Mary Ashley Townsend.



I believe if I should die,

And you should kiss my eyelids when I lie

Cold, dead and dumb to all the world contains,
The folded orbs would open at thy breath,

And from its exile in the isles of death

Life would come gladly back along my veins !


I believe if I were dead,

And you upon my lifeless heart should tread,

Not knowing what the poor clod chanced to be,

It would find sudden pulse beneath the touch

Of him it ever loved in life so much,

And throb again, warm, tender, true to thee.


I believe if on my grave,

Hidden in woody deeps or by the wave,

Your eyes should drop some warm tears of regret,

From every salty seed of your dear grief,

Some fair sweet blossom would leap into leaf,

To prove death could not make my love forget.


I believe if I should fade

Into those mystic realms where light is made,

And you should long once more my face to see, I would come forth upon the hills of night And gather stars, like fagots, till thy sight, Led by their beacon-blaze, fell full on me!


I believe my faith in thee,

Strong as my life, so nobly placed to be,
I would as soon expect to see the sun
Fall like a dead king from his height sublime,
His glory stricken from the throne of time,
As thee unworth the worship thou hast won


I believe who hath not loved,

Hath half the sweetness of his life unproved;
Like one who, with the grape within his grasp,
Drops it with all its crimson juice unpressed,
And all its luscious sweetness left unguessed,
Out from his careless and unheeding clasp.


I believe love, pure and true,

Is to the soul a sweet, immortal dew

That gems life's petals in its hours of dusk

The waiting angels see and recognize

The rich crown-jewel, love, of Paradise,

When life falls from us like a withered husk.


Warm from her waist her girdle she unwound,
And cast it down on the insensate turf;
Then copse and cove and deep-secluded vale
She scrutinized with keen though timid eyes,
And stood with ear intent to catch each stir
Of leaf, or twig, or bird-wing rustling there.
Her startled heart beat quicker even to hear
The wild bee woo the blossom with a hymn,
Or hidden insect break its lance of sound
Against the obdurate silence. Then she smiled,
At her own fears amused, and knew herself
God's only image by that hidden shore,

Out from its bonds her wondrous hair she loosed,
Hair glittering like spun glass, and bright as though
Shot full of golden arrows. Down below

Her supple waist the soft and shimmering coils
Rolled in their bright abundance, goldener
Than was the golden wonder Jason sought.

Her fair hands then, like white doves in a net,
A moment fluttered 'mid the shining threads,
As with a dexterous touch she higher laid
The gleaming tresses on her shapely head,
Beyond the reach of rudely amorous waves.
Then from her throat her light robe she unclasped,
And dropped it downward with a blush that rose
The higher as the garment lower fell.

Then cast she off the sandals from her feet,

And paused upon the brink of that blue lake:

A sight too fair for either gods or men;

An Eve untempted in her Paradise.

The waters into which her young eyes looked
Gave back her image with so true a truth,
She blushed to look, but blushing looked again,
As maidens to their mirrors oft return
With bashful boldness once again to gaze
Upon the crystal page that renders back
Themselves unto themselves, until their eyes
Confess their love for their own loveliness.

Her rounded cheeks, in each of which had grown,
With sudden blossoming, a fresh red rose,

She hid an instant in her dimpled hands,

Then met her pink palms up above her head,

And whelmed her white shape in the welcoming wave.

Around each lithesome limb the waters twined,
And with their lucent raiment robed her form;

And, as her hesitating bosom sunk

To the caresses of bewildered waves,

They foamy pearls from their own foreheads gave

For her fair brow, and showered in her hair

The evanescent diamonds of the deep.

Thus dallying with the circumfluent tide,
Her loveliness half hidden, half revealed,
An Undine with a soul, she plunged and rose,
Whilst the white graces of her rounded arms
She braided with the blue of wandering waves,
And saw the shoulders of the billows yield
Before the even strokes of her small hands,

And laughed to see, and held her crimson mouth

Above the crest of each advancing surge

Like a red blossom pendent o'er a pool

Till, done with the invigorating play,

Once more she gained the bank, and once again

Saw her twin image in the waters born.

From the translucent wave each beauty grew
To strange perfection. Never statue wrought
By cunning art to fullness of all grace,
And kissed to life by love, could fairer seem
Than she who stood upon that grassy slope

So fresh, so human, so immaculate !

Out from the dusky cloisters of the wood
The nun-like winds stole with a saintly step,

And dried the bright drops from her panting form,

As she with hurried hands once more let down

The golden drapery of her glorious hair,

That fell about her like some royal cloak

Dropped from the sunset's rare and radiant loom.


Would I were lying in a field of clover,

Of clover cool and soft, and soft and sweet, With dusky clouds in deep skies hanging over, And scented silence at my head and feet.

Just for one hour to slip the leash of Worry,
In eager haste, from Thought's impatient neck,
And watch it coursing, in its heedless hurry

Disdaining Wisdom's call or Duty's beck!

Ah! it were sweet, where clover-clumps are meeting
And daisies hiding, so to hide and rest;
No sound except my own heart's sturdy beating,
Rocking itself to sleep within my breast,-

Just to lie there, filled with the deeper breathing
That comes of listening to a wild bird's song!
Our souls require at times this full unsheathing,-
All swords will rust if scabbard-kept too long;

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