Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE OMEN, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON

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THE OMEN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Oh, how we miss the young and bright
Last Line: The father beside his child was sleeping.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia

"OH! how we miss the young and bright,
With her feet of wind, her eyes of light,
Her fragrant hair, like the sunny sea
On the perfumed shores of Araby,
Her gay step, light as the snow-white deer,
And her voice of song! oh! we miss her here.
There is something sad in the lighted hall;
Without her can there be festival?
There is something drear in the meteor dance,
When we do not catch her laughing glance.
But pledge we her health." Each one took up,
In that ancient hall, the red wine-cup:
Each started back from the turbid wine --
What could have dimm'd its purple shine?
Each turn'd for his neighbour's look to express
The augury himself dared not to guess.

Swept the vaulted roof along,
A sound like the echo of distant song,
When the words are lost, but you know they tell
Of sorrow's coming, and hope's farewell.
Such sad music could only bear
Tale and tidings of long despair.
Pass'd the sound from the ancient hall;
You heard in the distance its 'plaining fall,
Till it died away on the chill night-wind:
But it left its fear and its sadness behind;
And each one went to his pillow that night
To hear fearful sound, and see nameless sight;
Not such dreams as visit the bower
Of the gay at the close of the festal hour.

But next morning rose: 'twas a cheerful time;
For the sunshine seem'd like the summer prime,
While the bright laurel leaves round the casements spread,
And the holly with berries of shining red,
The heaven of blue, and the earth of green
Seem'd not as if the winter had been.
Welcomed they in the Christmas morn,
With the sound of the carol, the voice of the horn.
There was white snow lay on the distant hill,
The murmuring river was cold and still;
But their songs were so glad that they miss'd not its tune,
And the hearth-fire was bright as an August noon.
As if youth came back with the joyous strain,
The aged lord welcomed in the train
Of guest and vassal; for glad seem'd he
To make and to share their festivity.

Though he may not see his EDITH'S brow,
Though far away be his fair child now.
Over the sea, and over the strand,
In the sunny vales of Italian land,
He may reckon now the days to Spring,
When her native birds and she will take wing,
Blithe and beautiful, glad to come
With the earliest flowers to their own dear home.
Pass a short space of dark cold days,
Of drear nights told by the pine-wood's blaze,
And the snow showers will melt into genial rain,
And the sunshine and she be back again.
And when she returns with her sweet guitar,
The song and the tale she has learn'd afar,
And caught the sweet sound to which once he clung,
The southern words of her mother's tongue,
With her soft cheek touch'd with a rosier dye,
And a clearer light in her deep dark eye,
He will not mourn that the winter hour
Has pass'd unfelt by his gentle flower.
It is Christmas-day -- 'tis her natal morn,
Away be all thoughts of sorrowing borne:
There is no prayer a vassal can frame
Will fail to-day, if breathed in her name;
Henceforth that guest is a bosom friend,
Whose wish a blessing for her may send.

Her picture hung in that hall, where to-day
Gather'd the guests in their festal array.
'Twas a fragile shape, and a fairy face,
A cheek where the wild rose had sweet birthplace;
But all too delicate was the red,
Such rainbow hues are the soonest fled:
The sweet mouth seem'd parted with fragrant air,
A kiss and a smile were companions there:
Never was wild fawn's eye more bright,
Like the star that heralds the morning's light;
Though that trembling pensiveness it wore
Which bodes of a lustre too soon to be o'er.
But to mark these signs long gazing took;
Seem'd it at first but that your look
Dwelt on a face all glad and fair,
Mid its thousand curls of sunny hair.
They raised the cup to pledge her name;
Again that strange sad music came,
But a single strain, -- loud at its close
A cry from the outer crowd arose.

All rush'd to gaze; and, winding through
The length of the castle avenue,
There was a hearse with its plumes of snow,
And its night-black horses moved heavy and slow,
One moment, -- they came to the festal hall,
And bore in the coffin and velvet pall.
A name was whisper'd; the young, the fair,
Their EDITH was laid in her last sleep there.
It was her latest prayer to lie
In the churchyard beneath her native sky;
She had ask'd and pined for her early home,
She had come at last, -- but how had she come!
Oh! that aged lord, how bore he this grief,
This rending off of his last green leaf?
He wasted away as the child that dies
For love of its absent mother's eyes;
Ere the spring flowers o'er her grave were weeping
The father beside his child was sleeping.

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