ALEXANDER AND ZENOBIA
Fair was the evening and brightly the sun
Was shining on desert and grove,
Sweet were the breezes and balmy the flowers
And cloudless the heavens above.
It was Arabia's distant land
And peaceful was the hour;
Two youthful figures lay reclined
Deep in a shady bower.
One was a boy of just fourteen
Bold beautiful and bright;
Soft raven curls hung clustering round
A brow of marble white.
The fair brow and ruddy cheek
Spoke of less burning skies;
Words cannot paint the look that beamed
In his dark lustrous eyes.
The other was a slender girl,
Blooming and young and fair.
The snowy neck was shaded with
The long bright sunny hair.
And those deep eyes of watery blue,
So sweetly sad they seemed.
And every feature in her face
With pensive sorrow teemed.
The youth beheld her saddened air
And smiling cheerfully
He said, 'How pleasant is the land
Of sunny Araby!
'Zenobia, I never saw
A lovelier eve than this;
I never felt my spirit raised
With more unbroken bliss!
'So deep the shades, so calm the hour,
So soft the breezes sigh,
So sweetly Philomel begins
Her heavenly melody.
'So pleasant are the scents that rise
From flowers of loveliest hue,
And more than all -- Zenobia,
I am alone with you!
Are we not happy here alone
In such a healthy spot?'
He looked to her with joyful smile
But she returned it not.
'Why are you sorrowful?' he asked
And heaved a bitter sigh,
'O tell me why those drops of woe
Are gathering in your eye.'
'Gladly would I rejoice,' she said,
'But grief weighs down my heart.
'Can I be happy when I know
Tomorrow we must part?
'Yes, Alexander, I must see
This happy land no more.
At break of day I must return
To distant Gondal's shore.
'At morning we must bid farewell,
And at the close of day
You will be wandering alone
And I shall be away.
'I shall be sorrowing for you
On the wide weltering sea,
And you will perhaps have wandered here
To sit and think of me.'
'And shall we part so soon?' he cried,
'Must we be torn away?
Shall I be left to mourn alone?
Will you no longer stay?
'And shall we never meet again,
Hearts that have grown together?
Must they at once be rent away
And kept apart for ever?'
'Yes, Alexander, we must part,
But we may meet again,
For when I left my native land
I wept in anguish then.
'Never shall I forget the day
I left its rocky shore.
We thought that we had bid adieu
To meet on earth no more.
'When we had parted how I wept
To see the mountains blue
Grow dimmer and more distant -- till
They faded from my view.
'And you too wept -- we little thought
After so long a time,
To meet again so suddenly
In such a distant clime.
'We met on Grecia's classic plain,
We part in Araby.
And let us hope to meet again
Beneath our Gondal's sky.'
'Zenobia, do you remember
A little lonely spring
Among Exina's woody hills
Where blackbirds used to sing,
'And when they ceased as daylight faded
From the dusky sky
The pensive nightingale began
Her matchless melody?
'Sweet bluebells used to flourish there
And tall trees waved on high,
And through their ever sounding leaves
The soft wind used to sigh.
'At morning we have often played
Beside that lonely well;
At evening we have lingered there
Till dewy twilight fell.
'And when your fifteenth birthday comes,
Remember me, my love,
And think of what I said to you
In this sweet spicy grove.
'At evening wander to that spring
And sit and wait for me;
And 'ere the sun has ceased to shine
I will return to thee.
'Two years is a weary time
But it will soon be fled.
And if you do not meet me -- know
I am not false but dead.'
* * *
Sweetly the summer day declines
On forest, plain, and hill
And in that spacious palace hall
So lonely, wide and still.
Beside a window's open arch,
In the calm evening air
All lonely sits a stately girl,
Graceful and young and fair.
The snowy lid and lashes long
Conceal her downcast eye,
She's reading and till now I have
Passed unnoticed by.
But see she cannot fix her thoughts,
They are wandering away;
She looks towards a distant dell
Where sunny waters play.
And yet her spirit is not with
The scene she looks upon;
She muses with a mournful smile
On pleasures that are gone.
She looks upon the book again
That chained her thoughts before,
And for a moment strives in vain
To fix her mind once more.
Then gently drops it on her knee
And looks into the sky,
While trembling drops are shining in
Her dark celestial eye.
And thus alone and still she sits
Musing on years gone by.
Till with a sad and sudden smile
She rises up to go;
And from the open window springs
On to the grass below.
Why does she fly so swiftly now
Adown the meadow green,
And o'er the gently swelling hills
And the vale that lies between?
She passes under giant trees
That lift their arms on high
And slowly wave their mighty boughs
In the clear evening sky,
And now she threads a path that winds
Through deeply shaded groves
Where nought is heard but sighing gales
And murmuring turtle doves.
She hastens on through sunless gloom
To a vista opening wide;
A marble fountain sparkles there
With sweet flowers by its side.
At intervals in the velvet grass
A few old elm trees rise,
While a warm flood of yellow light
Streams from the western skies.
Is this her resting place? Ah, no,
She hastens onward still,
The startled deer before her fly
As she ascends the hill.
She does not rest till she has gained
A lonely purling spring,
Where zephyrs wave the verdant trees
And birds in concert sing.
And there she stands and gazes round
With bright and searching eye,
Then sadly sighing turns away
And looks upon the sky.
She sits down on the flowery turf
Her head drooped on her hand;
Her soft luxuriant golden curls
Are by the breezes fanned.
A sweet sad smile plays on her lips;
Her heart is far away,
And thus she sits till twilight comes
To take the place of day.
But when she looks towards the west
And sees the sun is gone
And hears that every bird but one
To its nightly rest is flown,
And sees that over nature's face
A sombre veil is cast
With mournful voice and tearful eye
She says, 'The time is past!
'He will not come! I might have known
It was a foolish hope;
But it was so sweet to cherish
I could not yield it up.
'It may be foolish thus to weep
But I cannot check my tears
To see in one short hour destroyed
The darling hope of years.
'He is not false, but he was young
And time rolls fast away.
Has he forgotten the vow he made
To meet me here today?
'No. If he lives he loves me still
And still remembers me.
If he is dead -- my joys are sunk
In utter misery.
'We parted in the spicy groves
Beneath Arabia's sky.
How could I hope to meet him now
Where Gondal's breezes sigh?
'He was a shining meteor light
That faded from the skies,
But I mistook him for a star
That only set to rise.
'And with a firm yet trembling hand
I've clung to this false hope;
I dared not surely trust in it
Yet would not yield it up.
'And day and night I've thought of him
And loved him constantly,
And prayed that Heaven would prosper him
Wherever he might be.
'He will not come; he's wandering now
On some far distant shore,
Or else he sleeps the sleep of death
And cannot see me more!
'O, Alexander, is it thus?
Did we but meet to part?
Long as I live thy name will be
Engraven on my heart.
'I shall not cease to think of thee
While life and thought remain,
For well I know that I can never
See thy like again!'
She ceases now and dries her tears
But still she lingers there
In silent thought till night is come
And silver stars appear.
But lo! a tall and stately youth
Ascends the grassy slope;
His bright dark eyes are glancing round,
His heart beats high with hope.
He has journyed on unweariedly
From dawn of day till now,
The warm blood kindles in his cheek,
The sweat is on his brow.
But he has gained the green hill top
Where lies that lonely spring,
And lo! he pauses when he hears
Its gentle murmuring.
He dares not enter through the trees
That veil it from his eye;
He listens for some other sound
In deep anxiety.
But vainly -- all is calm and still;
Are his bright day dreams o'er?
Has he thus hoped and longed in vain,
And must they meet no more?
One moment more of sad suspense
And those dark trees are past;
The lonely well bursts on his sight
And they are met at last!