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Poem Title:  Alice Ray: A Romance In Rhyme: Canto II

Poem Category:  Love Poems

Poet:  Sarah Josepha Buell Hale

Poet Biography: 


Poem: 
CANTO II.
THE TEMPTATION.
Pale Zephyrus is yielding
His last and sweetest sighs,
And Autumn's mist-like veil is drawn
Athwart the summer skies,
A veil as for a Bride's fair face,
Which loveliness conceals,
And wakens Fancy more than all
That Summer's pride reveals.
What though the thick-leaved forest
Has lost its lustrous green;
And on the meadow's sobered breast
A shade of brown is seen;-
We greet, with double blessings,
The bright-eyed gipsy flowers,
That, from departing Summer's hand,
Seem sown in rainbow showers.
We watch the lights and shadows
That frolic o'er the hills,
And deeper sense of Beauty's power
The yearning spirit fills;-
If God through every change can keep
This earth so good and fair,
We raise our eyes towards heaven and say-
"What Beauty must be there!"
While thus the face of nature
Was beautiful to see,
Young Alice wept in sorrow
Beneath the old elm-tree;
A wild bird was above her head,
And by her side a flower,-
Oh how has nature o'er her heart
Thus lost its charm and power?
She has been to Saratoga,
Where crowds of Fashion press,
And her dear, cherished home no more
Has light and pleasantness;
But deadlier still the poison
That such deep suffering stirs-
The power of Beauty she has seen,
And felt it was not hers!
She has seen the fair Belinda,
-So exquisitely fair!-
Like alabaster flushed with life;
And then her glorious hair,
It clustered round her lovely neck
Like tendrils round a vine,-
And Alice sighed in bitterness-
"Oh, were such beauty mine!"
Yet not the pride of conquest
Her troubled bosom filled-
The fear she should not be beloved,
-'Twas this her being chilled;
"Even Arthur Gray," thus ran her thoughts,
"Some fairer girl may spy,-
Or leave me for Belinda;-
Oh, if I could but die!"
While thus her heart was wrestling
With its first crushing fear,
A Voice of stern command out-spoke,
Close to her startled ear,-
"Go, Maiden, to the Haunted Dell,
And in the 'Bloody Spring,'
Where the spotted toad sits drinking,
And the night-bat laves its wing,
And adder snakes are coiling,
Bathe thou thy face and hair-
Bathe thrice, not breathe a word or sound,
And then thou shalt be fair!"
She started from the Tempter!-
Her heart grew stony cold;
She knew such gossip stories-
There was a legend old,
How a maid of peerless beauty
Was murdered in that Dell
By wily, ruthless savages,-
And how her fair face fell
In a lone Spring, thence "Bloody" called,-
And those who found her there,
And drew her gently forth, their hands
Had all waxed wondrous fair.
Yet still she felt 'twas sinful
To try such awful spell,
'Twas plain that naught but evil
Could live in that lone dell;
No human foot approached it-
'Twas far, and wild the way;
How could she venture there alone,
This timid Alice Ray?
But still the wish was rising-
Oh, that she could be fair!
She looked towards the haunted dell,-
'Twas not such distance there;
The sun was still above the hill,
And she, before 'twas night,
Might go and come, and know her doom-
But then, would this be right?
She thought of all strange stories
That she had read or heard.
Of Cinderella's Fairy kind,
And of the "talking bird"-
Of "Undine" from her ocean home,
Wild Fancy's loveliest child,-
And then she thought of "water cures,"-
No dream could be more wild!
But yet she knew her Bible
Would never bid her go;
It could not be an angel
Was keeping watch below,
And, pitying her hopeless grief,
Was counselling its cure-
Oh, no, 'twas not an angel-
'Twas some foul demon sure!
Such demon as in olden times
Had lured young girls away,
In guise of gallant Troubadour,
Or holy Friar grey,
And now was lurking round her path,
Her precious soul to win;
And should she listen to his wiles,
And do this deadly sin?
She hurried to her chamber,
To 'scape the dreadful snare,-
The words of that commanding Voice
Seemed sounding even there,-
"Go, maiden, to the 'Bloody Spring,'
And bathe thy face and hair,
Bathe thrice, nor breathe a sound nor word,
-Thou shalt be wondrous fair."

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