The lady lay in her bed,
Her couch so warm and soft,
But her sleep was restless and broken still;
For turning often and oft
From side to side, she mutter’d and moan’d,
And toss’d her arms aloft.
At last she startled up,
And gazed on the vacant air,
With a look of awe, as if she saw
Some dreadful phantom there —
And then in the pillow she buried her face
From visions ill to bear.
The very curtain shook,
Her terror was so extreme;
And the light that fell on the broider’d quilt
Kept a tremulous gleam;
And her voice was hollow, and shook as she cried:—
“Oh me! that awful dream”!
“That weary, weary walk,
In the churchyard’s dismal ground!
And those horrible things, with shady wings,
That came and flitted round —
Death, death, and nothing but death,
In every sight and sound!
“And oh! those maidens young,
Who wrought in that dreary room,
With figures drooping and spectres thin,
And cheeks without a bloom; —
And the Voice that cried, ‘For the pomp of pride,
We haste to an early tomb!
“‘For the pomp and pleasure of Pride,
We toil like Afric slaves,
And only to earn a home at last,
Where yonder cypress waves;’—
And then they pointed — I never saw
A ground so full of graves!
“And still the coffins came,
With their sorrowful trains and slow;
Coffin after coffin still,
A sad and sickening show;
From grief exempt, I never had dreamt
Of such a World of Woe!
“Of the hearts that daily break,
Of the tears that hourly fall,
Of the many, many troubles of life,
That grieve this earthly ball —
Disease and Hunger, and Pain, and Want,
But now I dreamt of them all!
“For the blind and the cripple were there,
And the babe that pined for bread,
And the houseless man, and the widow poor
Who begged — to bury the dead;
The naked, alas, that I might have clad,
The famish’d I might have fed!
“The sorrow I might have sooth’d,
And the unregarded tears;
For many a thronging shape was there,
From long-forgotten years,
Ay, even the poor rejected Moor,
Who raised my childish fears!
“Each pleading look, that long ago
I scann’d with a heedless eye,
Each face was gazing as plainly there,
As when I pass’d it by:
Woe, woe for me if the past should be
Thus present when I die!
“No need of sulphurous lake,
No need of fiery coal,
But only that crowd of human kind
Who wanted pity and dole —
In everlasting retrospect —
Will wring my sinful soul!
“Alas! I have walk’d through life
Too heedless where I trod;
Nay, helping to trample my fellow-worm,
And fill the burial sod —
Forgetting that even the sparrow falls
Not unmark’d of God!
“I drank the richest draughts;
And ate whatever is good —
Fish, and flesh, and fowl, and fruit,
Supplied my hungry mood;
But I never remember’d the wretched ones
That starve for want of food!
“I dress’d as the noble dress,
In cloth of silver and gold,
With silk, and satin, and costly furs,
In many an ample fold;
But I never remember’d the naked limbs
That froze with winter’s cold.
“The wounds I might have heal’d!
The human sorrow and smart!
And yet it never was in my soul
To play so ill a part:
But evil is wrought by want of Thought,
As well as want of Heart!”
She clasp’d her fervent hands,
And the tears began to stream;
Large, and bitter, and fast they fell,
Remorse was so extreme;
And yet, oh yet, that many a Dame
Would dream the Lady’s Dream!
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:09