778. Barbara

Alexander Smith. 1829-1867

      ON the Sabbath-day,
      Through the churchyard old and gray,
Over the crisp and yellow leaves I held my rustling way;
And amid the words of mercy, falling on my soul like balms,
'Mid the gorgeous storms of music--in the mellow organ-calms,
'Mid the upward-streaming prayers, and the rich and solemn psalms,
      I stood careless, Barbara.

      My heart was otherwhere,
      While the organ shook the air,
And the priest, with outspread hands, bless'd the people with a
But when rising to go homeward, with a mild and saintlike shine
Gleam'd a face of airy beauty with its heavenly eyes on mine--
Gleam'd and vanish'd in a moment--O that face was surely thine
      Out of heaven, Barbara!

      O pallid, pallid face!
      O earnest eyes of grace!
When last I saw thee, dearest, it was in another place.
You came running forth to meet me with my love-gift on your wrist:
The flutter of a long white dress, then all was lost in mist--
A purple stain of agony was on the mouth I kiss'd,
      That wild morning, Barbara.

      I search'd, in my despair,
      Sunny noon and midnight air;
I could not drive away the thought that you were lingering there.
O many and many a winter night I sat when you were gone,
My worn face buried in my hands, beside the fire alone--
Within the dripping churchyard, the rain plashing on your stone,
      You were sleeping, Barbara.

      'Mong angels, do you think
      Of the precious golden link
I clasp'd around your happy arm while sitting by yon brink?
Or when that night of gliding dance, of laughter and guitars,
Was emptied of its music, and we watch'd, through lattice-bars,
The silent midnight heaven creeping o'er us with its stars,
      Till the day broke, Barbara?

      In the years I've changed;
      Wild and far my heart has ranged,
And many sins and errors now have been on me avenged;
But to you I have been faithful whatsoever good I lack'd:
I loved you, and above my life still hangs that love intact--
Your love the trembling rainbow, I the reckless cataract.
      Still I love you. Barbara.

      Yet, Love, I am unblest;
      With many doubts opprest,
I wander like the desert wind without a place of rest.
Could I but win you for an hour from off that starry shore,
The hunger of my soul were still'd; for Death hath told you more
Than the melancholy world doth know--things deeper than all lore
      You could teach me, Barbara.

      In vain, in vain, in vain!
      You will never come again.
There droops upon the dreary hills a mournful fringe of rain;
The gloaming closes slowly round, loud winds are in the tree,
Round selfish shores for ever moans the hurt and wounded sea;
There is no rest upon the earth, peace is with Death and thee--

The Oxford Book of English Verse, HTML edition