"Madeline. A Domestic Tale" by Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) Records of Woman: With Other Poems. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, & London: T. Cadell, 1828, second edition. pp. 144-149.
Who should it be?–Where shouldst thou look for kindness?
When we are sick where can we turn for succour;
When we are wretched where can we complain;
And when the world looks cold and surly on us,
Where can we go to meet a warmer eye
With such sure confidence as to a mother?
"MY child, my child, thou leav'st me!–I shall hear
The gentle voice no more that blest mine ear
With its first utterance; I shall miss the sound
Of thy light step amidst the flowers around,
And thy soft-breathing hymn at twilight's close,
And thy "Good-night" at parting for repose.
Under the vine-leaves I shall sit alone,
And the low breeze will have a mournful tone
Amidst their tendrils, while I think of thee,
My child! and thou, along the moonlight sea,
With a soft sadness haply in thy glance,
Shalt watch thine own, thy pleasant land of France,
Fading to air.–Yet blessings with thee go!
Love guard thee, gentlest! and the exile's wo
From thy young heart be far! And sorrow not
For me, sweet daughter! in my lonely lot,
God shall be with me.–Now, farewell! farewell!
Thou that hast been what words may never tell
Unto thy mother's bosom, since the days
When thou wert pillow'd there, and wont to raise
In sudden laughter thence thy loving eye
That still sought mine:–these moments are gone by,
Thou too must go, my flower!–Yet with thee dwell
The peace of God!–One, one more gaze–farewell!"
This was a mother's parting with her child,
A young meek bride, on whom fair fortune smil'd,
And wooed her with a voice of love away
From childhood's home; yet there, with fond delay,
She linger'd on the threshold, heard the note
Of her cag'd bird thro' trellis'd rose-leaves float,
And fell upon her mother's neck, and wept,
Whilst old remembrances, that long had slept,
Gush'd o'er her soul, and many a vanish'd day,
As in one picture traced, before her lay.
But the farewell was said; and on the deep,
When its breast heav'd in sunset's golden sleep,
With a calm'd heart, young Madeline ere long,
Pour'd forth her own sweet solemn vesper-song,
Breathing of home: thro' stillness heard afar,
And duly rising with the first pale star,
That voice was on the waters; till at last
The sounding ocean-solitudes were pass'd,
And the bright land was reach'd, the youthful world
That glows along the West: the sails were furl'd
In its clear sunshine, and the gentle bride
Look'd on the home that promis'd hearts untried
A bower of bliss to come.–Alas! we trace
The map of our own paths, and long ere years
With their dull steps the brilliant lines efface,
On sweeps the storm, and blots them out with tears.
That home was darken'd soon: the summer breeze
Welcom'd with death the wanderers from the seas,
Death unto one, and anguish–how forlorn!
To her, that widow'd in her marriage-morn,
Sat in her voiceless dwelling, whence with him
Her bosom's first belov'd, her friend and guide,
Joy had gone forth, and left the green earth dim,
As from the sun shut out on every side,
By the close veil of misery!–Oh! but ill,
When with rich hopes o'erfraught, the young high heart
Bears its first blow!–it knows not yet the part
Which life will teach–to suffer and be still,
And with submissive love to count the flowers
Which yet are spared, and thro' the future hour;
To send no busy dream!–She had not learn'd
Of sorrow till that hour, and therefore turn'd
In weariness from life: then came th' unrest,
The heart-sick yearning of the exile's breast,
The haunting sounds of voices far away,
And household steps: until at last she lay
On her lone couch of sickness, lost in dreams
Of the gay vineyards and blue-rushing streams
In her own sunny land, and murmuring oft
Familiar names, in accents wild, yet soft,
To strangers round that bed, who knew not aught
Of the deep spells wherewith each word was fraught.
To strangers?–Oh! could strangers raise the head
Gently as hers was raised?–did strangers shed
The kindly tears which bath'd that feverish brow
And wasted cheek with half-unconscious flow?
Something was there, that thro' the lingering night
Outwatches patiently the taper's light,
Something that faints not thro' the day's distress,
That fears not toil, that knows not weariness;
Love, true, and perfect love!–Whence came that power,
Uprearing thro' the storm the drooping flower?
Whence?–who can ask?–the wild delirium pass'd,
And from her eyes the spirit look'd at last
Into her mother's face, and wakening knew
The brow's calm grace, the hair's dear silvery hue,
The kind sweet smile of old!–and had she come,
Thus in life's evening, from her distant home,
To save her child?–Ev'n so–nor yet in vain:
In that young heart a light sprung up again,
And lovely still, with so much love to give,
Seem'd this fair world, tho' faded; still to live
Was not to pine forsaken. On the breast
That rock'd her childhood, sinking in soft rest,
"Sweet mother! gentlest mother! can it be?"
The lorn one cried, "and do I look on thee?
Take back thy wanderer from this fatal shore,
Peace shall be ours beneath our vines once more."
* Originally published in the Literary Souvenir for 1828.