The Portrait

IN a lumbering attic room,
Where, for want of light and air,
Years had died within the gloom,
Leaving dead dust everywhere,
Everywhere,
Hung the portrait of a lady,
With a face so fair !
Time had long since dulled the paint,
Time, which all our arts disguise,
And the features now were faint,
All except the wondrous eyes,
Wondrous eyes,
Ever looking, looking, looking,
With such sad surprise !
As man loved, man had loved
Her whose features faded there ;
As man mourned, man had mourned,
Weeping, in his dark despair,
Bitter tears,
When she left him broken-hearted
To his death of years.
Then for months the picture bent
All its eyes upon his face,
Following his where’er they went,—
Till another filled the place
In its stead, —
Till the features of the living
Did outface the dead.
Then for years it hung above
In that attic dim and ghast,
Fading with the fading love,
Sad reminder of the past, —
Save the eyes,
Ever looking, ever looking,
With such sad surprise !
Oft the distant laughter’s sound
Entered through the cobwebbed door,
And the cry of children found
Dusty echoes from the floor
To those eyes,
Ever looking, ever looking,
With their sad surprise.
Once there moved upon the stair
Olden love-steps mounting slow,
But the face that met him there
Drove him to the depths below ;
For those eyes
Through his soul seemed looking, looking,
All their sad surprise.
From that day the door was nailed
Of that memory-haunted room,
And the portrait hung and paled
In the dead dust and the gloom,—
Save the eyes,
Ever looking, ever looking,
With such sad surprise !