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THE COUNTESS.

TO E. W.

I KNOW not, Time and Space so intervene,
Whether, still waiting with a trust serene,
Thou bearest up thy fourscore years and ten,
Or, called at last, art now Heaven's citizen ;
But, here or there, a pleasant thought of thee,
Like an old friend, all day has been with me.
The shy, still boy, for whom thy kindly hand
Smoothed his hard pathway to the wonder-land
Of thought and fancy, in gray manhood yet
Keeps green the memory of his early debt.
To-day, when truth and falsehood speak their words
Through hot-lipped cannon and the teeth of swords,
Listening with quickened heart and ear intent
To each sharp clause of that stern argument,
I still can hear at times a softer note
Of the old pastoral music round me float,
While through the hot gleam of our civil strife
Looms the green mirage of a simpler life.
As, at his alien post, the sentinel
Drops the old bucket in the homestead well,
And hears old voices in the winds that toss
Above his head the live-oak's beard of moss,
So, in our trial-time, and under skies
Shadowed by swords like Islam's paradise,
I wait and watch, and let my fancy stray
To milder scenes and youth's Arcadian day;
And howsoe'er the pencil dipped in dreams
Shades the brown woods or tints the sunset streams,
The country doctor in the foreground seems,
Whose ancient sulky down the village lanes
Dragged, like a war-car, captive ills

and pains. I could not paint the scenery of my song, Mindless of one who looked thereon so long;

Who, night and day, on duty's lonely round,
Made friends o' the woods and rocks, and knew

the sound
Of each small brook, and what the hill-side trees
Said to the winds that touched their leafy keys;
Who saw so keenly and so well could paint
The village-folk, with all their humors quaint,-
The parson ambling on his wall-eyed roan,
Grave and erect, with white hair backward blown;

he tough old boatman, half amphibious grown; The muttering witch-wife of the gossip's tale, And the loud straggler levying his black-mail, Old customs, habits, superstitions, fears, All that lies buried under fifty years. To thee, as is most fit, I bring my lay, And, grateful, own the debt I cannot pay.

Over the wooded northern ridge,

Between its houses brown,
To the dark tunnel of the bridge

The street comes straggling down.
You catch a glimpse through birch and pine

Of gable, roof, and porch,
The tavern with its swinging sign,

The sharp horn of the church.
The river's steel-blue crescent curves

To meet, in ebb and flow,
The single broken wharf that serves

For sloop and gundelow.

With salt sea-scents along its shores

The heavy hay-boats crawl,
The long antennæ of their oars

In lazy rise and fall.

Along the gray abutment's wall

The idle shad-net dries;
The toll-man in his cobbler's stall

Sits smoking with closed eyes.
You hear the pier's low undertone

Of waves that chafe and gnaw; You start,

-a skipper's horn is blown To raise the creaking draw. At times a blacksmith's anvil sounds

With slow and sluggard beat, Or stage-coach on its dusty rounds Wakes

up the staring street.

A place for idle eyes and ears,

À cobwebbed nook of dreams; Left by the stream whose waves are years

The stranded village seems.

And there, like other moss and rust,

The native dweller clings, And keeps, in uninquiring trust,

The old, dull round of things.

The fisher drops his patient lines,

The farmer sows his grain,
Content to hear the murmuring pines

Instead of railroad-train.

Go where, along the tangled steep

That slopes against the west, The hamlet's buried idlers sleep

In still profounder rest. Throw back the locust's flowery plume,

The birch's pale-green scarf, And break the web of brier and bloom

From name and epitaph.

A simple muster-roll of death,

Of pomp and romance shorn,
The dry, old names that common breath

Has cheapened and outworn.

Yet

pause by one low mound, and part
The wild vines o'er it laced,
And read the words by rustic art

Upon its headstone traced.
Haply yon white-haired villager

Of fourscore years can say
What means the noble name of her

Who sleeps with common clay.

An exile from the Gascon land

Found refuge here and rest,
And loved, of all the village band,

Its fairest and its best.

He knelt with her on Sabbath morn,

He worshipped through her eyes,
And on the pride that doubts and scorns

Stole in her faith's surprise.

Her simple daily life he saw

By homeliest duties tried,
In all things by an untaught law

Of fitness justified.

For her his rank aside he laid ;

He took the hue and tone
Of lowly life and toil

, and made
Her simple ways his own.
Yet still, in gay and careless ease,

To harvest-field or dance
He brought the gentle courtesies,

The nameless grace of France.

VOL. I.

23

And she who taught him love not less

From him she loved in turn Caught in her sweet unconsciousness

What love is quick to learn.

Each grew to each in pleased accord,

Nor knew the gazing town
If she looked upward to her lord

Or he to her looked down.

How sweet, when summer's day was o'er,

His violin's mirth and wail, The walk on pleasant Newbury's shore,

The river's moonlit sail !

Ah ! life is brief, though love be long;

The altar and the bier,
The burial hymn and bridal song,

Were both in one short year!

Her rest is quiet on the hill,

Beneath the locust's bloom ; Far off her lover sleeps as still

Within his scutcheoned tomb.

The Gascon lord, the village maid,

In death still clasp their hands; The love that levels rank and grade

Unites their severed lands.

What matter whose the hill-side grave,

Or whose the blazoned stone ? Forever to her western wave

Shall whisper blue Garonne !

O Love !-so hallowing every soil

That gives thy sweet flower room, Wherever, nursed by ease or toil,

The human heart takes bloom!

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