breathes in tones divine
"Sweet vows, that on the fond soul never cloy,
"Then with their echoes faded scarce away,
"The victim of their magic can betray!"


"Shame on thee, false Alceste, most of all;
"Shame on thy gentle face, so frank and fair;
"Shame on thy tender eyes, whose light did fall
"Softly upon the soul, like blessings there;
"Shame on thy voice, so low and musical;
"Shame on the clusters of thy golden hair;
"Shame on them that make thee so bright and sweet,
"Yet but an angel-temple for deceit!"


She stood stone still, and answer'd ne'er a word,
Though sore the taunts went stabbing through her breast;
But her heart beat till it could nigh be heard,
Amid the silence of her breath supprest,
And through her frame a fitful tremor stirr'd,
Like a bowed willow trembling in its rest.
And then he turn'd him to the speechless twain,
With looks of bitter anger and disdain.


"Sirs! Ye are noble warriors in good sooth,
"With bearing worthy of so fair a cause;
"Spoilers of love, and constancy, and truth,
"And laurelled by a sordid world's applause!
"Curses upon ye and your gilded ruth,
"Whom pity nor remorse could ever pause;
"Curses upon ye, deep as your own shame,
"Deep as your fiendish hearts themselves could frame."


Again he turned to her with softened feeling,
"Dear shattered idol of this heart" he cried,
"I cannot curse thee, e'en thou art sealing
"The cruel doom that bans me from thy side.
"No! No! a blessing from my soul is stealing,
"Nerved by a power that will not be denied,
"So be thou blessed, charm'd against all evil,
"An angel still, though wedded to a devil."


She answer'd ne'er a word, but stood stone still,
Fetter'd as 'twere within some horrid trance,
Alive to torture and to deadly ill,
Yet powerless of a word, a sigh, a glance;
But when he fled at last, a mortal thrill
Shot cold and icy through her like a lance,
And down she swoon'd, without a word or tear;
It made those guilty men grow pale with fear.


They bore her, stirless, to her snowy nest,
Stirless, they laid her there as cold as lead,
All in her stainless bridal garments drest,
With fragrant blossoms circled round her head.
They laid their hands upon her dewy breast,
And trembled back as those who touch the dead;
They wiped the dew from off her clammy brow,
And shudder'd, 'twas so cold and passive now.


Vainly they pierced the fair and rounded arm,
No crimson stream gush'd o'er its spotless snow;
Vainly they sought the frozen heart to warm,
And bid its chill'd and torpid currents flow;
Vainly they practised every learned charm
To call into the veins life's ruddy glow;
Stirless, they laid her on that bridal bed,
Stirless, she lay, all life and motion fled.


The life-long night they watched and laboured there,
With fearful whispers pulsing on the ear,
The trembling women gasping many a prayer,
Wrung by a rustle, freighted up with fear,
Till morning came, and with it came despair,
So still she lay, so icy cold and sere;
And silently and slow they crept away,
With bated breath as though she slumb'ring lay.


They 'lumed pale torches at her moveless feet,
That flung grey shadows round the ghostly room,
And ofttimes misty clouds of incense sweet
Went wreathing upward through the death-like gloom;
There was no sound, not e'en a faint heart-beat,
But all was silent as it were Death's tomb,
And from without the breezes as they drave,
Sigh'd low and sad like mourners o'er a grave.


The maiden lay there beautiful and pure,
As one that slept and sunn'd her soul in heaven,
From every chance of grief and pain secure,
Sublimed from every taint of earthly leaven;
Her placid bosom through white vestiture
Shone soft and holy, that poor breast so riven,
And her small hands prest gently as in prayer,
Breath'd from the Earth to Heaven, and ended there.


They came with stilly tread and panting breath,
And softly laid her on the narrow bier,
A lovely sleeper in the arms of death,
Unruffled by a dream or chilly fear,
As some fair child that sweetly slumbereth
Upon the bosom of her mother dear.
They bore the dead forth over flowers to rest,
Whose living feet on cruel thorns had prest.


He, crooked though in frame, in spirit more,
Went by her now as erst he did in life,
A slayer, watching whilst they slowly bore
The helpless victim of his unseen knife;
And sorrow for a mask he broadly wore,
To cloak the guilt that in his heart was rife.
Woe to thee, base heart, from the lids that weep!
Woe to thee, base heart, from the eyes that sleep!


There was a vault within whose stifling maw
Lay many a scion of Amieri's race,
Crumbling to dust beneath Death's sapping thaw,
That still melts down mortality apace;
And round the fastness distillations raw
Moulder'd the stones with damp and hideous trace;
And here they laid her beautiful and pure,
From every chance of grief and pain secure.


Close in their cold and narrow coffins pent,
Around her lay ancestral ashes heaped,
That through the dank and clammy darkness sent
Currents in foul and noxious vapours steeped;
And loudly through the gloomy stillness went
The oozy plashes from the roof that dripped,
Marking the minutes as they slid away,
With slimy tokens of the frame's decay.


The rank air slumber'd deep on midnight wings,
Dead as the dead that fester'd 'neath its shade,
Hush'd from those low and fearful whisperings,
That make the living pallid and afraid,
Till nigh amid its awful shadowings,
The cerements silver'd round the hapless maid,
As might a lucent gem with radiance glow,
Caught from the brightness of the soul below.


Soh! 'tis a sigh--low drawn and very faint,
A spirit stirring 'mid the slumb'ring dead,
Bodiless, homeless, breathing forth its plaint,
Nor yet from life and its sad memories fled.
Soh! it comes swooning through the air so taint
Acute and clear as ever arrow sped;
Ah! miserere for the hapless soul,
That from the shores of death thus wafts its dole.


Soh! the soft raising of a white clad arm--
Are holy angels bearing her away?
Ave Maria! shield thy child from harm,
And guard her from this mansion of decay!
Soh! how the lady trembles with alarm,
How wildly round the cave her glances stray,
Until amid the torpid gloom they die
Of space deep darken'd to immensity.


With frenzied strength from off her naked feet,
She tore the linen fetters they had bound,
And mantled closely in white winding sheet,
The maiden slid upon the icy ground;
With tottering steps that terror rendered fleet,
And trembling hands she traced the vault around,
Stumbling o'er rotten shells whose prison'd bones
Rattled beneath her touch with hollow groans.


Her palm grew clammy with the slimy ooze
That fester'd on the walls in sick'ning streams,
As on the pallid brow Death's icy dews
Gather, the presage of corruption's seams;
Pale horror every sound and motion glues,
So corpse-like all around the dungeon seems;
But on--and a low portal met her hand,
By iron staunchions in quaint tracings spann'd.


And so escaping from her death-like swoon,
Forth sped she to the clear and healthful air,
Fearing her shadow which the orbed moon
Flung darkly on the moss-enwoven stair;
And her white feet, used to the silken shoon,
Chilled 'neath the stone so comfortless and bare,
Falling unechoed as she sped away,
Wing'd with the strength of wonder and dismay.


Amid her loosen'd hair the night-breeze play'd,
And sent it waving wildly o'er her breast,
Until the snowy lawn with golden braid
In soft and waving traceries seemed drest.
And as she sped along a muffled shade
Still at her side o'er tombs and grasses prest,
As though insatiate Death in discontent
Pursuing his escaped victim went.


Ah! whither shall she flee, poor hapless thing,
To find a rest more blissful than the grave,
For what sweet haven spread her weary wing,
To nestle from the foam of sorrow's wave?
The midnight winds are sadly whispering,
And coldly on her beating temples lave;
Yes!--on--an iron law is in her soul,
Peace! trembling heart, brave not its stern controul.


Weary and trembling tarried she at last
Before her bridal home, with fitful cries,
Till on the crooked Pietro limping past
The buried voice in trembling accents sighs.
The portal opens--but the wretch, aghast,
Before that white-draped phantom, livid, flies
As slayer 'fore his risen victim might,
Smitten with guilty terror at the sight.


Woe to thee, coward, in thy secret places!
Woe to thee in the daylight haunts of men!
Cold terror wrap thee in his close embraces,
And bear thee shrieking to his haunted den.
Circle thy midnight couch with vengeful faces,
And conscience torture beyond mortal ken;
Ave Maria! blessings on the maid
All in the moonlight at thy portal laid.


Vainly she calls for help in fainting tones,
Only the watchful echoes heed the sound,
Respondless bearing on her hapless moans,
Fainter and fainter o'er the moonlit ground--
On--on--she hurries o'er the flinty stones,
Like spirit on some dreadful mission bound;
And from that guilty threshold as she stept,
The grave clothes off her trembling footprints swept.


She sank nigh dead with weariness and fear
Before the dwelling of her early youth,
Breathing forth saddest sighs which but to hear
Might melt the heart with tenderness and ruth.
She lay there like a bud which tempests drear
Nip in its spring time with remorseless tooth;
Ah! sure a father's heart will tender be,
Nor close its issues 'gainst her utterly.


Amieri wander'd through his gloomy halls
With restless steps and vacant rolling eyne,
Whilst from each wide spread casement down there falls
Upon his blanched locks the moon's pale sheen,
As though a voice within him ever calls,
And bids him follow some old form unseen;
She lies upon your threshold, weak old man--
Up! take her to your arms while yet you can!


Faint sighs come to him on the sleep-hush'd air,
That swell to thunder in his timid breast,
Rooted he gazes out with glazed stare
At his poor murder'd child in grave clothes drest;
"My Father!" cried she in her chill despair,
With palms together in mute anguish prest--
"Hence! hence! avenging spirit, haunt me not!"
He cried, then totter'd from the fearful spot.


She rose and fled in terror through the night,
All witless whither her weak steps might stray,
As some freed bird first wings its rapid flight
From its close prison to the realms of day;
But on a sudden beam'd an inward light
Upon her troubled soul and bid her stay,
With the warm blood sent swiftly to her cheeks,
The trace that signals when the fond heart speaks.


She thought of Julian--he so kind and true,
And how they gladden'd in the times gone by;
She thought how he had stolen her love's young dew,
And fused into her heart so tenderly,
Until beneath affection's power, they grew
Together knit in one sweet unity;
And now poor maid, by kith and kin forsaken,
Unto his heart she felt she would be taken.


O blessed power of Love! that still can keep
A quiet haven for the weary soul,
When o'er the sea of life grief-tempests sweep,
And surging billows o'er contentment roll;
And thither though Affliction's cloud be deep
The heart steers true beneath its sweet controul!
To him, the loved, the lost, thus basely spurned,
She fled a prisoner from Death's chains return'd.


Sigh for the heart that follows to the grave
The perish'd idol of its summer dreams!
Sigh for the heart that powerless all to save,
Sees its sweet treasure gulph'd in sorrow's streams;
And joys that ivy-like around it clave,
Nipp'd of their blossoms, shorn of their warm beams!
So Julian follow'd from afar her bier,
With many a sigh, with many a bitter tear.


Within the stillness of his chamber, he
Open'd the flood-gates of his chill despair,
Darkening the midnight with deep misery,
Freighting the moments all with heavy care,
Weeping for her he loved so utterly,
Whose presence only made existence fair,
His pallid face sunk in the outspread palms,
Moist with the dew that her dear loss embalms.


Soft through the lattice steals a gentle voice,
Breathing his name in accents faint and weak,
Tones that in past days made his soul rejoice,
And now send crimson currents to his cheek.
"Dear vision," said he, "of long cherish'd joys!
"That now so sweetly in my soul dost speak,
"Fade not away, but like a fixed star,
"Shine on my spirit from thy heavens afar.


"Oh! thou art lovely in thy radiant sphere,
"As thou wert once, the day-star of my heart,
"Revealing ever shadowless and clear
"The blessed rays that in thy spirit start.
"O light! O life! O angels hovering near!
"Pity us, sunder'd thus so far apart."
Upon her love the maid imploring cries--
Awaken, Julian, or thy loved one dies!


He rose, and to the lattice tranced went,
Where through the opened eaves the moonlight fell,
And to his tearful glances downward bent,
Show'd that dear form, loved and remember'd well.
Gazed he in fond and loving wonderment,
As one who slumbers under Fancy's spell,
On his beloved in cerements snowy white,
All in the moonrays pictured there so bright.


"Dream of my soul!" he said, "thus softly stealing
"From thine empyrean o'er my aching sense,
"Pouring thy balm on my pierced heart, and healing
"Cold sorrow's wounds with ravishment intense;
"Fold still thy wings, and thus in light revealing
"Thine angel charms, flee ne'er away from hence."
Still on his name she call'd with swooning sighs,
And hands convulsive prest, and upturn'd eyes.


"It is my love," he said, "by death set free
"From cruel bonds that sever'd our true vows,
"Thus from the piteous tomb return'd to me,
"In white array with blossoms on her brows.
"Ah! blessed is love's immortality,
"That e'en the grave with softest charms endows;
"And blessed thou, mine own, alive or dead,
"That to this yearning heart once more hast fled.


Entranced still he wander'd to the gate,
Where stood Alceste in sad weary plight,
Sore press'd with sentience of her hapless fate,
Weeping, nigh hopeless, in the pale moonlight.
Tarried he there in strange delicious strait,
Lapt in the wonder of his dreaming sight;
Then opening wide his arms in raptured prayer,
Her gentle spirit swoon'd and nestled there.


O Paradise! to waken from a dream,
A sleep-revealment of delights, and find
The rosy fancies, beauteous though they seem,
Reality, and in our fond arms twined;
Truth haloed by imagination's beam,
And heaven and earth in one sweet birth combined.
Thus Julian gazed upon her fainting form,
Robed for the grave yet with existence warm.


He bore her as a mother bears a child
Within the cradle of her tender breast,
His throbbing heart, 'twixt hope and fear nigh wild,
With that dear lifeless form against it prest,
Like some bright angel beautiful and mild,
Sunk in the calmness of Elysian rest.
Upon her lips he breath'd his soul away,
Whilst she in stilly swoon Joy's prisoner lay.


Slowly she oped her silken-lidded eyes,
As night steals from the virgin blue of morn,
Gazing on him she loved, in sweet surprise,
Thus tenderly within his bosom borne;
Whilst clouded Memory through old time flies,
Sinking where she from that dear breast was torn.
Ah! blessed future never snatch her thence,
But sun the visions of her innocence.


Report ran through the city that the maid
Ransom'd from Death's cold grasp had happily been,
And, in the moonlight, no unhousell'd shade
Those fearful, conscience-stricken men had seen;
Till they in day-born confidence array'd,
Followed in quest, like blood-hounds swift and keen,
Tracking love's footsteps out with cruel art,
To its sweet resting place within the heart.


They came to Julian, and with honied guise
Flatter'd him to restore the risen maid;
Seek ye to charm the eagle of his prize,
Within his eyrie on the mountain laid;
But Love, more strong, all sapping art defies,
Nor ever from its fixed trust is sway'd!
They came with arms, they came with vengeful threats,
Poor fluttering dove! what danger thee besets.


Before the Father of the Church they went
With humble suit, with supplications strong,
Revenge and lust confirming their intent,
And like foul magic drawing them along.
Ave Maria! save the innocent,
Nor let firm judgment minister to wrong,
Warping the tenor of the righteous laws,
To aid oppression and a hollow cause.


It was decreed that she who thus had been
Parted from all earth's cares and sympathies,
Wafted by prayer into a fairer scene,
As one who in pure penitency dies,
Thence drew new birthright from that air serene
To ransom her from antenatal ties.
Rejoice, Alceste, twice from Death thou'rt free!
Rejoice, O Julian! life is brought to thee.


Sweet are the joys that follow on despair,
Like sunrays kissing noontide mists away,
Leaving the unveil'd summer skies more fair
For the deep shades that on their brightness lay.
And love's sweet firmament dispell'd of care,
Rivals the glories of its early day,
Sunning their progress down life's troubled stream,
Wrapt in each other, pillow'd in a dream.

[The end]
Walter R. Cassels's poem: Alceste