Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LADY MARJORY, by PHOEBE CARY



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LADY MARJORY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The lady marjory lay on her bed
Last Line: Were as cold as ever her feet had been!
Subject(s): Women Old Age; Dreams; Love Loss Of


THE Lady Marjory lay on her bed,
Though the clock had struck the hour of noon,
And her cheek on the pillow burned as red
As the bleeding heart of a rose in June;
Like the shimmer and gleam of a golden mist
Shone her yellow hair in the chamber dim;
And a fairer hand was never kissed
Than hers, with its fingers white and slim.

She spake to her women, suddenly, --
"I have lain here long enough," she said;
"Lain here a year, by night and day,
And I hate the pillow, and hate the bed.
So carry me where I used to sit,
I am not much for your arms to hold;
Strange phantoms now through my fancy flit,
And my head is hot and my feet are cold!"

They sat her up once more in her chair,
And Alice, behind her, grew pale with dread
As she combed and combed her lady's hair,
For the fever never left her head.
And before her, Rose on a humble seat
Sat, but her young face wore no smile,
As she held in her lap her mistress' feet
And chafed them tenderly all the while.

"Once I saw," said the lady, "a saintly nun,
Who turned from the world and its pleasures vain; --
When they clipped her tresses, one by one,
How it must have eased her aching brain!
If it ached and burned as mine does now,
And they cooled it thus, it was worth the price; --
Good Alice, lay your hand on my brow,
For my head is fire and my feet are ice!"

So the patient Alice stood in her place
For hours behind her mistress' chair,
Bathing her fevered brow and face,
Parting and combing her golden hair:
And Rose, whose cheek belied her name,
Sitting before her, awed and still,
Kept at her hopeless task the same
Till she felt, through all her frame, the chill.

"How my thoughts," the Lady Marjory said,
"Go slipping into the past once more;
As the beads we are stringing slide down a thread,
When we drop the end along the floor:
Only a moment past, they slid
Thus into the old time, dim and sweet;
I was where the honeysuckles hid
My head and the daisies hid my feet.
I heard my Philip's step again,
I felt the thrill of his kiss on my brow;
Ah! my cheek was not so crimson then,
Nor my feet in the daisies cold as now!

"Dizzily still my senses swim,
I am far away in a fairy land;
To the night when first I danced with him,
And felt his look, as he touched my hand;
Then my cheeks were bright with the flush and glow
Of the joy that made the hours so fleet;
And my feet were rosy with warmth I know,
As time to the music they lightly beat.

"'T is strange how the things I remember, seem
Blended together, and nothing plain;
A dream is like truth, and truth like a dream,
With this terrible fever in my brain.
But of all the visions that ever I had,
There is one returns to plague me most;
If it were not false it would drive me mad,
Haunting me thus, like an evil ghost.

"It came to me first a year ago,
Though I never have told a soul before,
But I dreamed, in the dead of the night, you know,
That under the vines beside the door,
I watched for a step I did not hear,
Stayed for a kiss I did not feel;
But I heard a something hiss in my ear
Words that I shudder still to reveal.
I made no sound, and I gave no start,
But I stood as the dead on the sea-floor stand,
While the demon's words fell slow on my heart
As burning drops from a torturer's hand.

"'Your Philip stays,' it said, 'to-night,
Where dark eyes hold him with magic spell;
Eyes from the stars that caught their light,
Not from some pretty blue flower's bell!
With raven tresses he waits to play,
They have bound him fast as a bird in a snare,
Did you think to hold him more than a day
In the feeble mesh of your yellow hair?

"'Flowers or pearls in your tresses twist,
As your fancy suits you, smile or sigh;
Or give your dainty hand to be kissed
By other lips, and he will not die:
Hide your eyes in the veil of a nun,
Weep till the rose in your cheek is dim;
Or turn to any beneath the sun,
Henceforth it is all the same to him!'

"This was before I took my bed; --
Do you think a dream could make me ill,
Could put a fever in my head,
And touch my feet with an icy chill?
Yet I've hardly been myself I know
At times since then, for before my eyes
The wildest visions come and go,
Full of all wicked and cruel lies.

"Once the peal of marriage-bells, without,
Fell, or seemed to fall on my ear;
And I thought you went, and softly shut
The window, so that I might not hear;
That you turned from my eager look away,
And sadly bent your eyes on the ground,
As if you said, 't is his wedding-day,
And her heart will break if she hears the sound.

"And dreaming once, I dreamed I woke,
And heard you whisper, close at hand,
Men said, Sir Philip's heart was broke,
Since he gave himself for his wife's broad land;
That he smiled on none, but frowned instead,
As he stalked through his halls, like a ghost forlorn;
And the nurse who had held him, a baby, said,
He had better have died in the day he was born!"

So, till the low sun, fading, cast
Across her chamber his dying beams,
The Lady Marjory lived in the past,
Telling her women of all her dreams.
Then she changed; -- "I am almost well," she said,
"I feel so strangly free from pain;
Oh, if only the fever would leave my head,
And if only my feet were warm again!
And something whispers me, clear and low,
I shall soon be done with lying there,
So to-morrow, when I am better, you know,
You must come, good Alice, and dress my hair.

"We will give Sir Philip a glad surprise,
He will come, I know, at morn or night;
And I want the help of your hands and eyes
To dress me daintily all in white;
Bring snowy lilies for my hair; --
And, Rose, when all the rest is done,
Take from my satin slippers the pair
That are softest and whitest, and put them on.
But take me to bed now, where in the past
You have placed me many a time and oft;
I am so tired, I think at last
I shall sleep, if the pillow is cool and soft."

So the patient Alice took her head,
And the sweet Rose took her mistress' feet,
And they laid her tenderly on the bed,
And smoothed the pillow, and smoothed the sheet.
Then she wearily closed her eyes, they say,
On this world, with all its sorrow and sin;
And her head and her heart at the break of day,
Were as cold as ever her feet had been!





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