Fair Musidora starry-eyed,
With blue-black tresses floating wide,
And cheeks like tinted shells beside,--
Was seated in her tower one night,
Above the hills whose purple light
Merged in the moonlight's golden-white.
Her garments girdle-clasped, flowed round
By zephyrs stirred with leafy sound,
An amethyst her forehead crowned.
Afar surged the eternal sea,
Nigh, droves cooed in the bloss'ming tree,
And shadows crossed the gloomy lea.
But neither billows crested white,
Nor blossoms fairest to the sight,
Could woo her soul from thought that night.
She lingered at her telescope,
While through far worlds her mind did grope,
With something of unuttered hope.
The searching glass the stars had brought,
In answer to her earnest thought,
And fast the tiny thread she caught,--
Whose labyrinthine mazes lead
Through paths of splendor, rare indeed
To those who all their myst'ries heed.
She gazed and mused and gazed again;
Calm science yielded richest gain,
But could not soothe her nameless pain.
Then with a gesture of despair,
She clasped her slender hands so fair,
And raised her eyes as if in prayer.
How came the lady in the tower,
On gloomy leas, at such an hour,
When rarest beauty was her dower?
Her father was a knight so bold
His deeds of prowess ne'er were told;
And all uncounted was his gold.
A picture in her father's hall,
Gazing with pensive smile, was all
Her sainted mother to recall.
She loved Sir Roderic the brave,
And tender was the love he gave,
Knight great of heart, of aspect grave.
But one sad morn, in conflict dire,
When war was venting all its ire,
Slain were the lover and the sire.
She wrung her hands, fair Musidore,
She fastened up her bower door,
And vowed she'd see the world no more.
She bound her blue-black tresses back,
And nursed her soul, hungry for lack
Of love and bruised on sorrow's rack.
But sorrow nursed becomes despair;
So yielding all her heart in prayer,
She craved of life some little care.
And one calm dawn when larks began
With song, celestial heights to fan,
She left the busy haunts of man.
Up in a tower to scan the skies,
And woo weird Nature's sage replies,
She went to hush despairing sighs.
And on the night when science wise
Failed to appease her restless cries,
Sweet dreams slid through her hazel eyes.
A vision met her eager gaze:
A palace gem-set, through the haze
Of clustered star and planet rays,
Gleamed rose-resplendent, in the air;
Fairer than could with greatest care
Rise to the architect's fond prayer.
There, shone illumined pillars veined
With crystal tracery, and stained
With blood-red hues round which were trained
Rare purple buds and amaranths pure,
So fragrant, gods they would allure
A life with mortals to endure.
The dome upon these pillars lay,--
The constellated Milky Way,
Where bright-eyed stars 'mid snowstorms play.
The palace carpet was of flowers,
Fairer than e'er in Naiad's bowers
Were spread to woo the dancing Hours.
A fountain silver waters flung;
Through greenest foliage rose-bells hung
A-trembling where the zephyrs sung.
From arch to arch air-curtains slid,
The pure blue iris shyly hid
Pale regal aster blooms amid.
Through the calm silence of the place
Soft music stole with soothing grace;
Transfigured seemed the list'ner's face.
On high with all the myst'ry blent,
Eolian harps their sweetness lent,
And through the palace such strains sent
Celestial symphonies they seemed;
And Musidora fondly dreamed
Her angel mother on her beamed.
Three marble columns interlaced
With porphyry, the entrance faced,
On which these words were finely traced:
On the first column simply, "Sad,"
"Because," the second only had,
"Alone," was all the third did add.
Mused Musidora: "What is this?
Methinks it were the deepest bliss,
Apart from love's sweet smile and kiss,--
"To dwell within these fairy halls,
Where fountains echo to our calls,
And rarest landscapes deck the walls.
"But who comes here? I seem to see
A mortal: do my senses flee,
Or is she really like to me?"
A lady clad in spotless white,
With eyes like stars some frosty night,
And hair disheveled, rose to sight.
Where did she come from? Like a sprite
From fair fount rising, jeweled bright
With sunbeams, there she did alight.
She hoped her chiseled lips to speak,
Her countenance all shining meek,
Yet sad as one whom Grief might seek.
She said: "O stranger sweet of face,
And moving with majestic grace,
How cam'st thou in this saddest place?"
Then Musidora: "Know I not
How in this strange, enchanting spot
I came, but would it were my lot
"Within these halls to spend my days,
Soothed by the fountain's silv'ry lays,
And utt'ring naught save hymns of praise."
Then said the sad one: "Dwell with me,
Though mine the palace that you see,
Alone I cannot happy be.
"Saw'st thou the columns at the gate?
Those words I utter early, late;
Alas! They speak my tragic fate.
"Come, come and love me, Lady fair,
I will requite thee with fond care,
And for thee shall be all my prayer."
They clasped each other hand in hand;
Each would the other understand,
Her name would know, her native land.
Heart throbbed to heart as soft they kissed.
Silence was in that place, I wist;
The fountain even seemed to list.
The vision fled as morning broke,
And at the matin bell's faint stroke,
Glad Musidora slowly woke.
Up to the radiant, calm air,
She raised her eyes in holy prayer,
In thanks that life was still so fair.
And then the dreamer earnest-eyed,
Therw back her tresses, wand'ring wide,
Clasped close her hands and nobly cried:
"Selfish I long have been and blind,
My duty I can only find
In love and suffering with mankind."