The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 2/Number 1/La Cantatrice
By day, at a high oak desk I stand,
And trace in a ledger line by line;
But at five o'clock yon dial's hand
Opens the cage wherein I pine;
And as faintly the stroke from the belfry peals
Down through the thunder of hoofs and wheels,
I wonder if ever a monarch feels
Such royal joy as mine!
Beatrice is dressed and her carriage waits;
I know she has heard that signal-chime;
And my strong heart leaps and palpitates,
As lightly the winding stair I climb
To her fragrant room, where the winter's gloom
Is changed by the heliotrope's perfume,
And the curtained sunset's crimson bloom,
To love's own summer prime.
She meets me there, so strangely fair
That my soul aches with a happy pain;—
A pressure, a touch of her true lips, such
As a seraph might give and take again;
A hurried whisper, "Adieu! adieu!
They wait for me while I stay for you!"
And a parting smile of her blue eyes through
The glimmering carriage-pane.
Then thoughts of the past come crowding fast
On a blissful track of love and sighs;—
Oh, well I toiled, and these poor hands soiled,
That her song might bloom in Italian skies!—
The pains and fears of those lonely years,
The nights of longing and hope and tears,—
Her heart's sweet debt, and the long arrears
Of love in those faithful eyes!
O night! be friendly to her and me!—
To box and pit and gallery swarm
The expectant throngs;—I am there to see;—
And now she is bending her radiant form
To the clapping crowd;—I am thrilled and proud;
My dim eyes look through a misty cloud,
And my joy mounts up on the plaudits loud,
Like a sea-bird on a storm!
She has waved her hand; the noisy rush
Of applause sinks down; and silverly
Her voice glides forth on the quivering hush,
Like the white-robed moon on a tremulous sea!
And wherever her shining influence calls,
I swing on the billow that swells and falls,—
I know no more,—till the very walls
Seem shouting with jubilee!
Oh, little she cares for the fop who airs
His glove and glass, or the gay array
Of fans and perfumes, of jewels and plumes,
Where wealth and pleasure have met to pay
Their nightly homage to her sweet song;
But over the bravas clear and strong,
Over all the flaunting and fluttering throng,
She smiles my soul away!
Why am I happy? why am I proud?
Oh, can it be true she is all my own?—
I make my way through the ignorant crowd;
I know, I know where my love hath flown.
Again we meet; I am here at her feet,
And with kindling kisses and promises sweet,
Her glowing, victorious lips repeat
That they sing for me alone!