No fairer pilgrims ever came
Within the temple’s stately door;
No sweeter picture could it frame
Than that upon its marble floor,
When, in the hush of dawning day,
The lovely trio knelt to pray.
“Immortal goddess, not in vain
Do mothers lift their souls to thee;
Their love, their hopes, their fears, their pain
Thy heart can feel, thine eyes can see;
Deign, therefore, my sweet babes to bless,
O Juno, fount of tenderness!
“To thy divine, all-seeing eyes
The course of every life is clear;
I pray thee, note what future lies
Before these helpless children here;
Then, of the gifts by thee possessed,
Give them but one; choose thou the best!”
She paused, and waited for reply,
While solemn stillness filled the shrine;
Heard something like a gentle sigh,
Or passing of a breath divine;
Then saw their eyes, like petals, close
In death’s sweet, statue-like repose.
Repose, unbroken evermore!
The world of suffering still unknown!
Escaping through that peaceful door
From every ill life might have shown.
Heart-broken mother, cease to weep!
The best was given them,—dreamless sleep.
Let me sleep on! I would not waken yet,
Or leave too soon the peaceful realm of dreams!
There, lulled by placid Lethe, I forget
The tumult raging on Earth’s roaring streams;
Doubt not that, later, I shall surely meet
With steadfast soul Day’s ceaseless, sordid strife,
But now I crave again that strangely sweet
Oblivion of life;—
That tranquil sleep, whose cooling shadow stills
The throbbing forehead and the fevered brain,
Which soothes to rest all sense of present ills,
Of poignant sorrow and persistent pain;
O gift divine, O boon beyond compare,
God’s benediction at the evening’s close,
The antidote of grief, the cure of care,
The kingdom of repose!
Too late ... the spell is broken ... I awake;
How swift the rush of memory’s turning tide,
Whose ruthless waves the will’s frail barriers break,
And flood the cells where consciousness would hide!
Alas, how mad and fierce the world appears!
How dark and ominous the future seems!
I rise to face them ... yet recall through tears
The quiet land of dreams.
Earthen jar of quaint design,
Fragile clay and slender mould,
I shall soon have drained the wine
Which you still contrive to hold,—
Wine that sixty years ago
Seemed about to overflow.
Few the draughts that now remain,
And I husband them with care,
For naught ever comes again
That is once exhausted there,
And the emptied jar is cast
To the scrap-heap of the past.
Oh, the wine we rashly waste
When held brimming to the lip!
What a difference in its taste
When we drink it sip by sip,
As a miser counts his gold
On a hearth that leaves him cold!