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   English Poetry III: From Tennyson to Whitman.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
710. Barbara
 
Alexander Smith (1829–1867)
 
 
ON the Sabbath-day,
Through the churchyard old and grey,
Over the crisp and yellow leaves, I held my rustling way;
And amid the words of mercy, falling on my soul like balms;
’Mid the gorgeous storms of music—in the mellow organ-calms,        5
’Mid the upward streaming prayers, and the rich and solemn psalms,
I stood careless, Barbara.
 
My heart was otherwhere
While the organ shook the air,
And the priest, with outspread hands, blessed the people with a prayer;        10
But, when rising to go homeward, with a mild and saint-like shine
Gleamed a face of airy beauty with its heavenly eyes on mine—
Gleamed and vanished in a moment—O that face was surely thine
Out of heaven, Barbara!
 
O pallid, pallid face!        15
O earnest eyes of grace!
When last I saw thee, dearest, it was in another place.
You came running forth to meet me with my love-gift on your wrist:
The flutter of a long white dress, then all was lost in mist—
A purple stain of agony was on the mouth I kissed,        20
That wild morning, Barbara!
 
I searched in my despair,
Sunny noon and midnight air;
I could not drive away the thought that you were lingering there.
O many and many a winter night I sat when you were gone,        25
My worn face buried in my hands, beside the fire alone.
Within the dripping churchyard, the rain plashing on your stone,
You were sleeping, Barbara.
 
’Mong angels, do you think
Of the precious golden link        30
I clasped around your happy arm while sitting by yon brink?
Or when that night of gliding dance, of laughter and guitars,
Was emptied of its music, and we watched, through latticed bars,
The silent midnight heaven creeping o’er us with its stars,
Till the day broke, Barbara?        35
 
In the years I’ve changed;
Wild and far my heart hath ranged,
And many sins and errors now have been on me avenged;
But to you I have been faithful, whatsoever good I lacked:
I loved you, and above my life still hangs that love intact—        40
Your love the trembling rainbow, I the reckless cataract.
Still I love you, Barbara!
 
Yet, love, I am unblest;
With many doubts oppressed,
I wander like a desert wind, without a place of rest.        45
Could I but win you for an hour from off that starry shore,
The hunger of my soul were stilled, for Death hath told you more
Than the melancholy world doth know; things deeper than all lore
Will you teach me, Barbara?
 
In vain, in vain, in vain,        50
You will never come again.
There droops upon the dreary hills a mournful fringe of rain;
The gloaming closes slowly round, loud winds are in the tree,
Round selfish shores for ever moans the hurt and wounded sea,
There is no rest upon the earth, peace is with Death and thee,        55
Barbara!
 

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