Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Appendix I. Early and Uncollected Verses
Isabella of Austria
 
          Isabella, Infanta of Parma, and consort of Joseph of Austria, predicted her own death, immediately after her marriage with the Emperor. Amidst the gayety and splendor of Vienna and Presburg, she was reserved and melancholy; she believed that Heaven had given her a view of the future, and that her child, the namesake of the great Maria Theresa, would perish with her. Her prediction was fulfilled.

’MIDST the palace bowers of Hungary, imperial Presburg’s pride,
With the noble born and beautiful assembled at her side,
She stood beneath the summer heavens, the soft wind sighing on,
Stirring the green and arching boughs like dancers in the sun.
The beautiful pomegranate flower, the snowy orange bloom,        5
The lotus and the trailing vine, the rose’s meek perfume,
The willow crossing with its green some statue’s marble hair,
All that might charm the fresh young sense, or light the soul, was there!
 
But she, a monarch’s treasured one, leaned gloomily apart,
With her dark eyes tearfully cast down, and a shadow on her heart.        10
Young, beautiful, and dearly loved, what sorrow hath she known?
Are not the hearts and swords of all held sacred as her own?
Is not her lord the kingliest in battle-field or tower?
The wisest in the council-hall, the gayest in the bower?
Is not his love as full and deep as his own Danube’s tide?        15
And wherefore in her princely home weeps Isabel his bride?
 
She raised her jewelled hand, and flung her veiling tresses back,
Bathing its snowy tapering within their glossy black.
A tear fell on the orange leaves, rich gem and mimic blossom,
And fringëd robe shook fearfully upon her sighing bosom.        20
“Smile on, smile on,” she murmured low, “for all is joy around,
Shadow and sunshine, stainless sky, soft airs, and blossomed ground.
’T is meet the light of heart should smile, when nature’s smile is fair,
And melody and fragrance meet, twin sisters of the air.
 
“But ask me not to share with you the beauty of the scene,        25
The fountain-fall, mosaic walk, and breadths of tender green;
And point not to the mild blue sky, or glorious summer sun,
I know how very fair is all the hand of God has done.
The hills, the sky, the sunlit cloud, the waters leaping forth,
The swaying trees, the scented flowers, the dark green robes of earth,—        30
I love them well, but I have learned to turn aside from all,
And nevermore my heart must own their sweet but fatal thrall.
 
“And I could love the noble one whose mighty name I bear,
And closer to my breaking heart his princely image wear,
And I could love our sweet young flower, unfolding day by day,        35
And taste of that unearthly joy which mothers only may,—
But what am I to cling to these?—A voice is in my ear,
A shadow lingers at my side, the death-wail and the bier!
The cold and starless night of Death where day may never beam,
The silence and forgetfulness, the sleep that hath no dream!        40
 
“O God, to leave this fair bright world, and more than all to know
The moment when the Spectral One shall strike his fearful blow;
To know the day, the very hour, to feel the tide roll on,
To shudder at the gloom before and weep the sunshine gone;
To count the days, the few short days, of light and love and breath        45
Between me and the noisome grave, the voiceless home of death!
Alas!—if feeling, knowing this, I murmur at my doom,
Let not thy frowning, O my God! lend darkness to the tomb.
 
“Oh, I have borne my spirit up, and smiled amidst the chill
Remembrance of my certain doom which lingers with me still;        50
I would not cloud my fair child’s brow, nor let a tear-drop dim
The eye that met my wedded lord’s, lest it should sadden him;
But there are moments when the strength of feeling must have way;
That hidden tide of unnamed woe nor fear nor love can stay.
Smile on, smile on, light-hearted ones! Your sun of joy is high:        55
Smile on, and leave the doomed of Heaven alone to weep and die!”
 
A funeral chant was wailing through Vienna’s holy pile,
A coffin with its gorgeous pall was borne along the aisle;
The drooping flags of many lands waved slow above the dead,
A mighty band of mourners came, a king was at its head,—        60
A youthful king, with mournful tread, and dim and tearful eye;
He scarce had dreamed that one so pure as his fair bride could die.
And sad and long above the throng the funeral anthem rung:
“Mourn for the hope of Austria! Mourn for the loved and young!”
 
The wail went up from other lands, the valleys of the Hun,        65
Fair Parma with its orange bowers, and hills of vine and sun;
The lilies of imperial France drooped as the sound went by,
The long lament of cloistered Spain was mingled with the cry.
The dwellers in Colorno’s halls, the Slowak at his cave,
The bowed at the Escurial, the Magyar stoutly brave,        70
All wept the early stricken flower; and still the anthem rung:
“Mourn for the pride of Austria! Mourn for the loved and young!”

  1831.
 
 
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