The Golden Violet with its Tales of Romance and Chivalry and Other Poems/The Golden Violet

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THE GOLDEN VIOLET.




To-morrow, to-morrow, thou loveliest May,
To-morrow will rise up thy first-born day;
Bride of the summer, child of the spring,
To-morrow the year will its favourite bring:
The roses will know thee, and fling back their vest,
While the nightingale sings him to sleep on their breast;
The blossoms, in welcomes, will open to meet
On the light boughs thy breath, in the soft grass thy feet.
To-morrow the dew will have virtue to shed
O'er the cheek of the maiden*[1] its loveliest red;

To-morrow a glory will brighten the earth,
While the spirit of beauty rejoicing has birth.

    Farewell to thee, April, a gentle farewell,
Thou hast saved the young rose in its emerald cell;
Sweet nurse, thou hast mingled thy sunshine and showers,
Like kisses and tears, on thy children the flowers.
As a hope, when fulfilled, to sweet memory turns,
We shall think of thy clouds as the odorous urns,
Whence colour, and freshness, and fragrance were wept;
We shall think of thy rainbows, their promise is kept.
There is not a cloud on the morning's blue way,
And the daylight is breaking, the first of the May.

    And never yet hath morning light
Lovelier vision brought to sight,
Or lovelier driven away from dreams,—
—And lovely that which only seems;—
The garden, that beneath it lay,
From flower and fountain sent the ray
Reflected, till all round seem'd blent
Into one sunny element.

    There in the midst rose marble halls,
Wreathed pillars upheld the walls;
A fairy castle, not of those
Made for storm, and made for foes,
But telling of a gentler time,
A lady's rule, a summer clime.
And all spoke joyousness, for there
Thronged the gay, the young, the fair,—

It was now their meeting hour,—
They scattered round through grove and bower.
Many a high-born beauty made
Her seat beneath the chestnut shade;
While, like her shadow hovering near,
Came her dark-eyed cavalier.
Bidding the rose fade by her cheek,
To hint of what he dared not speak.
And others wander'd with the lute,
In such a scene could it be mute?
While from its winged sweetness came,
The echo of some treasured name.
And many a grot with laughter rung,
As gathered there, these gay and young
Flung airy jests like arrows round,
That hit the mark but to rebound.


    With graceful welcome smiled on all,
The lady of the festival
Wander'd amid her guests; at last,
Many a courtly greeting past,
She stray'd into a little grove,
With cypress branches roofed above;
Beneath the path was scarcely seen,—
Alike the walk and margent green.
So dim it was, each precious stone
The countess wore a meteor shone.
Yet on she went, for nought her heart
In the glad revellings took part:
Too tender and too sad to share
In sportive mirth, in pageant glare;
Dearer to her was the first breath,
When morning shakes her early wreath,

And joys in the young smiles of day,
Albeit they steal her pearls away:
Dearer to her the last pale light
That lingers on the brow of night,
As if unwilling to begone,
And abdicate its lovely throne:
Dearer to her were these than all
That ever shone in lighted hall.

    The young, the gay, be they allow'd
One moment's pleasaunce in the crowd;
The dance, the odours, song, and bloom,
Those soft spells of the banquet-room:
They last not, but the ear, the eye,
Catch the check'd frown—the hidden sigh,
Which pierce too soon the shining mask,
And prove delight may be a task.


    Alas! when once the heart shall learn
To gaze on the glad scene, then turn
To its own depths, and sadly say,—
"Oh, what am I, and what are they?
Masquers but striving to deceive
Themselves and others; and believe
It is enough, if none shall know
The covered mass of care below."
Sad lesson for the heart to bear,
Seeing how pass the young, the fair;
Forgot, as if they had not been
The spirit of the stirring scene:
Or sadder still to watch the bands,
With kindly looks and fast-link'd hands;
And know how that a word could move
The fierce extreme of hate from love,—

That, sweep but o'er a fleeting year,
Of all the many gather'd here,
Now claiming friend's or lover's name,
Not one may be in aught the same.
 
    But not like this is Nature's face,
Though even she must bear the trace
Of the great curse that clings to all;
Her leaves, her flowers, must spring to fall:
There hides no darker doom behind,
Like workings in the human mind,
And the buds yield but to make way
For leaves or fruits upon the spray;—
Not thus man's pleasures, which depart
And leave the sear’d or breaking heart.


     On fair Clemenza went, her mood
Deepening with the deep solitude;
That gentle sadness which is wrought
With more of tenderness, than thought,
When memory like the moonlight flings
A softness o'er its wanderings,—
When hope, a holiday to keep
Folds up its rainbow wings for sleep,
And the heart, like a bark at rest,
Scarce heaves within the tranquil breast,—
When thoughts and dreams, that moment's birth
Take hues which are not of the earth.
 
     But she was waken'd from her dream
By sudden flashing of the wave;
     The cypress first conceal'd the stream,
Then oped, as if a spirit gave,

With one touch of his radiant wand,
Birth to a scene in fairy land.
'T was a small lake, the honey bee
Cross'd, laden, in security;
From it an elfin island rose,
A green spot made for the repose
Of the blue halcyon, when an hour
Of storm is passing o’er its bower.
One lonely tree upon it stood,
A willow sweeping to the flood,
With darkling boughs and lorn decline,
As though even here was sorrow's sign.
'Twas even a haunted place; one part,
Like that which is in every heart.
Beyond, the gloom was laugh'd away
By sparkling wave and dancing spray;—

One of those glowing spots that take
The sunbeams prisoners, and make
A glory of their own delight,
Below all clear, above all bright.
And every bank was fair; but one
Most sheltered from the wind and sun
Seem'd like a favourite: the rest
Bared to the open sky their breast;
But this was resting in the shade
By two old patriarch chestnuts made,
Whose aged trunks peep'd grey and bare
Spite of the clustering ivy's care,
Which had spread over all its wreath,
The boughs above, the ground beneath;—
Oft told and true similitude
For moralist in pensive mood,

To mark the green leaves' glad outside,
Then search what wither'd boughs they hide.
And here the countess took her seat
Beneath the chestnut, shelter meet
For one whose presence might beseem
The spirit of the shade and stream;
As now she lean'd with upraised head,
And white veil o'er her bosom spread,
Hiding the gems and chains of gold
Which too much of rank's baubles told;
Leaving her only with the power
Of nature in its loveliest hour,
When to its musing look is given
The influence of its native heaven.
Her cheek was pale, the hue of thought,
Like image by the sculptor sought

For some sweet saint, some muse on whom
Beauty has shed all but her bloom,
As if it would have nought declare
The strife and stain of clay were there.
Braided Madonna-like, the wave
Of the black hair a lustre gave
To the clear forehead, whose pure snow
Was even as an angel's brow:
While there was in her gentler eye
The touch of human sympathy,—
That mournful tenderness which still
In grief and joy, in good and ill,
Lingers with woman through life's void,
Sadden'd, subdued, but not destroy'd.
 
     And gazed the countess on the lake,
Loving it for its beauty's sake;

Wander'd her look round, till its sight
Became itself blent with the light;
Till, as it sought for rest, her eye
Now fell upon a green mound nigh.
With ivy hung and moss o'ergrown,
Beside it stood a broken stone,
And on it was a single flower,
The orphan growth of some chance shower,
Which brought it there, and then forgot
All care of the frail nursling's lot,—
A lily with its silver bells
Perfum'd like the spring's treasure cells;
Yet drooping, pale, as if too late
Mourning for their neglected state.
It was the fittest flower to grow
Over the conscious clay below.

Bethought the countess of a tale
Connected with the lonely vale;
Some bard, who died before his fame;
Whose songs remain'd, but not his name:
It told his tomb was by the wave,
In life his haunt, in death his grave.
Sadly she mused upon the fate
That still too often must await
The gifted hand which shall awake
The poet's lute, and for its sake
All but its own sweet self resign,—
Thou loved lute! to be only thine.
For what is genius, but deep feeling
Waken'd by passion to revealing?
And what is feeling, but to be
Alive to every misery,

While the heart too fond, too weak,
Lies open for the vulture's beak?
Alas! for him possess'd of all
That wins and keeps a world in thrall,
Of all that makes the soul aspire,
Yet vow'd to a neglected lyre;
Who finds, the first, a golden mine,
Sees the veins yield, the treasures shine,
Gazes until his eye grows dim,
Then learns that it is not for him;
One who, albeit his wayward mood
Pines for and clings to solitude,
Has too much humanness of heart
To dwell from all his kind apart;
But seeks communion for the dreams
With which his vision'd spirit teems;

Would fain in other cups infuse
His own delights, and fondly woos
The world, without that worldliness
Which wanting, there is no success;
Hears his song sink unmark'd away,—
Swanlike his soul sinks with its lay,—
Lifts to his native heaven his eyes,
Turns to the earth, despairs and dies;
Leaving a memory whose reward
Might lesson many a future bard,
Or, harder still, a song whose fame
Has long outlived its minstrel's name.
"Oh, must this be!" Clemenza said,
"Thus perish quite the gifted dead!
How many a wild and touching song
To my own native vales belong,

Whose lyrist's name will disappear
Like his who sleeps forgotten here!
Not so; it shall be mine to give
The praise that bids the poet live.
There is a flower, a glorious flower,
The very fairest of my bower,
With shining leaf, aroma breath,
Befitting well a victor wreath;
The Golden Violet shall be
The prize of Provence minstrelsy.
Open I'll fling my castle hall
To throng of harps and festival,
Bidding the bards from wide and far
Bring song of love or tale of war,
And it shall be mine own to set
The victor's crown of Violet."



  1. * Gathering the May dew.