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    DESTINY.   Table of Contents     THE VESTAL VIRGIN.

Bibb, Eloise
Poems

- GERARDA.


GERARDA.

I.


The day is o'er and twilight's shade,
Is darkening forest, glen and glade;
It steals within the old church door,
And casts its shadows on the floor;
It throws its gloom upon the bride,
And on her partner by her side:
But ah! It has no power to screen
The loveliest form that ever was seen.

Sweet tones as from the angels' lyre,
Came pealing from the ancient choir;
They rouse the brain with magic power,
And fill with light that twilight hour,
Some artist's soul one easily sees,
Inspires the hands that touch the keys;
A genius sits and wakes the soul,
With sounds that o'er the passions roll.

"Till death we part,"
repeats the bride,
She shuddered visibly and sighed;
And as she leaves the altar rail,
She's startled, end her features pale,
For in the ancient choir above,
The man who sits and plays of love,
Has held her heart for many a year.
Alas! her life is sad and drear.
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37

He never dreamed he roused a thrill,
Within that heart that seemed so still;
He never knew the hours of pain,
That racked that tired and troubled brain.
He could not see that bleeding heart,
From which his face would not depart;
He never could have known her grief,
From which, alas! there's no relief.

At last she thought the fire had cooled,
And love's strong guardian she had ruled;
'Twas then she vowed to be the bride
Of him who stands at her side.
Ill-fated hour! She sees too late,
This man she cannot help but hate'
He, whom she promised to obey,
Until from earth she's called away.

This life is sometimes dark and drear,
No lights within the gloom appear.
Gerarda smiled and danced that night,
As though her life had been all bright;
And no one knew a battle waged,
Within that heart so closely caged.
The few who've never felt love's dart,
Know not the depth of woman's heart.
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II.


Gerarda sat one summer day,
With easel, brush, and forms of clay,
Within her much-loved studio,
Where all that makes the senses glow.
Were placed with great artistic skill;
Content, perhaps, she seems, and still,
She'd give this luxury and more,
To ease that heart so bruised and sore.

Her paintings hang upon the wall,
The power of genius stamps them all;
On this material soil she breathes,
But in her spiritual world she leaves
Her mind, her thoughts, her soul, her brain,
And wakes from fancy's spell with pain.
And thus her pictures plainly show,
Not nature's self but ideal glow.

And now to-day o'er canvas bent,
She strives to place these visions sent
From that bright world she loves so well,
But fancy fails to cast her spell,
And sick at heart, Gerarda sighs,
And wonders why her must denies
The inspiration given before,
When oft in heaven her soul would soar.
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39

But now her ear has caugh a sound,
That causes heart and brain to bound,
With rapture wild, intense, sincere,
For, list! those strains are coming near;
She grasps the brush, her muse awoke,
Within those notes her genius spoke;
An Angelo might e'en be proud,
Of forms that o'er her vision crowd.

What power is this that swells that touch,
And sends it throbbing with a rush,
That renders all its hearers dumb!
If he be man, whence did he come?
Lo! 'tis the same who played with power
The wedding march that twilight hour;
The strains seem caught from souls above,
It is the very food of love.

And yet, he's neither old nor bent,
A comeliness to youth is lent;
A radiant eye, a natural grace,
An eager, noble, passionate face,--
All these are his, with genius spark,
That guides him safely through the dark,
To hearts that throb and souls that feel,
At every grand and solemn peal.
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Triumphant Wagner's soul he reads,
And then with Mozart gently pleads,
And begs the weary cease to mope,
But rise and live in dreams of hope,
The sounds have ceased,-- how drear life
seems!
He wakes from out his land of dreams,
And fins Gerarda rapt, amazed,
In speechless ecstacy she gazed.

"Neville! thou king of heroes great,
A tale of love thou dost relate,
In tones that rend my heart in twain,
With intense agony and pain,
Forgive whate'er I say to-day,
Thy touch has ta'en my sense away:
O man that dreams, thou can'st not see,
That I, alas! doth worship thee!

"Behold! thou Orpheus, I kneel
And beg thee, if thou e'er canst feel,
Or sympathize with my unrest,
To thrust this dagger in my breast.
Shrink not! I can no longer live
Content in agony to writhe;
And death with thy had given to me,
Will be one blissful ecstacy."
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He starts, and lifts her from her knees,
Her features pale, and soon he sees
That tired heart so sick and sore
Can bear its grief and woe no more.
She swoons-- her pulse has ceased to beat,
A holy calm, divine and sweet,
Has settled on the saintly face,
Lit up with beauty, youth and grace.

Neville amazed, in rapture stands,
Admiring hair, and face, and hands.
Forgetful then of hour and place,
He stoops to kiss the beauteous face,
And at the touch the fire of love,
So pure as to come from above,
Consumes his heart and racks his brain,
With longing fear and infinite pain.

The kiss, as with a magic spell,
Has roused Gerarda,-- it seems to tell,
'Tis time to bid her conscience wake,
And off her soul this burden shake.
"Neville, forgive'" with downcast eyes,
Gerarda sorrowfully cries;
"I've told thee of my love and woe,--
The things I meant thou should'st not
know."
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"Gerarda thou hast woke the heart,
That ne'er before felt passion's smart;
Oh! is it true thou'rt lost to me,
My love, my heart knows none but thee!"
"Enough! Neville, we must forget,
That in this hour our souls have met,
Farewell! we ne'er must meet in life,
For I'm, alas! a wedded wife."

III.


Why ring those bells? what was that cry?
The night winds bear it as they sigh;
What is this crushing, maddening scene?
What do those flames of fire mean?
They surge above Gerarda's home,
Through attic, cellar, halls, they roam,
Like some terrific ghost of night,
Who longs from earth to take his flight.

Gerarda stands amid the fire,
That leaps above with mad desire,
And rings her hands in silent grief,
She fears for her there's no relief.
But now she hears a joyous shout,
A breathless silence from without,
That tells her God has heard her prayer,
And sent a noble hero there.
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And here he comes, this gallant knight,
Her heart rejoices at the sight,
For 'tis Neville, with aspect grave.
Who risked his life, his love to save.
And all have perished now but she,
Her husband and her family.
Mid tears and sobs she breathes a prayer,
For loved ones who are buried there.

Neiville has brushed her tears away,
Together silently they pray
And bless the Lord with thankful prayer
For all his watchfulness and care.
"Gerarda, love," he whispers now,
Implanting kisses on her brow,
"This earth will be heaven to me,
For all my life, I'll share with thee."
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    DESTINY.   Table of Contents     THE VESTAL VIRGIN.