Poems of Letitia Elizabeth Landon in Friendship's Offering, 1828/First Ball

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THE FIRST BALL.

Ay, wreath the tresses o'er thy brow,
The pearls amid thine hair,
And gaze until that young cheek grow
A thousand times more fair.
With sunny smiles and blushes bright,
The Parthian arrows, which to-night
Must the young beauty wear;
Clasp the last ruby of her zone,
And now go forth, thou lovely one!

And, glad as fair, it is thy first,
Ah! that the charm hath made.
Thou hast not seen the bubble burst,
Nor watch'd the flower fade;
And little dream'st an hour will be,
When festal scene shall seem to thee
A silence and a shade.
Thou know'st not, pleasure has the wing,
As well as song, of bird in spring.

Oh! spring is beautiful as brief:
The cheek forgets its rose,
The colour withers from the leaf,
And, worse still, I know those
Who wear their outward breath and bloom,
Like blossoms placed upon the tomb
To hide the darkest woes.
For, soon as these fair hues depart,
They fade yet faster from the heart.

But thou, as yet, canst only see
The festal hall, where Night
Reigns, thron'd like a divinity,
With incense and with light.
Like music and like echo meet
The harp-notes and the silvery feet,
And thousand flowers unite,
In gather'd beauty to declare
Their soul's sweet secrets to the air.

What dost thou dream of, lovely one?
Of pleasure?—Look around,
Behind the veil and mask, for none
Unveiled, unmask'd, are found.
Mark yon fair girl: the tears have rush'd
To her blue eyes, the cheek has blush’d,
As with a crimson wound;—
And why? your head is bound with pearls,
While hers hath but its own bright curls!

Or, pass you such poor triumph by;
The pride is on your brow,
And laughing lip and flashing eye
Another hope avow.
What dost thou dream of, lovely one?
Of hearts that but a look hath won?—
Looks shaft-like from a bow,
That slay by chance?—Now, out on thee!
To think of such cold vanity.

Or do you dream a dearer dream,
And can such dream be Love?—
No star hath such a fatal beam
In yon wide heaven above.
Go, waste your first, your sweetest years;
Go, wash away your rose with tears;
Go, like a wounded dove;
The poison'd arrow in your side
You cannot bear, you yet must hide!

Mark her, who by yon column lone
Leans with dark absent eye;
A blush upon her cheek is thrown,
'Tis from the red wreath nigh:
She's musing over some sweet word,
Long whisper'd but still freshly heard,
Some honey flattery;
Careless perchance, and lightly spoken,
But which the heart too oft hath broken.

Why should I speak these words of doom
To one of fairy glee?
Alas! who ever look'd on bloom,
Nor thought how it would be?
Soon, nothing but a thing to keep,
For weary memory to weep,
And thus it is with thee;
For all thy beauty and thy breath
Are nurst by care, to end in death!

L. E. L.