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
Stanzas: “Bind up thy tresses”
 
BIND up thy tresses, thou beautiful one,
Of brown in the shadow and gold in the sun!
Free should their delicate lustre be thrown
O’er a forehead more pure than the Parian stone;
Shaming the light of those Orient pearls        5
Which bind o’er its whiteness thy soft wreathing curse.
 
Smile, for thy glance on the mirror is thrown,
And the face of an angel is meeting thine own!
Beautiful creature, I marvel not
That thy cheek a lovelier tint hath caught;        10
And the kindling light of thine eye hath told
Of a dearer wealth than the miser’s gold.
 
Away, away, there is danger here!
A terrible phantom is bending near:
Ghastly and sunken, his rayless eye        15
Scowls on thy loveliness scornfully,
With no human look, with no human breath,
He stands beside thee, the haunter, Death!
 
Fly! but, alas! he will follow still,
Like a moonlight shadow, beyond thy will;        20
In thy noonday walk, in thy midnight sleep,
Close at thy hand will that phantom keep;
Still in thine ear shall his whispers be;
Woe, that such phantom should follow thee!
 
In the lighted hall where the dancers go,        25
Like beautiful spirits, to and fro;
When thy fair arms glance in their stainless white,
Like ivory bathed in still moonlight;
And not one star in the holy sky
Hath a clearer light than thine own blue eye!        30
 
Oh, then, even then, he will follow thee,
As the ripple follows the bark at sea;
In the soften’d light, in the turning dance,
He will fix on thine his dead, cold glance;
The chill of his breath on thy cheek shall linger,        35
And thy warm blood shrink from his icy finger!
 
And yet there is hope. Embrace it now,
While thy soul is open as thy brow;
While thy heart is fresh, while its feelings still
Gush clear as the unsoil’d mountain-rill;        40
And thy smiles are free as the airs of spring,
Greeting and blessing each breathing thing.
 
When the after cares of thy life shall come,
When the bud shall wither before its bloom;
When thy soul is sick of the emptiness        45
And changeful fashion of human bliss;
When the weary torpor of blighted feeling
Over thy heart as ice is stealing;
 
Then, when thy spirit is turn’d above,
By the mild rebuke of the Chastener’s love;        50
When the hope of that joy in thy heart is stirr’d,
Which eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard,
Then will that phantom of darkness be
Gladness, and promise, and bliss to thee.

  1832.
 
 
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