Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A TALE, by JAMES GATES PERCIVAL



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A TALE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: He had been touched with grief, and on her cheek
Last Line: Only to think of what had been, and grieve.
Subject(s): Grief; Sorrow; Sadness


SHE had been touched with grief, and on her cheek
Sorrow had left its impress in the pale
Soft tint of fading loveliness. She bore
Meekly the burden of her woes, and told
To none the secret of her heart. It preyed
Forever on her life, and blanched away
The roses which had bloomed so wooingly
And freshly on her laughing lips. Her smile
Grew fainter, and it only spread a line
Of a most tender carmine, where the snow
Scarce had a stain to mark it from the pure
And perfect whiteness of her cheek and brow --
So pure, she seemed a living monument
Of Parian marble; and the flaxen curls
That waved around her forehead, and the arch
Darker and brighter bent above that eye,
Which through long lashes spoke in looks of fire,
And was the only eloquence she used --
These, and at times a gushing to her cheek,
Like the first flush of morning, or the faint
Fast-dying purple, when the twilight steals
Into the depth of darkness -- these were all
That told she yet was living, and was not
An image of the Graces, or the shade
Of a departed maiden, which at night
Visits the silent walks she loved, and hangs
Over the grave she watered, till she took
Her last repose beside it.

She had been
The gayest and the loveliest, and had moved
Through the light dance, and in the bending crowd
Of young admirers, like an infant queen
Proud of her innocent beauty. There was one
Who looked, but spake not; and when others took
Her hand to lead her through the merry hall,
In steps all grace and harmony, he stole
Aside, and wept in anguish. He was made
Not for the place of mirth, but for the still
And peaceful shade of feeling, and of thoughts,
Which have their home in higher souls, and are
Lone, and unfriended and unknown below.
His was a social nature; yet not made
To blend with crowds, but find in one alone,
One fairy minister of soft delights,
And pure as they are tender, that deep joy,
Which none has ever uttered. Long he sought
To win her to those calm retreats, and give
To her a spirit kindred to his own,
And lead her to the one and only love,
The harmony of thought, and wish, and life,
The union of all feelings, whence the deep
Exhaustless fountain of their blended hearts
Flows ever deeper, and has ever more
Of music in his flow, and more of light
And beauty in its fullness. Thus he dwelt
On her fresh loveliness, until his life
Was linked unto her image, and her form
Mingled with every thought, and every spot,
Where, the new spring looked beautiful, was filled
With her pervading presence; but he dared
Speak only to the mountain-winds her name,
And only in a whisper.

She had marked
The silent youth, and with a beauty's eye
Knew well she was beloved, and though her light
And bounding spirit still was wild and gay,
And sporting in the revel, yet her hours
Of solitude were visited by him,
Who looked with such deep passion. She too loved,
And saw more in his melancholy eye,
And in the delicate form, and the still look,
And that high front of intellect, which crowned
Features that were all tenderness and love,
Like the fair shrine of poesy, where thoughts
Dwelt high and solemn, such as from their seat
Of glory visit none, but the great few,
Whose language is immortal -- there she saw
More that had charms to win her, than in all
The light unmeaning swarm, who fawned, and danced,
And played their tricks in envious rivalry,
Happy to draw from her one scornful smile.

She loved him with a true and early love,
And with her tenderness there was a sense
Of awe, when on those magic eyes she gazed,
Which seemed to look on spirits, not on men.
Still, in her innocent cheerfulness, she sought
To lead him from his solitary haunts,
And throw bright smiles upon that shaded brow,
And light that eye to rapture from its deep
And mute abstraction. So she laughed and sung,
And called him to the dance; but with a gush
Of feeling irresistible, he stole
Aside and wept. Again he sought her ear,
And told her his fond tale. First she looked cold
And o'er her forehead curled a playful frown;
Then suddenly, and with a few light words,
She scornfully turned from him, and enjoyed
The moment of her triumph -- it was short,
For with a firm, fixed look, in which were seen
More thoughts of grief than anger, he drew back,
And casting one proud farewell glance, that told
There was no after hope, he turned away,
And soon was gone, an exile, none knew where.

He wandered to another land, and found
New friends, who sought to cheer him; but a weight
Hung on his heart, and would not be removed;
The feeling of regret and injury,
The love that will not perish, and the pride
That quenches love, but does not make it hate;
The fondness that will steal at times, and melt
The heart to tears, and then the sudden pang
Of long-remembered scorn, which freezes fast
The fountain in its flow, and leaves the cold
Dim glare of one, whose only hope is death.

He was in happy regions, and the sky
Above him was most beautiful; its blue
Was higher and intenser, and it took
The spirit on a journey into Heaven,
And made it more than mortal: cool, soft gales
Stole from a peaceful ocean, whose bright waves
Rolled gently on to music, and they blew
Through woven trellises of all-sweet flowers,
And sported round long wreaths of festooned vines
Hung with the gayest blossoms, and o'er beds,
That breathed in mellowest airs of balm and myrrh.
Music was in those bowers, and Beauty there
Crowded in mystic dances, and their nights
Were consecrated to the skilful sounds
Of a most witching harmony, to choirs
Such as once moved in Athens to the voice
Of flutes and timbrels. Many an eye was bent
Full on the noble stranger, and they sought
To win his smile; but yet he would not smile,
For all his better thoughts were far away,
And when, he looked upon the lovely ones
Around him, it recalled with keener sense,
Her, who to him was lovelier, whom he loved,
But would not in his bitterness forgive.

When it was told her that the youth had fled,
And fled in anger, then her look was changed,
And never more her steps were in the dance,
Nor were the cheerful sounds of her sweet voice
Heard in the crowd of revelers. Alone
She wept the folly which had thrown away
The only treasure she had truly loved,
And left her in the fairest of her days,
The very spring-time of her loveliness,
Only to think of what had been, and grieve.





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