Traits and Trials of Early Life/The Lady Marian

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Her silken cloak around her thrown,
    Lined with the soft brown fur,
So that no wind, howe'er it blew,
    Could blow too rough on her.

The lady Marian thus went forth,
    To breath the opening day;
Two snow-white ponies drew the chair
    That bare her on her way.

A little page upheld the reins,
    Who, drest in gold and green,
Might have seem'd fitting charioteer
    To her the fairy queen.

The graceful equipage drove on,
    And sought the woodland shade;
Where boughs of aspen and of birch
    A pleasant shelter made.

A murmur musical and sad
    Disturbed the noon-tide rest;
For balanced on each topmost branch
    Hung the wood pigeons' nest

But soon amid the parting trees
    There came a gladder song;
For, fill'd with music and with light,
    A small brook danced along.

The small brook had a cheerful song,
    But one more cheerful still,
The song of childhood in its mirth,
    Came o'er its sunny rill.

Over the silvery wave which shewed
    The pebbles white below,
Where cool beneath the running stream
    The water-cresses grow;

A little maiden gathering them,
    Bent down with natural grace;
The sunshine touch'd her auburn hair,
    The rose was on her face.

A rose accustomed to the sun,
    Which gave a richer hue
Than ever pale and languid flower
    Within a hot-house knew.

Blessing the child within her heart,
    Marian past thoughtful by,
And long the child watch'd thro' the boughs,
    With dark and alter'd eye.

And when the lady past again,
    The brook its glad song kept;
But, leaning on its wild flower bank,
    The little maiden wept.

Marian was still a child in years,
    Though not a child in thought;
She paused, and with her low soft voice,
    The cause for sorrow sought.

It was for envy Edith wept,
    And this she shamed to say;
And it was long e'er Marian learnt
    Why tears had found their way.

At last she rather guess'd than learnt,
    And with a graver tone
She said, "Oh rather thank thy God,
    My lot is not thine own.

"How would my weary feet rejoice
    Like thine to walk and run
Over the soft and fragrant grass,
    Beneath yon cheerful sun.

"And yet I trust to God's good will
    My spirit is resign'd;
Though sore my sickness, it is borne
    At least with patient mind.

"Though noble be my father's name,
    And vast my father's wealth;
He would give all, could he but give
    His only child thy health!

"Ah, judge not by the outside show
    Of this world, vain and frail—"
Still wept the child; but now she wept
    To watch a cheek so pale.

The lady Marian's voice grew faint,
    Her hour of strength was o'er;
She whisper'd, "Come to-morrow morn,
    And I will tell thee more."

Next morning Edith sought the hall;—
    They shew'd her Marian laid
Upon a couch where many a year
    That gentle child had pray'd.

And dark and hollow were her eyes,
    Yet tenderly the while
Play'd o'er her thin white cheek and lip
    A sweet and patient smile.

The shadow of the grave was nigh,
    But to her face was given
A holy light from that far home
    Where she was hastening—heaven.

It was her latest task on earth,
    That work of faith and love;
She taught that village child to raise
    Her youthful heart above.

She gave her sweet and humble thought
    That make their own content;
And hopes that are the gift of heaven,
    When heavenward they are bent.

And many wept above the tomb
    That over Marian closed;
When in the bosom of her God
    The weary soul reposed.

None wept with tenderer tears than she
    Who such vain tears had shed;
But holy was the weeping given
    To the beloved dead.

Throughout a long and happy life
    That peasant maiden kept
The lesson of that blessed hour
    When by the brook she wept.