And still in a dark forsaken tower,
Crowned with a withered cypress flower,
Is a bowed head turned away;
A face like carved marble white,
Sweet eyes drooping away from the light,
Shunning the eye of day.
And oft when the light burns low and dim
A haggard form ungainly and grim
Unbidden enters the door;
With chiding eyes whose burning light
You fain would bury in darkness and night,
Never to meet you more.
Mysteries strange its still walls keep,
Strange are the forms that through it sweep—
Walking by night and by day.
But evermore will the castle hall
Echo their footsteps’ phantom fall,
Till its walls shall crumble away.
“I leave my child to Heaven.” And
with these words
Upon her lips, the Lady Mildred passed
Unto the rest prepared for her pure soul;
Words that meant only this: I cannot trust
Unto her earthly parent my young child,
So leave her to her heavenly Father’s care;
And Heaven was gentle to the motherless,
And fair and sweet the maiden, Gladys, grew,
A pure white rose in the old castle set,
The while her father rioted abroad.
But as the day drew near when he should give,
By his dead lady’s will, his child her own,
He having basely squandered all her wealth
To him intrusted, to his land returned,
And thrilled her trusting heart with terrors vague,
Of peril, of some shame to come to him,
Did she not yield unto his prayer—command,
That she would to Our Lady’s convent go,
Forget the world and save him from disgrace.
But hidden as she had been all her life
From tender human ties, she loved the world
With all her loving heart, the fresh, free world
That God had made, and this life seemed to her
As but a living death. A living tomb
The harsh stone walls that from the convent frowned
Upon the peaceful valley sweet with flowers.
The beautiful green valley, threaded by
Bright rivulets that sought the quiet lake,
Dear haunts sought daily by her maiden feet.
And “wilt thou not, for my sake?” and “thou shalt
To save thy sire from shame!” so wore the days,
And still she did not promise, though she wept
At his wild pleadings, trembled at his rage;
Then of her mother’s dying words he thought—
Her dying words—“I leave my child to Heaven.”
And twisting them with his own wishes, wove
A chain therewith that bound her wavering will;
A chain made mighty by the golden threads
Of rev’rence and of holy memories.
And so with heavy heart she gave her vow,
That in the autumn she would leave the world,
But first for one free summer did she pray.
And through those bright spring days she roamed abroad,
And poured upon the winds her low complaints;
The while her dark soft eyes sought all the earth,
The beauteous earth that she too soon must leave;
And all her mournful murmurs ended thus
With this sad cry of, “Oh, the happy world!”
Ended with these low words as a sigh,
I will obey, but, “oh, the happy world!”