And glitters o’er the liquid miles
The jewelled ring of verdant isles,
Where generous Nature holds her court
Of ripened bloom and sunny smiles.
Encinctured by the faithful seas
Inviolate gardens load the breeze,
Where flaunt like giant-warders’ plumes
The pennants of the cocoa-trees.
Enthroned in light and bathed in balm,
In lonely majesty the Palm
Blesses the isles with waving hands,—
High-Priest of the eternal Calm.
Yet Northward with an equal mind
I steer my course, and leave behind
The rapture of the Southern skies,—
The wooing of the Southern wind.
For here o’er Nature’s wanton bloom
Falls far and near the shade of gloom,
Cast from the hovering vulture-wings
Of one dark thought of woe and doom.
I know that in the snow-white pines
The brave Norse fire of freedom shines,
And fain for this I leave the land
Where endless summer pranks the vines.
O strong, free North, so wise and brave!
O South, too lovely for a slave!
Why read ye not the changeless truth,—
The free can conquer but to save?
May God upon these shining sands
Send Love and Victory clasping hands,
And Freedom’s banners wave in peace
Forever o’er the rescued lands!
And here, in that triumphant hour,
Shall yielding Beauty wed with Power;
And blushing earth and smiling sea
In dalliance deck the bridal bower.
KEY WEST, 1864.
In the Firelight
My dear wife sits beside the fire
With folded hands and dreaming eyes,
Watching the restless flames aspire,
And wrapped in thralling memories.
I mark the fitful firelight fling
Its warm caresses on her brow,
And kiss her hands’ unmelting snow,
And glisten on her wedding-ring.
The proud free head that crowns so well
The neck superb, whose outlines glide
Into the bosom’s perfect swell
Soft-billowed by its peaceful tide,
The cheek’s faint flush, the lip’s red glow,
The gracious charm her beauty wears,
Fill my fond eyes with tender tears
As in the days of long ago.
Days long ago, when in her eyes
The only heaven I cared for lay,
When from our thoughtless Paradise
All care and toil dwelt far away;
When Hope in wayward fancies throve,
And rioted in secret sweets,
Beguiled by Passion’s dear deceits,—
The mysteries of maiden love.
One year had passed since first my sight
Was gladdened by her girlish charms,
When on a rapturous summer night
I clasped her in possessing arms.
And now ten years have rolled away,
And left such blessings as their dower,
I owe her tenfold at this hour
The love that lit our wedding-day.
For now, vague-hovering o’er her form,
My fancy sees, by love refined,
A warmer and a dearer charm
By wedlock’s mystic hands intwined,—
golden coil of wifely cares
That years have forged, the loving joy
That guards the curly-headed boy
Asleep an hour ago up stairs.