THE HAUNTED DELL
When soft the gales are blowing,
And calm is ocean's wave,
So small the danger seemeth
That every heart is brave;-
But let the tempest rise in wrath,
The ocean flout the sky,-
The firmest shriek, in agony,
"Lord, save us, or we die!"
And while in peace abiding,
Within a sheltered home,
We feel as sin and evil
Could never, never come;-
But let the strong temptation rise,
As whirlwinds sweep the sea-
We find no strength to 'scape the wreck,
Save, pitying God, in Thee.
Wise men have worshipped Mammon,
And lost their souls for gold;
Pure women, for the pride of life,
Their priceless hearts have sold;
And for revenge, or power, or fame,
What deeds are done each day,-
And all by beings, guiltless once
As gentle Alice Ray!
Then blame not too severely
The wish of this young girl
To have a face as fair as day,
And hair of graceful curl!
She fondly trusts by Beauty's power
Her Lover's heart to bind,-
For this, for this she trembling goes
The "Bloody Spring" to find.
And she has crossed the brooklet,
And scaled the mountain steep,
And down, and downward winds her path,
Into a valley deep-
Above her crowd the fir trees,
Dark, motionless, and tall,
She hears no sound on that lone ground,
Save her own light foot-fall.
And thrice her step hath stumbled
O'er deadly hemlock roots;
And thrice the poison ivy
Hath clasped her with its shoots;
And thrice a white owl hooted,
Close to her throbbing ear,
And seemed to ask her conscience,
What dost thou, Maiden, here?
Still on-the Dell is entered,
And reached the "Bloody Spring,"
And here she nearly fainted-
She felt the night-bat's wing
Cold on her cheek-yet down she stooped
And bathed her face and hair;
And all around was lone and still
As Death were watching there!
Again, but very slowly,
She bends as with a load-
Well may she start and shudder-
She grasped the slimy toad;
-But cast it from her, like a stone,
And bathed her face and hair;
And all around was dark and still
As Death were listening there.
Again, but slow and slower,
She bendeth o'er the Spring,-
The bat is wheeling round and round,
She feels its clammy wing;-
The toad is creeping o'er her foot-
Yet mindful of the charm,
She bore her bravely till she felt
The snakes coil round her arm!
Oh! then she lost her footing,
And prone she would have sunk,
But for a black-thorn's ragged branch-
Sole branch from rotting trunk;
She grasped it in her agony,
The foul snakes dropped away,-
And with her arms all bleeding,
Fled fainting Alice Ray.
She reached her home scarce living,-
But when the morning shone,
And she her faithful mirror sought-
How fair her face had grown!
The freckles all had vanished,
Her cheek was like the dawn,
The blush half struggling through the light,
Like rose-leaf under lawn.
And then her hair was flowing,
And kept in curl so long;
How could she think the spell had been
So very, very wrong!
The treacherous heart will deem success
Has sanctified the deed;
The first step costs-but easy then
Sin's downward path will lead,-
This moral from her story learn,
-Of thy first step take heed.
For oh, what worldly passions
Were working in her breast!
What dreams of ball-room conquests
Now broke her pillowed rest!
Her pony whinnied as she passed-
She never seemed to hear;
Her birds came round-she strewed no seeds,
And they withdrew in fear;
Her books had lost their charm and power,
And even her Bible lay
Unopened near her toilet glass-
Wo! wo! for Alice Ray.
Then flatterers flocked around her,
In proud and rich array;
And every day her charms increased,
Like some rare flower of May,
That opened later than the rest,
The sooner will decay;-
Still she was true to Arthur,
And might have been alway;
But from the city's courtly ranks
A lover rich and gay,
Smit with her face and flowing curls,
His homage came to pay.
And princely in his port was he,
And winning in his way,
And versed in love's seductive wiles,
He knew just what to say,-
And so he won fair Alice-
How could she say him, "nay"!-
And she has left her dear, dear home,
Home of her infant play
And childhood's joy;-but there are ties
Which never can decay;
However dear new friends may be,
However far she stray,
She yet will see her Mother weep,
And hear her Father pray,-
Praying for her happiness,
Weeping in dismay,
That she, their dear and only child,
Must go so far away!-
She bade farewell to them, to all-
Farewell to Arthur Gray.
Other Love Poems