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    GENIUS.   Table of Contents     ASPIRATION

Menken, Adah Isaacs




O ANGELS! will ye never sweep the drifts from my
Will ye never wipe the gathering rust from the hinges?
How long must I plead and cry in vain ?
Lift back the iron bars, and lead me hence.
Is there not a land of peace beyond my door?
Oh, lead me to it--give me rest--release me from this
unequal strife.
Heaven can attest that I fought bravely when the heavy
blows fell fast.
Was it my sin that strength failed?
Was it my sin that the battle was in vain?
Was it my sin that I lost the prize? I do not sorrow
for all the bitter pain and blood it cost me.
Why do ye stand sobbing in the sunshine?
I cannot weep.
There is no sunlight in this dark cell. I am starving
for light.
O angels! sweep the drifts away--unbar my door!


Oh, is this all?
Is there nothing more of life?
See how dark and cold my cell.
The pictures on the walls are covered with mould.
The earth-floor is slimy with my washing blood.
The embers are smouldering in the ashes.
The lamp is dimly flickering, and will soon starve for
oil in this horrid gloom.
My wild eyes paint the shadows on the walls.
And I hear the poor ghost of my lost love moaning and
sobbing without.
Shrieks of my unhappiness are borne to me on the
wings of the wind.
I sit covering in fear, with my tattered garments close
around my choking throat.
I move my pale lips to pray; but my soul has lost her
wonted power.
Faith is weak.
Hope has laid her whitened corse upon my bosom.
The lamp sinks lower and lower. O angels! sweep
the drifts away--unbar my door!


Angels, is this my reward?
Is this the crown ye promised to set down on the foreheads.
of the loving--the suffering--the deserted?
Where are the slaves I toiled for?
Where the golden grain ye promised?
These are but withered leaves.
Oh, is this all?
Meekly I have toiled and spun the fleece.
All the work ye assigned, my willing hands have
See how thin they are, and how they bleed.
Ah me! what meagre pay, e'en when the task is over!
My fainting child, whose golden head graces even this
dungeon, looks up to me and pleads for life.
O God! my heart is breaking!
Despair and Death have forced their skelrton forms
through the grated window of my cell, and stand clamoring
for their prey.
The lamp is almost burnt out.
Angels, sweep the drifts away--unbar my door!


Life is a lie, and Love a cheat.
There is a graveyard in my poor heart--dark, heaped-up
graves, from which no flowers spring.
The walls are so high, that the trembling wings of birds
do break ere they reach the summit, and they fall,
wounded, and die in my bosom.
I wander 'mid the gray old tombs, and talk with the
ghosts of my buried hopes.
They tell me of my Eros, and how they fluttered around
him, bearing sweet messages of my love, until one day,
with his strong arm, he seek them dead at his feet.
Since then, these poor lonely ghosts have haunted me
night and day, for it was I who decked them in my
crimson heart-tides, and sent them forth in chariots of
Every breath of wind bears me their shrieks and
I hasten to their graves, and tear back folds and folds
of their shrouds, and try to pour into their cold, nerveless
veins the quickening tide of life once more.
Too late--too late!
Despair hath driven back Death, and clasps me in his
black arms.
And the lamp! See, the lamp is dying out!
O angels! sweep the drifts from my door!--lift up the


Oh, let me sleep.
I close my weary eyes to think--to dream.
Is this what dreams are woven of?
I stand on the brink of a precipice, with my shivering
child strained to my bare bosom.
A yawning chasm lies below. My trembling feet are on
the brink.
I hear again his voice; but he reacheth not out his hand
to save me.
Why can I not move my lips to pray?
They are cold.
My soul is dumb, too.
Death hath conquered!
I feel his icy fingers moving slowly along my heart
How cold and stiff!
The ghosts of my dead hopes are closing around me.
They stifle me.
They whisper that Eros has come back to me.
But I only see a skeleton wrapped in blood-stained cerements
There are no lips to kiss me back to life.
O ghosts of Love, move back--give me air!
Ye smell of the dusty grave.
Ye have pressed your cold hands upon my eyes until
they are eclipsed.
The lamp has burnt out.
O angels! be quick! Sweep the drifts away!--unbar
my door!
Oh, light! light!

    GENIUS.   Table of Contents     ASPIRATION