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A Destiny

Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton 1808 (Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Sheridan London) – 1877 (London)


THERE was a lady, who had early wed
One whom she saw and lov'd in her bright youth,
When life was yet untried--and when he said
He, too, lov'd her, he spoke no more than truth;
He lov'd as well as baser natures can,--
But a mean heart and soul were in that man.

And they dwelt happily, if happy be
Not with harsh words to breed unnatural strife:
The cold world's Argus-watching failed to see
The flaw that dimm'd the lustre of their life;
Save that he seem'd tyrannical, tho' gay,
Restless and selfish in his love of sway.

The calm of conscious power was not in him;
But rather, struggling into broader light,
The secret sense, they feel, however dim,
Whose chance position gives a sort of right
(As from the height of a prescriptive throne,)
To govern natures nobler than their own.

And as her youth waned slowly on, there fell
A nameless shadow on that lady's heart;
And those she lov'd the best (and she lov'd well),
Had of her confidence nor share, nor part;
Her thoughts lay folded from Life's lessening light,
Like the sweet flowers which close themselves at night.

And men began to whisper evil things
Against the honour of her wedded mate;
That which had pass'd for youth's wild wanderings,
Showed more suspicious in his settled state;
Until at length,--he stood, at some chance game,
Discover'd,--branded with a Cheater's name.

Out, and away he slunk, with felon air;
Then, calling to him one who was his friend,
Bid him to that unblemish'd wife repair
And tell her what had chanced, and what the end;
How they must leave the country of their birth,
And hide,--in some more distant spot of earth.

It was a coward's thought: he could not bear
Himself to be narrator of his shame;
He that had trampled oft, now felt in fear
Of her who still must keep his blighted name,--
And shrank in fancy from that steadfast eye,
The window to a soul so pure and high.

She heard it. O'er her brow there pass'd a flush
Of sunset red; and then so white a hue,
So deadly pale, it seem'd as if no blush
Through that transparent cheek should shine anew;
As if the blood had frozen in that hour,
And her check'd pulse for ever lost its power.

And twice and once did she essay to speak;
And with a gesture almost of command,
(Though in its motion it was deadly weak)
She faintly lifted up her graceful hand:--
But then her soul came back to her, strength woke,
And with a low but even voice, she spoke:

'Go! say to him who dream'd of other chance,
That HERE none sit in judgment on his sin;
That to his door the world's scorn may advance,
And cloud his path, but doth not enter in.
Here dwell his Own: to share, to soothe disgrace;'--
Which having said, she cover'd up her face,

And, as he left her, sank in bitter prayer,--
If prayer that may be term'd which comes to all,
That sudden gushing of our vain despair,
When none but God can hear or heed our call;
And the wreck'd soul feels, in its helpless hour,
Where only dwells full mercy with full power.

And he came home, a crush'd and humbled wretch;
Whom when she saw, she but this comfort found,
In her kind arms that shrinking form to catch,
Which tenderly about his neck she wound,
As in the first proud days of love and trust,
E'er yet his reckless head was bow'd in dust!

And they departed to a distant shore;
But wheresoe'er they dwelt, however lone,
Shame, like a marble statue at his door,
Flung her 'thwart shadow o'er his threshold stone;
Still darken'd all their daylight hours, and kept
Cold watch above them even while they slept.

And there was no more love between those two!
It died not in the shock of that dark hour--
Such shocks destroy not love, whose purple hue
Fades rather, like some autumn-wither'd flower,
Which day by day along the ruin'd walk
We see--then miss it from the sapless stalk;

And, while it fadeth, oft with gentle hand
Doth memory turn to life's dark journal-book;
And, passing foul misdeeds, intently stand
On its first page of glorious hope to look;
Weeping she reads,--and, seeing all so fair,
Pleads hard for what we are, by what we were!

So through that hour love lived; and, though in part
'Twas one of most unutterable pain,
It had its sweetness too, and told her heart
All she could do, and all she could sust
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:11 min read

Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton

Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton was an English feminist, social reformer, and author of the early and mid-nineteenth century. more…

All Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton poems | Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton Books

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