Helen Maria Williams
An American Tale
"Ah! pity all the pangs I feel,
If pity e'er ye knew;--
An aged father's wounds to heal,
Through scenes of death I flew.
"Perhaps my hast'ning steps are vain,
Perhaps the warrior dies!--
Yet let me soothe each parting pain--
Yet lead me where he lies."
Thus to the list'ning band she calls,
Nor fruitless her desire,
They lead her, panting, to the walls
That hold her captive sire.
"And is a daughter come to bless
These aged eyes once more?
Thy father's pains will now be less--
His pains will now be o'er!"
"My father! by this waning lamp
Thy form I faintly trace:--
Yet sure thy brow is cold and damp,
And pale thy honour'd face!
"In vain thy wretched child is come,
She comes too late to save!
And only now can share thy doom,
And share thy peaceful grave!"
Soft, as amid the lunar beams
The falling shadows bend,
Upon the bosom of the streams,
So soft her tears descend.
"Those tears a father ill can bear,
He lives, my child, for thee!
A gentle youth, with pitying care,
Has lent his aid to me.
"Born in the western world, his hand
Maintains its hostile cause,
And fierce against Britannia's band
His erring sword he draws;
"Yet feels the captive Briton's woe;
For his ennobled mind
Forgets the name of Britain's foe,
In love of human kind!
"Yet know, my child, a dearer tie
Has link'd his heart to mine:
He mourns with Friendship's holy sigh,
The youth belov'd of thine!
"But hark! his welcome feet are near--
Thy rising grief suppress:
By darkness veil'd, he hastens here
To comfort and to bless."
"Stranger! for that dear father's sake,"
She cried, in accents mild,
"Who lives by thy kind pity, take
The blessings of his child!
"O, if in heaven, my EDWARD'S breast
This deed of mercy knew,
That gives my tortur'd bosom rest,
He sure would bless thee too!
"Ah, tell me where my lover fell?
The fatal scene recall;
His last, dear accents, stranger, tell,
O, haste and tell me all!
"Say, if he gave to love the sigh,
That set his spirit free?
Say, did he raise his closing eye,
As if it sought for me?"
"Ask not," her father cried, "to know
What, known, were added pain;
Nor think, my child, the tale of woe
Thy softness can sustain."
"Though every joy with EDWARD fled,
When EDWARD'S friend is near
It soothes my breaking heart," she said,
"To tell those joys were dear.
"The western ocean roll'd in vain
Its parting waves between,
My EDWARD brav'd the dang'rous main,
And bless'd our native scene.
"Soft Isis heard his artless tale,
Ah, stream for ever dear!
Whose waters, as they pass'd the vale,
Receiv'd a lover's tear.
"How could a heart that virtue lov'd,
(And sure that heart is mine)
Lamented youth! behold unmov'd,
The virtues that were thine?
"Calm, as the surface of the lake,
When all the winds are still;
Mild, as the beams of morning break,
When first they light the hill;
"So calm was his unruffled soul,
Where no rude passion strove;
So mild his soothing accents stole,
Upon the ear of love.
"Where are the dear illusions fled
Which sooth'd my former hours?
Where is the path that fancy spread,
Ah, vainly spread with flowers?
"I heard the battle's fearful sounds,
They seem'd my lover's knell--
I heard that, pierc'd with ghastly wounds,
My vent'rous lover fell!--
"My sorrows shall with life endure,
For he I lov'd is gone;
But something tells my heart, that sure
My life will not be long."
"My panting soul can bear no more,"
The youth impatient cried;
" 'Tis EDWARD bids thy griefs be o'er,
My love! my destin'd bride!
"The life which Heav'n preserv'd, how blest,
How fondly priz'd by me!
Since dear to my AMELIA'S breast,
Since valued still by thee!
"My father saw my constant pain
When thee I left behind,
Nor longer will his power restrain
The ties my soul would bind.
"And soon thy honor'd sire shall cease
The captive's lot to bear;
And we, my love, will soothe to peace
His griefs, with filial care.
"Then come for ever to my soul!
AMELIA come, and prove
How calm our blissful years will roll
Along, a life of love!"
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