Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SECOND SIGHT, by ALICE CARY



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SECOND SIGHT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: My thoughts, I fear, run less to right
Last Line: "lord god be praised!"" I answered with ""amen."
Subject(s): Pity; Death; Repentance


MY thoughts, I fear, run less to right than wrong,
And I am selfish, sinful, being human;
But yet sometimes an impulse sweet and strong
Touches my heart, for I am still a woman;
And yesterday, beside my cradle sitting,
And broidering lilies through my lullabies,
My heart stirred in me, just as if the flitting
Of some chance angel touched me, and my eyes
Filled all at once to tender overflowing,
And my song ended -- breaking up in sighs;
I could not see the lilies I was sewing
For the hot tears, thick coming to my eyes.

The unborn years, like rose-leaves in a flame,
Shriveled together, and this vision came,
For I was gifted with a second seeing:
'Twas night, and darkly terrible with storms,
And I beheld my cherished darling fleeing
In all her lily broideries from my arms --
A babe no longer. Wild the wind was blowing,
And the snows round her soddened as they fell;
And when a whisper told me she was going
That way wherein the feet take hold on hell,
I could not cry, I could not speak nor stir,
Held in mute torture by my love of her.

We make the least ado o'er greatest troubles;
Our very anguish doth our anguish drown;
The sea forms only just a few faint bubbles
Of stifled breathing when a ship goes down.

'Twas but a moment -- then the merry laughter
Of my sweet baby on the nurse's knee
Rippled across the mists of fantasy;
And sunshine, stretching like a golden rafter
From cornice on to cornice o'er my head,
Scattered the darkness, and my vision fled.

Times fall when Fate just misses of her blows,
And, being warned, the victim slips aside;
And thus it was with me -- the idle shows,
The foolish pomp of vanity and pride,
The work of cunning hands and curious looms,
Shining about my house like poppy-blooms,
Like poppy-blooms had drowsed me, heart and brain;
And all the currents of my blood were setting
To that bad dullness that is worse than pain.

The moth will spoil the garment with its fretting
Surer and faster than the work-day wear.
The quickening vision came -- not all too late:
I saw that there were griefs for me to share,
And the poor worldling missed the worldling's fate.

There was my baby -- there was I, the mother,
Broidering my lilies by the golden gleam
Of the glad sunshine; but was there no other
Fleeing, as fled the phantom in my dream?
Were there no hearts, because of their great loving,
Bound to the wheel of torture past all moving?
No storms of awful sorrow to be stemmed?
Yea, out of my own heart I stood condemned.

Leaving the silken splendor of my rooms,
The sunshine stretching like a golden rafter
From cornice on to cornice, and the laughter
Of my sweet baby on the nurse's knee,
Calling me back, and almost keeping me --
Leaving my windows bright with flowery blooms,
I passed adown my broad emblazoned hall,
Along the soft mats, tufted thick across --
Scarlet and green, like roses grown with moss;
And parting from my pleasures, one and all,
Threaded my way through many a narrow street,
From whose low cellars, lit with scanty embers,
Came great-eyed children, with bare, shivering feet,
And wondered at me, through the doors gaped wide,
Till they were crowded back, or pushed aside,
By some lean-elbowed man, or flabby crone,
Upon whose foreheads discontent had grown,
As grows the mildew on decaying timbers.

"All thine is mine," came to me from the fall
Of every beggar's footstep, and the glooms
That hung around held yet this other call:
"Who to himself lives only is not living;
He hath no gain who does not get by giving."
And so I came beneath the cold gray wall
That shapes the awful prison of the Tombs.
Humility had been my gentle guide --
I saw her not, a heavenly spirit she --
And when the fearful door swung open wide
I heard her pleasant steps go in with me.

Oh for a tongue, and oh! for words to tell
Of the young creature, masked with sinful guise,
That stood before me in her narrow cell
And dragged my heart out with her pleading eyes.

I shook from head to foot, and could not stir --
Afraid, but not so much afraid of her
As of myself -- made like her -- of one dust,
And holding an immortal soul in trust
The same as she -- perhaps not even so good,
Tempted with her temptations. Was't for me
To hold myself apart and call her sinner?
Not so; and silent, face to face we stood,
And as some traveler in the night belated
Waits for the star he knows must rise, so I
Patient within the prison darkness waited,
Trusting to see the better self within her
Rise from the ruins of her womanhood.

Nor did I wait in vain. At last, at last,
Her eager hand reached forth and held me fast,
And drawing just a little broken breath,
As if she stood upon that narrow ground
That lies a-tremble betwixt life and death,
Her yearning, fearful soul expression found:

"I'm dying -- dying, and your dewy hand
Is like the shadow to the sickly plant
Whose root is in the dry and burning sand.
Pity, sweet Pity -- that is what I want.
You bring it -- ah! you would not, if you knew.
I clasped her closer: "Friend, dear friend, I do!
I know it all -- from first to last," I said.
"'T was but a blind, mistaken search for good;
Premeditated evil never led
To this sad end." As one entranced she stood,
And I went on: "Nay, but 't is not the end:
God were not God if such a thing could be --
If not in time, then in eternity,
There must be room for penitence to mend
Life's broken chance, else noise of wars
Would unmake heaven.

The shadows of the bars
That darkened the poor face like devils' fingers
Faded away, and still in memory lingers
The look of tender, tearful, glad surprise
That brought the saint's soul to the sinner's eyes.

Life out of death; it seemed to me as when
The anchor, clutching, holds the driven ship,
And to the cry scarce formed upon her lip,
"Lord God be praised!" I answered with "Amen."





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