Marion Dale

MARION DALE, I remember you once,
In the days when you blushed like a rose half-blown,
Long ere that wealthy respectable dunce
Sponged up your beautiful name in his own.
I remember you, Marion Dale,
Artless and cordial and modest and sweet:
You never walked in that glittering mail
That covers you now from your head to your feet.
Well I remember your welcoming smile,
When Alice and Annie and Edward and I
Came over to see you ; — you lived but a mile
From my uncle’s old house, and the grove that stood nigh.
I was no lover of yours, (pray, excuse me !) —
Our minds were different in texture and hue :
I never gave you a chance to refuse me ;
Already I loved one less changeful than you.
Still it was ever a pride and a pleasure
Just to be near you, — the Rose of our vale.
Often I thought, “ Who will own such a treasure ?
Who win the rich love of our Marion Dale ? ”
I wonder now if you ever remember,
Ever sigh over fifteen years ago, —
Whether your June is all turned to December,—
Whether your life now is happy or no.
Gone are those winters of chats and of dances!
Gone are those summers of picnics and rides !
Gone the aroma of life’s young romances!
Gone the swift flow of our passionate tides!
Marion Dale, — no longer our Marion,—
You have gone your way, and I have gone mine :
Lowly I’ve labored, while fashion’s gay clarion
Trumpets your name through the waltz and the wine.
And when I meet you, your smile it is colder;
Statelier, prouder your features have grown ;
Rounder each white and magnificent shoulder ;
(Rather too low-necked your waist, I must own.)
Jewelled and muslined, your rich hair gold-netted,
Queenly ’mid flattering voices you move,—
Half to your own native graces indebted,
Half to the station and fortune you love,
“ Marion ” we called you ; my wife you called “ Alice ” ;
I was plain “ Phil ” ;— we were intimate all:
Strange, as we leave now our cards at your palace,
On Mrs. Prime Goldbanks of Bubblemere Hall!
Six golden lackeys illumine the doorway:
Sure, one would think, by the glances they throw,
That we were fresh from the mountains of Norway,
And had forgotten to shake off the snow !
They will permit us to enter, however ;
Usher us into her splendid saloon :
There we sit waiting and waiting forever,
As one would watch for the rise of the moon.
Or it may be to-day’s not her “ reception ”:
Still she’s at home, and a little unbends,—
Framing, while dressing, some harmless deception,
How she shall meet her “ American ” friends.
Smiling you meet us,— but not quite sincerely;
Low-voiced you greet us, — but this is the ton:
This, we must feel it, is courtesy merely,—
Not the glad welcome of days that are gone.
You are in England, — the land where they freeze one,
When they’ve a mind to, with fashion and form:
Yet, if you choose, you can thoroughly please one:
Currents run through you still youthful and warm.
So one would think, at least, seeing you moving,
Radiant and gay, at the Countess’s fête.
Say, was that babble so sweeter than loving ?
Where was the charm, that you lingered so late ?
Ah, well enough, as you dance on in joyancc !
Still well enough, at your dinners and calls!
Fashion and riches will mask much annoyance.
Float on, fair lady, whatever befalls !
Yet, Lady Marion, for hours and for hours
You are alone with your husband and lord.
There is a skeleton hid in yon flowers;
There is a spectre at bed and at board.
Needs no confession to tell there is acting
Somewhere about you a tragedy grim.
All your bright rays have a sullen refracting;
Everywhere looms up the image of him:
Him, — whom you love not, there is no concealing.
How could you love him, apart from his gold?
Nothing now left but your fire-fly wheeling,—
Flashing one moment, then pallid and cold !
Yet you’ve accepted the life that he offers,—
Sunk to his level, — not raised him to yours.
All your fair flowers have their roots in his coffers:
Empty the gold-dust, and then what endures ?
So, then, we leave you ! Your world is not ours.
Alice and I will not trouble you more.
Almost too heavy the scent of these flowers
Down the broad stairway. Quick, open the door !
Here, in the free air, we ’ll pray for you, lady !
You who are changed to us, — gone from us, — lost !
Soon the Atlantic shall part us, already
Parted by gulfs that can never be crossed !