A poet toiled over a song, for the maid
Who had plighted her troth to him.
And he leaned, and wrote, in the gathering shade,
Till his eyes were dim.
But the maiden strolled on the distant beach,
And listed another's tender speech.
The poet sang of her love-lit eye,
So softly, and deeply blue;
How its soulful glance--half arch, half shy,
He only knew.
But the maid's blue eyes were shedding their light
On the face of a tall, dark man, that night.
He sang of her hand, so white, and fair,
And soft as a hand could be.
"And the ring," he sang, "that is gleaming there
Binds her to me,"
But the maid to her tall companion said,
"This ring? 'tis the gift of a friend, now dead."
He sang of her ripe and dewy lips--
"They are roses before they blow.
And the taste of the nectar that from them drips
I only know."
But the maid, as she walked in the moonlight mist,
Lifted her face, and was lovingly kissed.
He sang of her voice, "It is soft and clear
As the voice of a gentle dove.
So tender, that I alone can hear
Her words of love."
But the maiden whispered to one by the sea,
"I love thee, darling, and only thee."
Ah, poet! finish your last light strain:
Ah, maid! shall we give you praise, or blame?
You are wringing a heart, with bitter pain,
Yet helping to laurel a brow with fame.
For out of the depths of a master woe,
And through the valley of dark despair,
The soul of a singer must grope, and go,
Ere he wear the purple true poets wear.
Shells by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Milwaukee: Hauser & Storey, 1873.
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