A Celebration of Women Writers

"Juana" by Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) Records of Woman: With Other Poems. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, & London: T. Cadell, 1828, second edition. pp. 123-130.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


[Page 123] 

JUANA.


Juana, mother of the Emperor Charles V., upon the death of her husband, Philip the Handsome of Austria, who had treated her with uniform neglect, had his body laid upon a bed of state in a magnificent dress, and being possessed with the idea that it would revive, watched it for a length of time incessantly, waiting for the moment of returning life.


[Page 124] 

JUANA.


It is but dust thou look'st upon. This love,
This wild and passionate idolatry,
What doth it in the shadow of the grave?
Gather it back within thy lonely heart,
So must it ever end: too much we give
Unto the things that perish.

THE night-wind shook the tapestry round an ancient palace-room,
And torches, as it rose and fell, waved thro' the gorgeous gloom,
And o'er a shadowy regal couch threw fitful gleams and red,
Where a woman with long raven hair sat watching by the dead.

[Page 125] 

Pale shone the features of the dead, yet glorious still to see,
Like a hunter or a chief struck down while his heart and step were free;
No shroud he wore, no robe of death, but there majestic lay,
Proudly and sadly glittering in royalty's array.

But she that with the dark hair watch'd by the cold slumberer's side,
On her wan cheek no beauty dwelt, and in her garb no pride;
Only her full impassion'd eyes as o'er that clay she bent,
A wildness and a tenderness in strange resplendence blent.

And as the swift thoughts cross'd her soul, like shadows of a cloud,
Amidst the silent room of death, the dreamer spoke aloud;

[Page 126] 

She spoke to him who could not hear, and cried, "Thou yet wilt wake,
And learn my watchings and my tears, belov'd one! for thy sake.

"They told me this was death, but well I knew it could not be;
Fairest and stateliest of the earth! who spoke of death for thee?
They would have wrapp'd the funeral shroud thy gallant form around,
But I forbade–and there thou art, a monarch, robed and crown'd!

"With all thy bright locks gleaming still, their coronal beneath,
And thy brow so proudly beautiful–who said that this was death?

[Page 127] 

Silence hath been upon thy lips, and stillness round thee long,
But the hopeful spirit in my breast is all undimm'd and strong.

"I know thou hast not loved me yet; I am not fair like thee,
The very glance of whose clear eye threw round a light of glee!
A frail and drooping form is mine–a cold unsmiling cheek,–
Oh! I have but a woman's heart, wherewith thy heart to seek.

"But when thou wak'st, my prince, my lord! and hear'st how I have kept
A lonely vigil by thy side, and o'er thee pray'd and wept;

[Page 128] 

How in one long, deep dream of thee my nights and days have past,
Surely that humble, patient love must win back love at last!

"And thou wilt smile–my own, my own, shall be the sunny smile,
Which brightly fell, and joyously, on all but me erewhile!
No more in vain affection's thirst my weary soul shall pine–
Oh! years of hope deferr'd were paid by one fond glance of thine!

"Thou'lt meet me with that radiant look when thou com'st from the chase,
For me, for me, in festal halls it shall kindle o'er thy face!

[Page 129] 

Thou'lt reck no more tho' beauty's gift mine aspect may not bless;
In thy kind eyes this deep, deep love, shall give me loveliness.

"But wake! my heart within me burns, yet once more to rejoice
In the sound to which it ever leap'd, the music of thy voice:
Awake! I sit in solitude, that thy first look and tone,
And the gladness of thine opening eyes, may all be mine alone."

In the still chambers of the dust, thus pour'd forth day by day,
The passion of that loving dream from a troubled soul found way,

[Page 130] 

Until the shadows of the grave had swept o'er every grace,
Left midst the awfulness of death on the princely form and face.

And slowly broke the fearful truth upon the watcher's breast,
And they bore away the royal dead with requiems to his rest,
With banners and with knightly plumes all waving in the wind,–
But a woman's broken heart was left in its lone despair behind.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom