Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Consumption
By James Gates Percival (1795–1856)
 
THERE is a sweetness in woman’s decay,
When the light of beauty is fading away,
When the bright enchantment of youth is gone,
And the tint that glow’d, and the eye that shone,
And darted around its glance of power,        5
And the lip that vied with the sweetest flower,
That ever in Pæstum’s garden blew,
Or ever was steep’d in fragrant dew,
When all that was bright and fair, has fled,
But the loveliness lingering round the dead.        10
  O! there is a sweetness in beauty’s close,
Like the perfume scenting the wither’d rose;
For a nameless charm around her plays,
And her eyes are kindled with hallow’d rays,
And a veil of spotless purity        15
Has mantled her cheek with its heavenly dye,
Like a cloud whereon the queen of night
Has pour’d her softest tint of light;
And there is a blending of white and blue,
Where the purple blood is melting through        20
The snow of her pale and tender cheek;
And there are tones, that sweetly speak
Of a spirit, who longs for a purer day,
And is ready to wing her flight away.
  In the flush of youth and the spring of feeling,        25
When life, like a sunny stream, is stealing
Its silent steps through a flowery path,
And all the endearments, that pleasure hath,
Are pour’d from her full, o’erflowing horn,
When the rose of enjoyment conceals no thorn,        30
In her lightness of heart, to the cheery song
The maiden may trip in the dance along,
And think of the passing moment, that lies
Like a fairy dream, in her dazzled eyes,
And yield to the present, that charms around        35
With all that is lovely in sight and sound,
Where a thousand pleasing phantoms flit,
With the voice of mirth, and the burst of wit,
And the music that steals to the bosom’s core,
And the heart in its fulness flowing o’er        40
With a few big drops, that are soon repress’d,
For short is the stay of grief in her breast:
In this enliven’d and gladsome hour
The spirit may burn with a brighter power;
But dearer the calm and quiet day,        45
When the heaven-sick soul is stealing away.
  And when her sun is low declining,
And life wears out with no repining,
And the whisper, that tells of early death,
Is soft as the west wind’s balmy breath,        50
When it comes at the hour of still repose,
To sleep in the breast of the wooing rose,
And the lip, that swell’d with a living glow,
Is pale as a curl of new-fallen snow;
And her cheek, like the Parian stone, is fair,        55
But the hectic spot that flushes there,
When the tide of life, from its secret dwelling,
In a sudden gush, is deeply swelling,
And giving a tinge to her icy lips,
Like the crimson rose’s brightest tips,        60
As richly red and as transient too,
As the clouds, in autumn sky of blue,
That seem like a host of glory met
To honor the sun at his golden set:
O! then, when the spirit is taking wing,        65
How fondly her thoughts to her dear one cling,
As if she would blend her soul with his
In a deep and long imprinted kiss;
So fondly the panting camel flies,
Where the glassy vapor cheats his eyes,        70
And the dove from the falcon seeks her nest,
And the infant shrinks to his mother’s breast.
And though her dying voice be mute,
Or faint as the tones of an unstrung lute,
And though the glow from her cheek be fled,        75
And her pale lips cold as the marble dead,
Her eye still beams unwonted fires
With a woman’s love and a saint’s desires,
And her last fond, lingering look is given
To the love she leaves, and then to heaven,        80
As if she would bear that love away
To a purer world and a brighter day.
 
 
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