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The Forest Sanctuary - Part II.

Felicia Dorothea Hemans 1793 (Liverpool, Lancashire) – 1835 (Dublin, County Dublin)

I.
Bring me the sounding of the torrent-water,
With yet a nearer swell-fresh breeze, awake!
And river, darkening ne'er with hues of slaughter
Thy wave's pure silvery green,-and shining lake,
Spread far before my cabin, with thy zone
Of ancient woods, ye chainless things and lone!
Send voices through the forest aisles, and make
Glad music round me, that my soul may dare,
Cheer'd by such tones, to look back on a dungeon's air!

II.
Oh, Indian hunter of the desert's race!
That with the spear at times, or bended bow,
Dost cross my footsteps in thy fiery chase
Of the swift elk or blue hill's flying roe;
Thou that beside the red night-fire thou heapest,
Beneath the cedars and the star-light sleepest,
Thou know'st not, wanderer-never may'st thou know!-
Of the dark holds wherewith man cumbers earth,
To shut from human eyes the dancing seasons' mirth.

III.
There, fetter'd down from day, to think the while
How bright in Heaven the festal sun is glowing,
Making earth's loneliest places, with his smile,
Flush like the rose; and how the streams are flowing
With sudden sparkles through the shadowy grass,
And water-flowers, all trembling as they pass;
And how the rich dark summer-trees are bowing
With their full foliage;-this to know, and pine
Bound unto midnight's heart, seems a stern lot-'twas mine.

IV.
Wherefore was this?-Because my soul had drawn
Light from the book whose words are grav'd in light!
There, at its well-head, had I found the dawn,
And day, and noon of freedom:-but too bright
It shines on that which man to man hath given,
And call'd the truth-the very truth, from Heaven!
And therefore seeks he, in his brother's sight,
To cast the mote; and therefore strives to bind
With his strong chains to earth, what is not earth's-the mind!

V.
It is a weary and a bitter task
Back from the lip the burning word to keep,
And to shut out Heaven's air with falsehood's mask,
And in the dark urn of the soul to heap
Indignant feelings-making even of thought
A buried treasure, which may but be sought
When shadows are abroad-and night-and sleep.
I might not brook it long-and thus was thrown
Into that grave-like cell, to wither there alone.

VI.
And I a child of danger, whose delights
Were on dark hills and many-sounding seas-
I that amidst the Cordillera heights
Had given Castilian banners to the breeze,
And the full circle of the rainbow seen
There, on the snows; and in my country been
A mountain wanderer, from the Pyrenees
To the Morena crags-how left I not
Life, or the soul's life quench'd, on that sepulchral spot?

VII.
Because Thou didst not leave me, oh, my God!
Thou wert with those that bore the truth of old
Into the deserts from the oppressor's rod,
And made the caverns of the rock their fold,
And in the hidden chambers of the dead,
Our guiding lamp with fire immortal fed,
And met when stars met, by their beams to hold
The free heart's communing with Thee,-and Thou
Wert in the midst, felt, own'd-the strengthener then as now!

VIII.
Yet once I sank. Alas! man's wavering mind!
Wherefore and whence the gusts that o'er it blow?
How they bear with them, floating uncombin'd,
The shadows of the past, that come and go,
As o'er the deep the old long-buried things,
Which a storm's working to the surface brings!
Is the reed shaken, and must we be so,
With every wind?-So, Father! must we be,
Till we can fix undimm'd our stedfast eyes on Thee.

IX.
Once my soul died within me. What had thrown
That sickness o'er it?-Even a passing thought
Of a clear spring, whose side, with flowers o'ergrown,
Fondly and oft my boyish steps had sought!
Perchance the damp roof's water-drops, that fell
Just then, low tinkling through my vaulted cell,
Intensely heard amidst the stillness, caught
Some tone from memory, of the music, welling
Ever with that fresh rill, from its deep rocky dwelling.

X.
But so my spirit's fever'd longings wrought,
Wakening, it might be, to the faint sad sound,
That from the darkness of the walls they brought
A lov'd scene round me, visibly around.
Yes! kindling, spreading, brightening, hue by hue,
Like stars from midnight, through the gloom it grew,
That haunt of youth, hope, manhood!-till the bound
Of my shut cavern seem'd dissolv'd, and I
Girt by the solemn hills and burning pomp of sky.

XI.
I look'd-and lo! the clear broad river flowing,
Past the old Moorish ruin on the steep,
The lone tower dark against a Heaven all glowing,
Like seas of glass and f
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Felicia Dorothea Hemans

Felicia Dorothea Hemans was an English poet. Two of her opening lines, "The boy stood on the burning deck" and "The stately homes of England", have acquired classic status. more…

All Felicia Dorothea Hemans poems | Felicia Dorothea Hemans Books

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