THE church-yard lies a wood beside,
Where shadows from the boughs abide;
And marbles sleep o’er young and old,
A stony flock in slumber cold.
'T was here gray Hilda mutt’ring came,
A withered gypsy, bent and lame,
When first the witches’ feeble light
Flickers from windows of the night.
Her magic circle thrice she drew,
Conjured the wizard pow’rs anew;
Then lone she sat as ghost may be,
Among her dreams all silently.
Such dreams are watchers in disguise,
Which, when we sleep, look through our eyes,
And seeing far some future thing,
The admonition of it bring.
From the green flame a maiden rose
As from bright leaves the lily grows,
And unto heaven raised her eyes
Like quiet pools to quiet skies.
While thus she gazed, her sheltered breast. A moment by the winds undressed,
Was crossed by shade as when the night
O’er newest snow begins her flight.
Like unseen fingers on the lyre,
Lay on her lips the heart’s desire;
And fitful, faint, their music breathed
The saddest song e’er soul bequeathed.
Her murmured prayer old Hilda heard,
And aye remembered every word;
For she was fair as any maid
Whom guile hath won and guile betrayed
Alack ! Now struck the village bell,
And Hilda cursed with curse of hell;
The charm was broken — back to air
The maiden vanished like her prayer.
But all night with uncovered head,
The old witch sat among the dead.
Where overhead the mournful bough
Sighed with her then and sigheth now.
She told this tale and went her way
Like a live mist, so thin and gray;
Forgotten was her prophecy,
Despised, forever gone was she.
But oh, Time saw a burial there
Where Hilda tore her hoary hair;
God rest her soul, where’er she be —
The sweet girl sleeps so peacefully!
John Vance Cheney.