Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BASQUE GIRL AND HENRI QUATRE, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE BASQUE GIRL AND HENRI QUATRE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Love! Summer flower, how soon thou art decay'd
Last Line: Had seal'd love's sacrifice!
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia


Love! summer flower, how soon thou art decay'd!
Opening amid a paradise of sweets,
Dying with wither'd leaves and canker'd stem!
The very memory of thy happiness
Departed with thy beauty; breath and bloom
Gone, and the trusting heart which thou hadst made
So green, so lovely, for thy dwelling-place,
Left but a desolation.

'TWAS one of those sweet spots which seem just made
For lovers' meeting, or for minstrel haunt;
The maiden's blush would look so beautiful
By those white roses, and the poet's dream
Would be so soothing, lull'd by the low notes
The birds sing to the leaves, whose soft reply
Is murmur'd by the wind: the grass beneath
Is full of wild flowers, and the cypress boughs
Have twined o'erhead, graceful and close as love.
The sun is shining cheerfully; though scarce
His rays may pierce through the dim shade, yet still
Some golden hues are glancing o'er the trees,
And the blue flood is gliding by, as bright
As Hope's first smile. All, lingering, stay'd to gaze
Upon this Eden of the painter's art,
And, looking on its loveliness, forgot
The crowded world around them! -- But a spell
Stronger than the green landscape fix'd the eye --
The spell of woman's beauty! -- By a beech
Whose long dark shadow fell upon the stream,
There stood a radiant girl! -- her chestnut hair --
One bright gold tint was on it -- loosely fell
In large rich curls upon a neck whose snow
And grace were like the swan's; she wore the garb
Of her own village, and her small white feet
And slender ankles, delicate as carved
From Indian ivory, were bare, -- the turf
Seem'd scarce to feel their pressure. There she stood!
Her head leant on her arm, the beech's trunk
Supporting her slight figure, and one hand
Prest to her heart, as if to still its throbs! --
Ye never might forget that face, -- so young,
So fair, yet traced with such deep characters
Of inward wretchedness! The eyes were dim
With tears on the dark lashes; still the lip
Could not quite lose its own accustom'd smile,
Even by that pale cheek it kept its arch
And tender playfulness: you look'd and said,
What can have shadow'd such a sunny brow?
There is so much of natural happiness
In that bright countenance, it seems but form'd
For spring's light sunbeams, or yet lighter dews.
You turn'd away -- then came -- and look'd again,
Watching the pale and silent loveliness,
Till even sleep was haunted by that image.
There was a sever'd chain upon the ground --
Ah! love is even more fragile than its gifts!
A tress of raven hair: -- oh! only those
Whose souls have felt this one idolatry,
Can tell how precious is the slightest thing
Affection gives and hallows! A dead flower
Will long be kept, remembrancer of looks
That made each leaf a treasure. And the tree
Had two slight words graven upon its stem --
The broken heart's last record of its faith --
"ADIEU, HENRI!" ....
... I learnt the history of the lovely picture:
It was a peasant girl's, whose soul was given
To one as far above her as the pine
Towers o'er the lowly violet: yet still
She loved, and was beloved again -- ere yet
The many trammels of the world were flung
Around a heart whose first and latest pulse
Throbb'd but for beauty: him, the young, the brave,
Chivalrous prince, whose name in after-years
A nation was to worship -- that young heart
Beat with its first wild passion -- that pure feeling
Life only once may know. I will not dwell
On how Affection's bark was launch'd and lost: --
Love, thou hast hopes like summers short and bright,
Moments of ecstacy, and maddening dreams,
Intense, delicious throbs! But happiness
Is not for thee. If ever thou hast known
Quiet, yet deep, enjoyment, 'tis or ere
Thy presence is confess'd; but, once reveal'd,
We bow us down in passionate devotion
Vow'd to thy altar, then the serpents wake
That coil around thy votaries -- hopes that make
Fears burning arrows -- lingering jealousy,
And last, worst poison of thy cup -- neglect! ...
... It matters little how she was forgotten,
Or what she felt -- a woman can but weep.
She pray'd her lover but to say farewell --
To meet her by the river where such hours
Of happiness had pass'd, and said she knew
How much she was beneath him; but she pray'd
That he would look upon her face once more!
... He sought the spot -- upon the beechen tree
"ADIEU, HENRI!" was graven, and his heart
Felt cold within him! He turn'd to the wave,
And there the beautiful peasant floated -- Death
Had seal'd Love's sacrifice!





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