Helen Maria Williams
As roam'd a pilgrim o'er the mountain drear,
On whose lone verge the foaming billows roar,
The wail of hopeless sorrow pierc'd his ear,
And swell'd at distance on the sounding shore.
The mourner breath'd her deep complaint to night,
Her moan she mingled with the rapid blast,
That bar'd her bosom in its wasting flight,
And o'er the earth her scatter'd tresses cast,
"Ye winds," she cried, "still heave the lab'ring deep,
The mountain shake, the howling forest rend;
Still dash the shiv'ring fragments from the steep,
Nor for a wretch like me the storm suspend.
"Ah, wherefore wish the rising storm to spare?
Ah, why implore the raging winds to save?
What refuge can the breast, where lives despair,
Desire but death?--what shelter but the grave?
"To me congenial is the gloom of night,
The savage howlings that infest the air;
I unappall'd can view the fatal light
That issues from the pointed lightning's glare.
"And yet erewhile, if night her shadows threw
O'er the known woodlands of my native vale,
Fancy in visions wild the landscape drew,
And swell'd with boding sounds the whisp'ring gale.
"But deep despair has arm'd my timid soul,
And agony has numb'd the throb of fear;
Taught a weak heart its terrors to controul,
And more to court than shun the danger near.
"Yet could I welcome the return of light,
Its glimm'ring beam might guide my searching eye;
The sacred spot might then emerge from night
On which a lover's bleeding relics lie.
"For sure 'twas here, as late a shepherd stray'd,
Bewilder'd, o'er the mountain's dreary bound,
Close to the pointed cliff he saw him laid,
Where heav'd the waters of the deep around.
"Alas, no longer could his heart endure
The woes that heart was doom'd for me to prove;
He sought for death--for death the only cure
That fate has not refus'd to hopeless love!
"My sire, unjust while passion swell'd his breast,
From the lov'd ALFRED his EUPHELIA tore;
Mock'd the keen sorrows that my soul opprest,
And bade me--vainly bade me, love no more.
"He told me love was like yon troubled deep,
Whose restless billows never know repose,
Are wildly dash'd upon the rocky steep,
And tremble to the slightest breeze that blows!
"From those rude scenes remote her gentle balm,
Dear to the suff'ring spirit, peace applies;
Peace! 'tis th' oblivious lake's detested calm,
Whose dull, slow waters never fall or rise.
"Ah, what avails a parent's stern command,
The force of conqu'ring passion to subdue?
Ah, wherefore seek to rend with cruel hand
The ties enchanted love so fondly drew?
"Yet I could see my ALFRED'S fix'd despair,
And, aw'd by filial fear, conceal my woes!
My coward heart could separation bear,
And check the struggling anguish as it rose!
"'Twas guilt the barb'rous mandate to obey,
Which bade no parting sigh my bosom move!
Victim of duty's unrelenting sway,
I seem'd a traitor, while a slave to love!
"Let her who seal'd a lover's fate, endure
The sharpest pressure of deserv'd distress;
'Twere added perfidy to seek a cure,
And, stain'd with falsehood, wish to suffer less.
"For wretches doom'd in other griefs to pine,
Oft will benignant hope her ray impart;
And pity oft from her celestial shrine
Drop a warm tear upon the fainting heart:
"But o'er the lasting gloom of love's despair,
Can hope's bright ray its cheering visions shed?
Can pity sooth the woes that breast must bear
Which vainly loves, and vainly mourns the dead?
"No! ling'ring still, and still prolong'd, the moan
Shall never pause 'till heaves my latest breath;
Till memory's distracting pang is flown,
And all my sorrows shall be hush'd in death.
And death is pitying come, whose hand shall tear
From this afflicted heart the sense of pain;
My fainting limbs refuse their load to bear,
And life no longer will my form sustain.
"Yet once did health's enliv'ning glow adorn,
And pleasure shed for me her loveliest ray,
Pure as the gentle star that gilds the morn,
And constant as the equal light of day.
"Now, those lost pleasures trac'd by mem'ry, seem
Like yon illusive meteor's glancing light,
That o'er the darkness threw its instant gleam,
Then sunk, and vanish'd in the depth of night.
"My native vale, and thou, delightful bower!
Scenes to my hopeless love for ever dear!
Sweet vale, for whom the morning wak'd her flower,
Fresh bower, for whom the evening pour'd her tear:
"I ask no more to see your beauties rise;
Ye rocks and mountains, on whose rugged breast
My ALFRED , murder'd by EUPHELIA , lies,
In your deep solitudes, I come to rest!
"And sure the dawning ray that lights the steep,
And slowly wanders o'er the purple wave,
Will shew me where his sacred relics sleep,
Will lead his mourner to her destin'd grave!"--
O'er the high precipice unmov'd she bent,
A fearful path the beams of morning shew;
The pilgrim reach'd with toil the rude ascent,
And saw her brooding o'er the deep below.
"EUPHELIA , stay!" he cried, "thy ALFRED calls--
O, stay--in desperation yet more dear!--
I come!"--in vain the tender accent falls,
Alas, it reach'd not her distracted ear.
"Ah what avails," she said, "that morning rose,
With fruitless pain I seek his mould'ring clay;
Vain search! to fill the measure of my woes,
The foaming surge has wash'd his corse away.
"This cruel agony why longer bear?
Death, death alone, can all my pangs remove--
Kind death will banish from my heart despair,
And when I live again--I live to love."
She said, and plung'd into the awful deep!
He saw her meet the fury of the wave,
He frantic saw! and, darting to the steep,
With desp'rate anguish, sought her wat'ry grave.
He clasp'd her dying form, he shar'd her sighs,
He check'd the billow rushing on her breast;
She felt his dear embrace!--her closing eyes
Were fix'd on ALFRED, and her death was blest!
Helen Maria Williams's Other Poems
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