Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE MOUNTAIN GRAVE, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE MOUNTAIN GRAVE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: She sate beside the rock from which arose
Last Line: Where agatha was sleeping.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia
Subject(s): Graves; Tombs; Tombstones


SHE sate beside the rock from which arose
A mountain rivulet's blue wanderings;
And there, with careless hand, cast leaves and flowers
To float upon the surface, or to sink
As the wind listed, for she took no heed,
Nor watch'd their progress. Suddenly she ceased,
While pass'd a cloud across her deep-blue eyes:
"Are ye not symbols of me, ye fair flowers?
Thus in mere recklessness my wilful hand
Has wasted the whole beauty of a spring,
And I have thrown your fragrant lives away
In one vain moment's idleness." 'Tis strange
How the heart, overpress'd with its own thoughts, --
And what oppresses the young heart like love? --
Grows superstitious, finds similitudes
And boding fears in every change and chance.
She bow'd her face upon her hands and wept,
When suddenly her bright hair was flung back,
Her cheek was turn'd to crimson, and the tears
Lay like dew on the rose. "Mine AGATHA!
What! weeping, love? I am not late to-night;
Our meeting-star but trembles in the sky,
In light as glistening as thine own sweet eyes."
His words had a strange sound; she had forgot
Her sorrow and its cause in the deep joy
His presence brought. She gazed upon his face,
As if 'twould vanish if she did not gaze;
She stay'd her breath to listen to his words,
Scarce daring credit her own happiness.
There stood they, with the rich red light of eve
Yet lingering, like a glory, on their heads,
In the snow mirror of the mountain peak; --
A bright laburnum grew beside, -- its boughs
Flung over them a golden shower: the wave
That wander'd at their feet was clear as Hope;
Their shapes were outlined in it; and one star,
Reflected too, shone like an augury
Of good between them. -- There they leant, while hours
Pass'd, as time had no boundaries. O earth,
Yet art thou touch'd by heaven, though only touch'd, --
Thy pleasures are but rainbows, which unite
The glad heavens with thee in their transient beauty,
Then melt away again upon the clouds.
O youth, and love, which is the light of youth,
Why pass ye as the morning? -- life goes on,
But like a bark that, first in carelessness,
And afterwards in fear of each rough gale,
Has flung her richest freightage overboard.
Who is there, though young still, yet having lost
The warmth, the freshness, morning's dew and light,
Can bear to look back on their earlier hours,
When faith made its own happiness, and the heart
Was credulous of its delight, and gave
Its best affections forth so trustingly,
Content to love, not doubting of return?
'Twas AGATHA broke the sweet silence first:
"My father told me he had seen to-day
The gathering, HERMAN, of your hardy troops:
You led them, mounted on your snow-white steed. --
He bade me fling to-night a double chain
Of sighs and smiles, for the young warrior's truth
Was sorely tried by absence. You will go,
Like our bold river, into other lands,
On its own proud free course; whilst I shall send
After thee hopes and prayers, like the poor leaves
That I have cast upon the waves to perish."
She spoke in mirth; yet, as she spoke, her words
Caught such a sadness in their omen tone,
In silence HERMAN took her hand, and gazed
Upon her face as he would picture it
Within his inmost soul. A brow more fair
Ne'er caught the silver softness of moonlight.
Her cheek was as the mirror of her heart,
Eloquent in its blushes, and its hues
Now varied like the evening's; -- but 'tis vain
To dwell on youthful lovers' parting hour.
A first farewell, with all its passionate words,
Its lingering looks, its gushing tears, its hopes
Scarcely distinguish'd from its fears, its vows, --
They are its least of suffering; for the heart
Feels that it needs them not, yet breathes them still,
Making them oracles. But the last star
Sinks down amid the mountains: -- he must go;
By daybreak will his gallant vassals look
To hear their chieftain's bugle. Watch'd she there
His dark plume cast its shadow on the snows,
His rapid foot bound on from crag to crag: --
The rocks have hid him from her eager view,
But still she hears the echo of his step, --
That dies too into silence; then she feels
Her utter loneliness: -- he is quite gone!
Long days have pass'd -- that evening star hath left
Its throne of beauty on the snow-crown'd hill,
Yielding its place to winter's thousand lights; --
Long days have pass'd: -- again the twilight hour
Smiles in the influence of that lovely star;
The bright laburnum's golden wealth is heap'd,
The spring's first treasure, and beneath its shade
Rests AGATHA alone: -- what! still alone?
A few short words will tell what change has wrought
In their once love: it is a history
That would suit half mankind. In its first spring, --
For the heart has its spring of bud and bloom,
Even as has the year, -- it found a home
For all its young affections, gentle thoughts,
In his true maiden's bosom; and the life
He dream'd of was indeed a dream -- 'twas made
Of quiet happiness: but forth he went
Into the wild world's tumult. As the bloom
Fades from the face of nature, so the gloss
Of his warm feelings faded with their freshness;
Ambition took the place of Love, and Hope
Fed upon fiery thoughts, aspiring aims;
And the bold warrior, favourite of his king,
If that he thought of his first tenderness,
Thought of it but with scorn, or vain excuse,
And in her uncomplaining silence read
But what he wish'd, -- oblivion; and at last
Her very name had faded, like the flower
Which we have laid upon our heart, and there
Have suffer'd it to die. A second spring
Has loosed the snowy waters, and has fill'd
The valleys with her joy; but, AGATHA,
It is not spring for thee; it has not brought
Its sunny beauty to thy deep-blue eyes,
Its dew to freshen thy lips' languid rose,
And its bloom is not for thy cheek. One year,
And thou didst hide thy misery, and seem,
With thy gay songs and smiles and gladsome words,
Still in thine aged father's sight the same.
His pride was wounded by young Herman's falsehood,
But not his happiness; and when he died,
It was with blessings breathed in trusting hope
Upon that dear child's head, whose tenderness
Had made him half forget the path he trod
Was hurrying to the grave. But he was dead,
And AGATHA stood in his lonely halls,
An orphan, last of all her race and name,
Without one tie of kindred or of love
To bind her to the earth. Yet few there were
That dream'd the hidden grief that lurk'd within.
Too kind, too gentle, not to be beloved,
Many a vassal mourn'd the coming death,
Whose sign was written on his lady's cheek.
She died in silence, without sign or word
That might betray the memory of her fate;
But when they heard her last request, to lie
Beneath the shade of the laburnum tree,
Which grew beside the mountain rivulet,
Many a cheek grew red, and brow grew dark,
And many a whisper'd word recall'd the time
When, in unworldly and in happy youth,
The valley's chieftain and the mountain girl
Made it their favourite haunt; all call'd to mind,
Then was the morning colour on her check,
Then her life was as summer in its smile,
And all felt, as they laid her in the grave,
It was the lorn rest of the broken heart.
Years pass'd: -- the green moss had o'ergrown the stone
Which mark'd the orphan maiden's lowly grave,
When rode an armed train beside the stream.
Why does One pause beneath the lonely tree,
And watch the starlight fall on the white stone?
That martial step, that haughty brow, so traced
With lines of the world's warfare, are not such
As linger with a ready sympathy
O'er the foot-prints of sorrow; yet that cheek
Was startled into paleness as he read
AGATHA! -- and the mossy date which told
She had been tenant of that tomb for years.
HERMAN, -- for he it was had sought the vale,
But upon warlike mission, -- if he thought
Of his once love, it was but how to shun
The meek reproaching of her mournful eye,
Or else to think she had, like him, forgot.
But dead! -- so young! -- he had not dream'd of this. --
He knelt him down, and like a child he wept: --
Gentle affections struggled with, subdued --
Tenderness, long forgotten, now burst forth
Like rain-drops from the summer sky. Those tears
Pass'd, and their outward trace; but in his heart
A fountain had sprung up which dried no more.
He went on in his course, proud, bold, and never
The name of AGATHA fell from his lips.
But he died early, and in his last field
He pray'd the brother of his arms to take
His heart, and lay it in the distant grave
Where AGATHA was sleeping.





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