Once and Now

THE Mourner lies in the solemn room
Where his Dead hath lately lain;
And in the drear, oppressive gloom,
Death-pallid with the dying moon,
There pass before his brain,
In blended visions manifold,
The present and the days of old.

Fair falls the snow on her grave to-day,
Shrouding her sleep sublime;
But he sees in the sunny far-away
None among maidens so fair and gay
As she in her sweet spring-time:
Where the song and the sport and the revel be,
None among maidens so fair as she.

He marks where the perfect crescent dips
Above the heaven of her eyes,
Her beamy hair in soft eclipse,
The red enchantment of her lips,
And all the grace that lies
Dreaming in her neck’s pure curve,
With its regal lift and its swanlike swerve.

In pictures which are forever joys,
She cometh to him once more:
Once, with her dainty foot a-poise,
She drives the bird with a merry noise
From her lifted battledoor,
And tosses back, with impatient air,
The ruffled glory of her hair;—

Then gayly draping a painted doll,
To please an eager child;
Or pacing athwart a stately hall;
Or kneeling at dewy evenfall,
When clouds are crimson-piled,
And all the hushed and scented air
Is tremulous with the voice of prayer;—

Or standing mute and rapture-bound
The while her sisters sing;
From voice and lute there floats around
A golden confluence of sound,
Spreading in fairy ring;
And with a beautiful grace and glow
Her head sways to the music’s flow.

One night of nights in lustrous June,
She walks with him alone;
Through silver glidings of the moon
The runnels purl a dreamy tune;
His arm is round her thrown:
But looks and sounds far lovelier
Thrill on his trancéd soul from her.

And then that rounded bliss, increased
To one consummate hour!
The marriage-robe, the stoléd priest,
The kisses when the rite hath ceased,
And with her heart’s rich dower
She standeth by his shielding side,
His wedded wife and his own bright bride I

And then the sacred influence
That flushed her flower to prime!
Through Love’s divine omnipotence
She ripened to a mother once,
But once, and for all time:
No higher heaven on him smiled
Than that young mother and her child.

Then all the pleasant household scenes
Through all the latter years!
No murky shadow intervenes,—
Her gentle aspect only leans
Through the soft mist of tears;
Her sweet, warm smile, her welkin glance,—
There is no speech nor utterance.

O angel form, O darling face,
Slow fading from the shore!
O brave, true heart, whose warmest place
Was his alone by Love’s sweet grace,
Still, still, forevermore!
And now he lonely lieth, broken-hearted;
For all the grace and glory have departed.

Snow-cold in sculptured calm she lies,
Apparelled saintly white;
On her sealed lips no sweet replies,
And the blue splendor of her eyes
Gone down in dreamless night;
All empery of Death expressed
In that inexorable rest!

Now leave this fair and holy Thing
Alone with God’s dear grace!
Her grave is but the entering
Beneath the shadow of His wing,
Her trusty hiding-place,
Till, in the grand, sweet Dawn, at last,
This tyranny be overpast.