Yes, she is very beautiful, with sunlight in her glancing;
Her coral lips are parted to a music low and sweet;
The grace of all her movement swells to triumph in her dancing,
And like snowflakes on the flooring fall her dainty sandall’d feet.
Yes, she is very beautiful, and favour’d ones are round her,
With eyes that look her being through — and hers not turn’d away —
Still I would their homage seem’d not so all-powerless to confound her,
That a blush were on her fair cheek at the burning words they say.
For the dance are many suppliants; to win her hand’s a labour;
There was one, I saw, who claim’d it, but she look’d him queenly down;
There were coronets in waiting, he was but a country neighbour,
Who was he who dared ambition such a pride of place in town!
Who was he? Her childhood’s playmate; nay, perhaps her childhood’s lover;
One whose pride was in her beauty, and her conquests, nothing more;
With her woodlands murmuring round her, and her pure home-skies above her,
She will gladden him again, perchance, with greeting as of yore.
What is there in this atmosphere we call the world of fashion,
That robs the heart at dawning of its innocence and truth?
There’s calm of cold indifference, there’s storm of summer passion,
But no bright spring tide wavelets for the tender barque of youth.
The chestnut-trees in Aubrey Park were white when first I knew her,
And sweet broom-scented breezes came sweeping up the glen;
The brightest things in nature seem’d to throng her path to woo her;
They brought her all the flattery that thrill’d her spirit then.
Two summers silver-blossoming have brighten’d and have faded
Since I met her in her morning’s prime, half-woman and half-child,
With the modest little bonnet that her violet eyes o’ershaded,
And the maiden blush that mantled on her features when she smiled.
She came down to the grey old church when Sabbath bells were ringing,
She came down calm and thoughtful through the arching linden-trees,
School-faces clustering round her, as her clear voice led the singing,
And the dim reply of angels as her fingers swept the keys.
Round the jasmined cottage porches there was childhood’s happy laughter;
For each she had some tender look, some kindly word to say;
She enter’d in; it seem’d, they said, a blessing follow’d after,
To cheer the poor sick pallet when her footfall died away.
Had they left there that image fair, that life so purely moulded;
Those links that bound her being round, those links of love unriven!
What time is now for peaceful brow, for little hands prayer-folded?
What leisure for sweet offices that win the way to Heaven?
O, they changed her when they brought her here, with a change that passes telling;
A countess stood her sponsor, and her fair face made her known;
But no more the streams of Aubrey will reflect the same sweet Helen,
And no more the hearts that loved her so, will dare to claim their own.
Ay! love her for her lovely face, and bless her for her brightness,
But add one heartfelt hope for her, and think one thought of prayer,
That she look not back too late for the old days’ peace and lightness
But to find a desert round her, where the sunny gardens were!
Ralph A. Benson.