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Thou whose locks outshine the sun,
Golden tresses, wreathed in one,
As the braided streamlets run!
Standing, with reluctant feet,
Where the brook and river meet,
Womanhood and childhood fleet!
Gazing, with a timid glance,
On the brooklet's swift advance,
On the river's broad expanse!
Deep and still, that gliding stream
Beautiful to thee must seem,
As the river of a dream.
Then why pause with indecision,
When bright angels in thy vision
Beckon thee to fields elysian?
Seest thou shadows sailing by,
As the dove with startled eye
Sees the falcon's shadow fly?
Hearest thou voices on the shore,
That our ears perceive no more,
Deafened by the cataract's roar?
Oh, thou child of many prayers!
Life hath quicksands,-life hath spares !
Care and age come unawares!
Like the swell of some sweet tune,
Morning rises into noon,
May glides onward into June.
Childhood is the bough, where slumbered
Birds and blossoms many-numbered ;—
Age, that bough with snows encumbered.
Gather, then, each flower that grows,
When the young heart overflows,
To embalm that tent of snows.
Bear a lily in thy hand;
Gates of brass cannot withstand
One touch of that magic wand.
Bear through sorrow, wrong, and ruth,
In thy heart the dew of youth,
On thy lips the smile of truth.
Oh, that dew, like balm, shall steal
Into wounds, that cannot heal,
Even as sleep our eyes doth seal
And that smile, like sunshine, dart
Into many a sunless heart,
For a smile of God thou art.
The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device
His brow was sad; his eye beneath
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,
In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,
"Try not the Pass!" the old man said; "Dark lowers the tempest overhead, The roaring torrent is deep and wide!" And loud that clarion voice replied, Excelsior!
"Oh, stay," the maiden said, "and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast!"
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,
"Beware the pine-tree's withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!"
This was the peasant's last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,
At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,
A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,
There in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell, like a falling star,
In the ancient town of Bruges,
In the quaint old Flemish city,
As the evening shades descended,
Low and loud and sweetly blended,
Low at times and loud at times,
And changing like a poet's rhymes,
Rang the beautiful wild chimes
From the belfry in the market
Of the ancient town of Bruges.
Then, with deep sonorous clangour
Calmly answering their sweet anger,
When the wrangling bells had ended,
Slowly struck the clock eleven,
And, from out the silent heaven,
Silence on the town descended.
Silence, silence everywhere,
On the earth and in the air,
Save that footsteps here and there
Of some burgher home returning,
By the street-lamps faintly burning,
For a moment woke the echoes
Of the ancient town of Bruges.
But amid my broken slumbers
Still I heard those magic numbers,
As they loud proclaimed the flight
And stolen marches of the night;
Till their chimes in sweet collision
Mingled with each wandering vision,
Mingled with the fortune-telling
Gipsy-bands of dreams and fancies,
Which amid the waste expanses
Of the silent land of trances
Have their solitary dwelling.
All else seemed asleep in Bruges,
In the quaint old Flemish city.
And I thought how like these chimes
Are the poet's airy rhymes,
All his rhymes and roundelays,
His conceits and songs and ditties,
From the belfry of his brain,
Scattered downward, though in vain,
On the roofs and stones of cities!
For by night the drowsy ear
Under its curtains cannot hear,
And by day men go their ways,
Hearing the music as they pass,
But deeming it no more, alas!
Than the hollow sound of brass.
Yet perchance a sleepless wight,
Lodging at some humble inn
In the narrow lanes of life,
When the dusk and hush of night
Shut out the incessant din
Of daylight and its toil and strife,
May listen with a calm delight
To the poet's melodies,
Till he hears, or dreams he hears,
Intermingled with the song,
Thoughts that he has cherished long;
Hears amid the chime and singing
The bells of his own village ringing,
And wakes, and finds his slumberous eyes
Wet with most delicious tears.
Thus dreamed I, as by night I lay
In Bruges, at the Fleur-de-Blé,
Listening with a wild delight
To the chimes that, through the night,
Rang their changes from the belfry
Of that quaint old Flemish city.
In the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown; Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o'er the town.
As the summer morn was breaking, on that lofty tower I stood, And the world threw off the darkness, like the weeds of widowhood.
Thick with towns and hamlets studded, and with streams and vapours gray,
Like a shield embossed with silver, round and vast the landscape lay.
At my feet the city slumbered. From its chimneys, here and there, Wreaths of snow-white smoke, ascending, vanished, ghost-like, into air
Not a sound rose from the city at that early morning hour,
But I heard a heart of iron beating in the ancient tower.
From their nests beneath the rafters sang the swallows wild and high ;
And the world, beneath me sleeping, seemed more distant than the sky.
Then most musical and solemn, bringing back the olden times, With their strange, unearthly changes rang the melancholy chimes,
Like the psalms from some old cloister, when the nuns sing in the choir;
And the great bell tolled among them, like the chanting of a friar.
Visions of the days departed, shadowy phantoms filled my brain;
They who live in history only seemed to walk the earth again;
All the Forresters of Flanders, mighty Baldwin Bras de Fer,
Lyderick du Bucq and Cressy, Philip, Guy de Dampierre.
I beheld the pageants splendid, that adorned those days of old;
Stately dames, like queens attended,7 knights who bore the Fleece of
Lombard and Venetian merchants with deep-laden argosies;
Ministers from twenty nations; more than royal pomp and ease.
I beheld proud Maximilian, kneeling humbly on the ground;
I beheld the gentle Mary, hunting with her hawk and hound;
And her lighted bridal-chamber, where a duke slept with the queen,
And the armed guard around them, and the sword unsheathed between.
I beheld the Flemish weavers, with Namur and Juliers bold,
Marching homeward from the bloody battle of the Spurs of Gold;10
Saw the fight at Minnewater," saw the White Hoods moving west,
Saw great Artevelde victorious scale the Golden Dragon's nest.12
And again the whiskered Spaniard all the land with terror smote; And again the wild alarum sounded from the tocsin's throat;
Till the bell of Ghent responded o'er lagoon and dike of sand, "I am Roland! I am Roland! there is victory in the land!"
Then the sound of drums aroused me. The awakened city's roar
Chased the phantoms I had summoned back into their graves once more.
Hours had passed away like minutes; and, before I was aware,
Lo! the shadow of the belfry crossed the sun-illumined square.