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FLOWERS AND MUSIC IN A ROOM OF SICKNESS, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: Hush! Lightly tread! Still tranquilly she sleeps
Last Line: Conqueror! Thou son of god!
Alternate Author Name(s): Browne, Felicia Dorothea
Subject(s): Flowers; Religion; Sickness; Theology; Illness

Apartment in an English country-house. -- LILIAN reclining, as sleeping on
a couch. Her mother watching beside her. Her sister enters with flowers.

Mother. Hush! lightly tread! Still tranquilly she sleeps,
As when a babe I rocked her on my heart.
I've watched, suspending e'en my breath, in fear
To break the heavenly spell. Move silently!
And oh! those flowers! Dear Jessy! bear them hence --
Dost thou forget the passion of quick tears
That shook her trembling frame, when last we brought
The roses to her couch? Dost thou not know
What sudden longings for the woods and hills,
Where once her free steps moved so buoyantly,
These leaves and odours with strange influence wake
In her fast-kindled soul?
Jessy. Oh! she would pine,
Were the wild scents and glowing hues withheld,
Mother! far more than now her spirit yearns
For the blue sky, the singing birds and brooks,
And swell of breathing turf, whose lightsome spring
Their blooms recall.
Lilian (raising herself). Is that my Jessy's voice.
It woke me not, sweet mother! I had lain
Silently, visited by waking dreams,
Yet conscious of thy brooding watchfulness,
Long ere I heard the sound. Hath she brought flowers?
Nay, fear not now thy fond child's waywardness,
My thoughtful mother! -- in her chastened soul
The passion-coloured images of life,
Which, with their sudden, startling flush, awoke
So oft those burning tears, have died away;
And night is there -- still, solemn, holy night!
With all her stars, and with the gentle tune
Of many fountains, low and musical,
By day unheard.
Mother. And wherefore night, my child?
Thou art a creature all of life and dawn,
And from thy couch of sickness yet shalt rise,
And walk forth with the dayspring.
Lilian. Hope it not!
Dream it no more, my mother! -- there are things
Known but to God, and to the parting soul,
Which feels His thrilling summons.
But my words
Too much o'ershadow those kind, loving eyes.
Bring me thy flowers, dear Jessy! Ah! thy step,
Well do I see, hath not alone explored
The garden bowers, but freely visited
Our wilder haunts. This foam-like meadowsweet
Is from the cool, green, shadowy river-nook,
Where the stream chimes around th' old mossy stones
With sounds like childhood's laughter. Is that spot
Lovely as when our glad eyes hailed it first?
Still doth the golden willow bend, and sweep
The clear brown wave with every passing wind?
And through the shallower waters, where they lie
Dimpling in light, do the veined pebbles gleam
Like bedded gems? And the white butterflies,
From shade to sunstreak are they glancing still
Among the poplar boughs?
Jessy. All, all is there
Which glad midsummer's wealthiest hours can bring;
All, save the soul of all, thy lightning-smile!
Therefore I stood in sadness midst the leaves,
And caught an under-music of lament
In the stream's voice. But Nature waits thee still,
And for thy coming piles a fairy throne
Of richest moss.
Lilian. Alas! it may not be!
My soul hath sent her farewell voicelessly
To all these blessed haunts of song and thought;
Yet not the less I love to look on these,
Their dear memorials, -- strew them o'er my couch
Till it grow like a forest-bank in spring.
All flushed with violets and anemones.
Ah! the pale brier-rose! touched so tenderly,
As a pure ocean shell, with faintest red,
Melting away to pearliness! I know
How its long, light festoons o'erarching hung
From the gray rock that rises, altar-like,
With its high, waving crown of mountainash,
Midst the lone grassy dell. And this rich bough
Of honeyed woodbine tells me of the oak,
Whose deep, midsummer gloom sleeps heavily,
Shedding a verdurous twilight o'er the face
Of the glade's pool. Methinks I see it now
I look up through the stirring of its leaves
Unto the intense blue, crystal firmament.
The ringdove's wing is flitting o'er my head,
Casting at times a silvery shadow down
Midst the large water-lilies. Beautiful!
How beautiful is all this fair, free world
Under God's open sky!
Mother. Thou art o'erwrought
Once more, my child! The dewy, trembling light
Presaging tears, again is in thine eye.
Oh, hush, dear Lilian! turn thee to repose.
Lilian. Mother! I cannot. In my soul the thoughts
Burn with too subtle and too swift a fire;
Importunately to my lips they throng,
And with their earthly kindred seek to blend
Ere the veil drop between. When I am gone --
(For I must go) -- then the remembered words
Wherein these wild imaginings flow forth,
Will to thy fond heart be as amulets
Held there, with life and love. And weep not thus,
Mother! dear sister! -- kindest, gentlest ones!
Be comforted that now I weep no more
For the glad earth and all the golden light
Whence I depart.
No! God hath purified my spirit's eye,
And in the folds of this consummate rose
I read bright prophecies. I see not there,
Dimly and mournfully, the word "farewell"
On the rich petals traced. No -- in soft veins
And characters of beauty, I can read --
"Look up, look heavenward!"
Blessed God of Love!
I thank Thee for these gifts, the precious links
Whereby my spirit unto Thee is drawn!
I thank Thee that the loveliness of earth
Higher than earth can raise me! Are not these
But germs of things unperishing, that bloom
Beside th' immortal streams? Shall I not find
The lily of the field, the Saviour's flower,
In the serene and never-moaning air,
And the clear starry light of angel eyes,
A thousand-fold more glorious? Richer far
Will not the violet's dusky purple glow,
When it hath ne'er been pressed to broken hearts,
A record of lost love?
Mother. My Lilian! thou
Surely in thy bright life hast little known
Of lost things or of changed!
Lilian. Oh! little yet,
For thou hast been my shield! But had it been
My lot on this world's billows to be thrown
Without thy love, O mother! there are hearts
So perilously fashioned, that for them
God's touch alone hath gentleness enough
To waken, and not break, their thrilling strings! --
We will not speak of this!
By what strange spell
Is it, that ever, when I gaze on flowers,
I dream of music? Something in their hues,
All melting into coloured harmonies,
Wafts a swift thought of interwoven chords,
Of blended singing-tones, that swell and die
In tenderest falls away. Oh, bring thy harp,
Sister! A gentle heaviness at last
Hath touched mine eyelids: sing to me, and sleep
Will come again.
Jessy. What would'st thou hear? -- the Italian peasant's lay,
Which makes the desolate Campagna ring
With "Roma! Roma!" or the madrigal
Warbled on moonlight seas of Sicily?
Or the old ditty left by troubadours
To girls of Languedoc?
Lilian. Oh, no! not these.
Jessy. What then? -- the Moorish melody still known
Within the Alhambra city? or those notes
Born of the Alps, which pierce the exile's heart
Even unto death?
Lilian. No, sister! nor yet these --
Too much of dreamy love, of faint regret,
Of passionately fond remembrance, breathes
In the caressing sweetness of their tones,
For one who dies. They would but woo me back
To glowing life with those Arcadian sounds --
And vainly, vainly. No! a loftier strain,
A deeper music! -- something that may bear
The spirit upon slow yet mighty wings,
Unswayed by gusts of earth; something all filled
With solemn adoration, tearful prayer.
Sing me that antique strain which once I deemed
Almost too sternly simple, too austere
In its grave majesty! I love it now --
Now it seems fraught with holiest power to hush
All billows of the soul, e'en like His voice
That said of old -- "Be still!" Sing me that strain,
"The Saviour's dying hour."

JESSY sings to the Harp.

O Son of Man!
In thy last mortal hour
Shadows of earth closed round thee fear fully!
All that on us is laid,
All the deep gloom,
The desolation and the abandonment,
The dark amaze of death --
All upon thee too fell,
Redeemer! Son of man!

But the keen pang
Wherewith the silver cord
Of earth's affections from the soul is wrung;
The uptearing of those tendrils which have grown
Into the quick, strong heart;
This, this -- the passion and the agony
Of battling love and death,
Surely was not for thee,
Holy One! Son of God!

Yes, my Redeemer!
E'en this cup was thine!
Fond, wailing voices called thy spirit back:
E'en 'midst the mighty thoughts
Of that last crowning hour --
E'en on thine awful way to victory,
Wildly they called Thee back!
And weeping eyes of love
Unto thy heart's deep core
Pierced through the folds of death's mysterious veil.
Suffer! thou Son of Man!

Mother-tears were mingled
With thy costly blood-drops,
In the shadow of the atoning cross;
And the friend, the faithful,
He that on thy bosom
Thence imbibing heavenly love, had lain --
He, a pale sad watcher,
Met with looks of anguish
All the anguish in thy last meek glance --
Dying Son of Man!

Oh! therefore unto thee,
Thou that hast known all woes
Bound in the girdle of mortality!
Thou that wilt lift the reed
Which storms have bruised,
To Thee may sorrow through each conflict cry,
And, in that tempest - hour, when love and life
Mysteriously must part,
When tearful eyes
Are passionately bent
To drink earth's last fond meaning from our gaze,
Then, then forsake us not!
Shed on our spirits then
The faith and deep submissiveness of thine!
Thou that didst love --
Thou that didst weep and die --
Thou that didst rise a victor glorified;
Conqueror! thou Son of God!

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