A Celebration of Women Writers

"Carolan's Prophecy" by Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) Records of Woman: With Other Poems. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, & London: T. Cadell, 1828, second edition. pp. 187-193.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 187] 


Thy cheek too swiftly flushes; o'er thine eye
The lights and shadows come and go too fast,
Thy tears gush forth too soon, and in thy voice
Are sounds of tenderness too passionate
For peace on earth; oh! therefore, child of song!
'Tis well thou shouldst depart.

A SOUND of music, from amidst the hills,
Came suddenly, and died; a fitful sound
Of mirth, soon lost in wail.–Again it rose,
And sank in mournfulness.–There sat a bard,
By a blue stream of Erin, where it swept
Flashing thro' rock and wood; the sunset's light
Was on his wavy, silver-gleaming hair,
And the wind's whisper in the mountain-ash,

[Page 188] 

Whose clusters droop'd above. His head was bow'd,
His hand was on his harp, yet thence its touch
Had drawn but broken strains; and many stood,
Waiting around, in silent earnestness,
Th' unchaining of his soul, the gush of song,–
Many, and graceful forms! yet one alone
Seem'd present to his dream; and she indeed,
With her pale, virgin brow, and changeful cheek,
And the clear starlight of her serious eyes,
Lovely amidst the flowing of dark locks
And pallid braiding flowers, was beautiful,
Ev'n painfully!–a creature to behold
With trembling midst our joy, lest aught unseen
Should waft the vision from us, leaving earth
Too dim without its brightness!–Did such fear
O'ershadow, in that hour, the gifted one,
By his own rushing stream?–Once more he gaz'd
Upon the radiant girl, and yet once more
From the deep chords his wandering hand brought out
A few short festive notes, an opening strain

[Page 189] 

Of bridal melody, soon dash'd with grief,
As if some wailing spirit in the strings
Met and o'ermaster'd him: but yielding then
To the strong prophet-impulse, mournfully,
Like moaning waters o'er the harp he pour'd
The trouble of his haunted soul, and sang–

        Voice of the grave!
    I hear thy thrilling call;
  It comes in the dash of the foaming wave,
    In the sear leaf's trembling fall!
  In the shiver of the tree,
    I hear thee, O thou voice!
  And I would thy warning were but for me,
    That my spirit might rejoice.

        But thou art sent
    For the sad earth's young and fair,
  For the graceful heads that have not bent
    To the wintry hand of care!

[Page 190] 

  They hear the wind's low sigh,
    And the river sweeping free,
  And the green reeds murmuring heavily,
    And the woods–but they hear not thee!

        Long have I striven
    With my deep foreboding soul,
  But the full tide now its bounds hath riven,
    And darkly on must roll.
  There's a young brow smiling near,
    With a bridal white-rose wreath,–
  Unto me it smiles from a flowery bier,
    Touch'd solemnly by death!

        Fair art thou, Morna!
    The sadness of thine eye
  Is beautiful as silvery clouds
    On the dark-blue summer sky!

[Page 191] 

  And thy voice comes like the sound
    Of a sweet and hidden rill,
  That makes the dim woods tuneful round–
    But soon it must be still!

        Silence and dust
    On thy sunny lips must lie,
  Make not the strength of love thy trust,
    A stronger yet is nigh!
  No strain of festal flow
    That my hand for thee hath tried,
  But into dirge-notes wild and low
    Its ringing tones have died.

        Young art thou, Morna!
    Yet on thy gentle head,
  Like heavy dew on the lily's leaves,
    A spirit hath been shed!

[Page 192] 

  And the glance is thine which sees
    Thro' nature's awful heart–
  But bright things go with the summer-breeze,
    And thou too, must depart!

        Yet shall I weep?
    I know that in thy breast
  There swells a fount of song too deep,
    Too powerful for thy rest!
  And the bitterness I know,
    And the chill of this world's breath–
  Go, all undimm'd, in thy glory go!
    Young and crown'd bride of death!

        Take hence to heaven
    Thy holy thoughts and bright,
  And soaring hopes, that were not given
    For the touch of mortal blight!

[Page 193] 

  Might we follow in thy track,
    This parting should not be!
  But the spring shall give us violets back,
    And every flower but thee!

There was a burst of tears around the bard:
All wept but one, and she serenely stood,
With her clear brow and dark religious eye,
Rais'd to the first faint star above the hills,
And cloudless; though it might be that her cheek
Was paler than before.–So Morna heard
The minstrel's prophecy.
                                          And spring return'd,
Bringing the earth her lovely things again,
All, save the loveliest far! A voice, a smile,
A young sweet spirit gone.

[Page 187]

* Founded on a circumstance related of the Irish Bard, in the "Percy Anecdotes of Imagination."


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom