Poems of Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.) in Heath’s Book of Beauty, 1833/The Last of the St. Aubyns
GRACE ST. AUBYN
THE LAST OF THE ST. AUBYNS.
And here they met:—where should Love's meeting be—
Love passionate, and spiritual, and deep—
Where, but in such a haunted solitude—
A green and natural temple—fitting shrine
For vows the stars remember? Much the heart
Is govern'd by such outward impulses.
The love whose birth has been in lighted halls,
That lives on festival and flattery,
Like them is vain and selfish; but the love
Whose voice has caught from twilight winds their tone,
And gazed alternately on the deep blue
Of heaven, and that in one dear maiden's eyes,
Is e'en as those divinities of old,
Whose beauty was a dream of early flowers,
Of lonely fountains, and of summer nights—
Poetry and religion blent in one.
In a fair garden did these lovers meet;
The elm made leafy arches overhead,
And every sudden breeze that moved the boughs
Flung down a shower of gold, the alchemy
Of shining June, whose sunlight fill'd the air.
Luxuriant as a vine, the honeysuckle
Grew, till the foliage almost hid the flowers,
Whose breath betray'd them. There the sunflower stood,
The golden cornfield of the bee, whose wings
Sounded like waters near—a lulling sound,
Soft as the nurse's chant of some old rhyme
Seems to the weary child; and by its side
The white althea grew, whose slender sprays
Are strung with seed-pearl. Up climb'd the sweet pea,
The butterfly of flowers:—I love it not,
Though every hue—and it has many tints—
Are dyed as if the sunset evening clouds
Had fallen to the earth in sudden rain,
And left their colours: purple, delicate pink,
And snowy white, are on thy wing-like leaves;
But thou art all too forward in thy bloom;
Thy blossoms are the sun's, and cling to all
That can support them into open day:
And then they die, leaving no root behind,
The hope and promise of another spring;
And no perfume, whose lingering gratitude
Remains round what upheld its summer's life.
Beautiful parasite! thou who dost win
A place with the fair flattery of thy flowers,
Whose death has nought of memory or of hope,
How many likenesses there are for thee
Mid the false loves and friendships of this world!
Beyond the wooded park spread, where the deer
Slept 'neath old trees; and on a glittering lake—
The willows grew around it—was the home
Of stately swans. The lady of my tale
Was of an ancient ancestry, and wooed,
Half for her wealth and half for her sweet self,
By the land's chivalry; but him she loved
Was not of her degree. Ah! what cares Love
For all the poor distinctions wherewith pomp
Invests its nothingness? And still he hath
Scutcheon and herald in the beating heart.
They loved—they parted; he to win a name
Mid the red wars. Great Heaven! what vain beliefs
Have stirred the pulse and led the hopes of man!
As if that honour could be bought by blood,
And that the fierce right hand was better worth
Than the fine mind, and high and generous heart!—
Blame not the lovers—'twas their age's fault;
And even that I were full loath to blame.
Perchance our own, which now, quick-sighted, sees
The many faults and follies of the past,
Has a successor in the wheel of time
To which our errors will be just as clear.
'Twas pity that they parted. But one week,
And the stern father died; none save his child—
'Twas a child's duty, and she wept for him—
Sorrowed above the harsh and cold one's grave:
A monument was all his memory.
The gentle lady was now free to choose,
And faithfully she kept to her first love.
The suitor was denied; and festivals
Were only graced in quiet courtesy
By her sweet presence: but the peasant's hut,
Where want or suffering came, there her low voice
And fairy footstep were familiar things.
Her lute was a companion, and the wind
Caught music from her melancholy song;
And often, in the garden where they met,
She read those old and lovelorn histories
Which, with the poet's aid, wake pleasant tears—
For unreal sorrow is the luxury
Of youth and hope. 'Twas in this happy time
The artist took his likeness of her face.
'Tis a sweet picture. Mid the parted locks
The brow is white and open—it confides
On the fair future which it dreams; the hair
Has sunshine on it; silken robe and gem
Are such as suit a lady in the land;
A chain hangs from her arm, which might have paid
The ransom of an eastern emir, won
By some bold ancestor: but in her eyes,
Her deep, her blue, her melancholy eyes,
Sorrow doth dimly prophesy itself.
Nature and Fortune have no unity—
Or one so young, so good, so kind, so true,
Should have been happy. All too soon the scroll
Came o'er the sea which told her lover's fate:
He fell in battle, as so many fall,
Unknown, unnamed—his energies, his hopes,
His bold aspirings, and his proud resolves,
Alike in vain. She faded from that hour.
Quiet and voiceless in her grief, 'twas like
A bird that perishes, the cause unknown;—
We see the plumage fade, the bright crest droop,
But reck not of the secret wound within.
No more they saw her, at the evening hour,
Along the terrace wandering mid the flowers,
The fair exotic favourites shelter'd there;
No more her step rejoiced the aged ear,
And made the music of the lonely hearth;
And soon closed windows, shutting out the day,
Told there was death within that ancient house.
She died with one last wish upon her lips:
It was accomplished. Never more the vault
Where her forefathers slept received its dead;
For she, the last of that old line, slept not
Within the sculptured chapel of her race.
They buried her beneath the glad green earth;
The sunshine, like a blessing, falling round,
And kissing off the tears which night had wept.
Those stately walls are levelled with the ground;
The yellow corn waves o'er them; that fair park
Is covered now with cottages and fields.
But in a lonely nook of forest land
Her grave remains: there is a mound of grass;
A broken cross, grey and with moss o'ergrown;
A little open space is fill'd with flowers—
Wilding ones, growing amid furze and fern;
A brook runs through, which, like a natural hymn,
Sings to the dead: then close the forest-trees
In many and impenetrable brakes.
Few find the path which winds around the tomb
Where sleeps the last and loveliest of her line.