TO ONE WHO SLEEPETH.
WRITTEN BY A SCHOOL-HOUSE WELL.
LONG years have passed since first a merry
I quaked the precious drink; with eager joy,
And dashed the silvery drops, with laughter wild,
Upon the saucy youth, and maiden coy.
To the old well we wandered, hand in hand,
And by the way we cull'd each new-blown flower;
Then near the large old oak-tree we would stand,
And fashion wreaths to wither in an hour.
With a large leaf you made a tiny cup,
And call'd me then your little fairy queen;
And you, the king, would dip the water up--
Most faithful subject in my realm, I ween.
Up to the sky we built a mighty pile
Of lofty, splendid castles in the air;
Then dashed them down, you laughing all the while.
At my half-smiling and half-sad despair.
We watched the others as they came to drink
With lore prophetic did their fortunes tell;
All by the way they made the bucket sink,
With motion fast or slow, down in the well.
How often shelter'd from the sudden shower,
Beneath the roof we'd sit, and sweetly dream;
Charmed with the lightning's swift and dazzling
We reached our hands to grasp the fatal gleam.
Then when the sun its radiant beams did lend
The glorious beauty of the clouds t' unfold.
We sought in vain to reach the rainbow's end--
To find a treasure there--a pot of gold!
Too short, alas! would be our dream of bliss--
For wakened by the school-bell's lively ring,
We did, as mortals must, in earth like this,
Our airy thoughts to things terrestrial bring.
Long years have passed, and once again I stand
Upon the brink of this much-loved old well;
An alien and a stranger in the land,
Drawn thither by some mystic charm or spell.
Where are ye now, friends of my early days?
Why stand I here so desolate and lone?
Alas! alas! all gone their earthly ways,
Or in the angel throngs around God's throne.
And you who swore to win, in youthful pride.
The laurel wreath of fame to deck your brow,
And then to come and claim me as your bride--
Where are you now? oh, God! where are you
Oh, that your sainted spirit had the power
To seek the earth, and on this loved spot stand,
That I could tell you, in this twilight hour,
All my past life, while clasping hand in hand:
Could put my hand upon your manly breast,
And tell you since the night, to young love's
The saddening shadows of a life unblest,
Veil-like athwart my spirit have been drawn.
And tell you, ere the flush of youth was past,
All bright hopes faded from my sight away;
And how I wished each hour could be my last,
For to me, time was night without its day.
How sadly I have roved from shore to shore--
Sought happiness in palace and in cot:
And still I seek, and shall forever more--
But shall I find it? Ah, you answer not!
How I have quaffed from pleasure's giddy cup,
And sought to win a never-dying name!
Alas! to taste with but the smallest sup
The bitter that is mixed with sweets of fame.
I am not wretched now. The heavy cloud
That shaded from my sight each joyous gleam,
And robed my spirit, as if with a shroud,
Has passed away. I see the moon's pale beam:
Peace should content me, but we mortals crave
Some earthly fame, some happiness and love;
But disappointed soon we reach the grave,
And find such bliss alone in heaven above.
In heaven? Oh, tell me from that other shore,
Where with the favored beings of God you
Is there a place they torture evermore--
Oh, is there without doubt a heaven or hell?
Say, will the doors of heaven be open thrown
To all who sorrow for a life of sin,
Far upward by their strong repentance borne--
Say, can such stricken, weary souls go in?
Why do I doubt! I know there is a heaven,
And that this life is nothing but a dream,
And hope one day, with all my sins forgiven,
To meet thee where all things are what they
I must away, for now the night draws nigh,
And stars begin to glimmer o'er my head:
Ah! would my home was up above the sky--
My name with yours was numbered with the