John Banim Poems >>
The Celt's Paradise. Fourth Duan

And yet beneath that happy sky,
Was heard one ever--during sigh,
One heart of sadness there was known,
One voice of sorrow wept alone,
And o'er that Paradise it would break,
Like a single tear on a sunny cheek.

And it named a name in all its weeping,
The sighing heart was sick with keeping.
It named a name whose very sound,
On such a lip, in such holy ground,
Proved all enough that name to sever
From it and Paradise for ever.
Minona! The sad voice was thine,
And the oft--whisper'd name was mine.

Silent I sat in my Spirit's bower;
It was her gentle slumbering hour;
Her head was cradled on my breast,
And she had sighed herself to rest:
And all around, the clustering trees,
Had closed on love's lone mysteries,
Making a modest twilight, such
As love itself deemed not too much.
I heard amongst the bushes round,
A sobbing sigh--a moaning sound--
And then I saw blue weeping eyes,
Gaze on me in my mute surprise--
And they streamed thro' the dark bower's leafy shroud
Like azure thro' a thunder cloud.

A feeble recollection came,
Of looks like these and eyes the same--
And more intense my gazings grew,
But the young eyes faded from my view,
And I only heard a whispering song,
Its mournful music thus prolong.

My life on earth was a long, long sigh,
Of hopes and fears, of hopes and fears;
My life on earth was a long, long shower,
Of silent tears, of silent tears:
And the sudden smile that sometimes came,
O'er all my woe, o'er all my woe,
Was the tempest--flash that breaks upon
The void below, the void below.
I could not live on earth to love,
And love in vain, and love in vain,
And I died to seek some other land,
To soothe my pain, to soothe my pain.
The flowers were bright, the sky was fair,
Morn and even, morn and even,
But Ossian was on earth behind,
And it was not heaven, it was not heaven.

I often wept and wished him dead,
And here with me, and here with me,
He might forget his greatness then,
And kinder be, and kinder be.
He came at last, but not alone,
My wish to bless, my wish to bless,
Another heart has made for him
His happiness, his happiness.

I wish I was on earth again,
In rougher skies, in rougher skies,
Their tears and darkness would be like
My agonies, my agonies.
Oh! it is comfortless to live
In lonely sighs, in lonely sighs,
The only weeping thing that walks
Thro' Paradise, thro' Paradise.

The sighing song has ceased around,
So gentle in its whispering sound,
On her soft ear who yet is sleeping,
It came unheard; but sobs and weeping
Yet linger round me, and I listened
'Till the trembling tear of pity glistened--

``Who art thou, mourner all alone?
And how was Ossian loved or known?''

``When happier eyes have holy rest,
And every heart but mine is blest,
O meet me in my silent vale,
And listen to my weeping tale.
Ossian, I hope not for thy kiss,--
But, give thy tear--it would be bliss
I never had, to see thee weep,
And hear thee wish my woes asleep.''

I met her in her silent vale.
And listened to her weeping tale.
I listened--we were there alone--
In sorrow; and I looked upon
A face and form whose fresh, fair youth,
So full of tenderness and truth,
Was wet with tears for love of me,
And if I smiled, not doom to be
For ever fading. And she spoke
In sighings wild, that, fluttering, broke
From the heart's prison, where they had slept
A long, sad slumber--and she wept
Warm, streaming tears, and knew not whether
In love or grief, or both together,
Their gushings wandered.--Needs there more
To tell a tale oft told before?
I braved the sea, and was tempest tossed,
I looked, and listened, and was lost!

Beauty!--The bard's eternal theme,
His long, long sigh, his ceaseless dream,
His hope, his virtue, and his sin,
The breath that brings him life within!--
To bask an hour bright beam in thee,
How have I darkened my destiny,
When it was shining clear and calm,
And dared to be the thing I am!
With thee my life wove all its flowers,
For thee my eyes shed all their showers,
For thee I left my field of fame,
And risked a dear and deathless name--
For thee I gave up my world to brave
The rushing wind and roaring wave,
In my Paradise I forgot,
Its flowers for thee, and loved them not;
For thee my sin was unforgiven,
And I left my earth, and lost my heaven!

What was her story?--hear it flow
In her own wild words of woe.

``Ossian, thou wert my soul's first sigh,
My virgin heart's idolatry!
I saw thee in thy father's hall,
The fairest there, the first of all:
The softest voice of sounding song,
The bravest in the battle throng,
The rosiest cheek, the richest smile,
That lighted up our own green isle.
I saw thee, but alone I stood
In my young heart's widowhood;
I was too lowly ever to be
A beam of loveliness to thee;
Yet like the flower I looked upon
My own loved light where'er it shone,
'Till it had scorched my leaves at last,
And left them withering in the blast!

``It was my spring--my budding hour--
And in thy smile my heart was born,
And for thy sake it got the power
Of loving in that maiden morn;
But when it loved too long and lone,
And had no hope of love from thee,
Still like the flower when the light is gone,
It shut its leaves and would not be.
No colder smile--no moonshine glow,
Might ever waken it from its woe!--

``I was the most forsaken one
That walk'd and wept beneath the sun!--
The virgin stream--the first fond gush
My young heart gave, it could not rush
Forth and rejoice, but backward crept,
And in the poor heart's silence slept,
Sickening in its own repose,
Like dull deep water that never flows.
My youth was joyless--and my fate,
I thought it dark and desolate,
As if thy own harp all forsaken
Lay silent and untouch'd by thee,
For no other hand could waken
Its neglected harmony!--

``One wish I had. It was to take
My death from him I loved so well--
My heart was breaking and would break,
Ere words or sighs its tale might tell;
But rather than live 'till it grew dark
In its own helplessness, I sought
His shining sword, to strike one spark
Of feeling thro' it: I recked not
If pain or pleasure--and in the flame
Which from that spark all quickly came,
I thought it would be bliss to burn,
And into dull cold ashes turn!

``I thought from him who bade me cease
To love, such recompense were due--
I thought that he who killed my peace,
Should kill my mind and memory too!--

``I had my wish!--The battle came--
The blazing sun flung forth its flame--
The Fenii went to quell the pride
Of Morni's host--that evening tide
I grasped a spear--thy foeman's crest
My flushed and throbbing forehead prest,
And I felt no fear!--A warrior boy,
So young, thou scarcely coulds't destroy,
Came out to brave thee from the crowd,
Like a faint flash from a tempest--cloud,--
Thy sword descended on my breast,
And I thought I had my pleasant rest.

``But here on this bright shore I woke,
To weep for thee and love thee still--
Thy sword my young life's vision broke,
My memory it could not kill!--
I sate alone by the bubbling stream,
And sang a song of fondness to it--
But it gushed on--and in my dream
Often I would wildly woo it--
And ever as it stole away,
I wept and sighed--``false Ossian stay!''
It took my tear--it heard me sigh,
And smiled in scorn and passed me by.

``Go, Ossian--go--thy sleeping flower
Hath wakened in her happy bower--
My tale is told--but art thou here
Breathing the same soft air with me,
And must I weep my widowed tear
And never--never blissful be?

``Go, Ossian--go--I wish for thee
A life of love eternally,
Tho' thou hast been to me the blast
That chilled my dream of one world's bliss,
And from that triumph now hath past
To wither up my hopes in this--
Oh! kill me, Ossian, once again,
And my sleep may be eternal then!''

Her soft voice sunk in broken sighs,
Half rapture and half agonies;
Her moist blue eyes were shut in tears,
And they bathed her lips and the red and white
Of her rich cheek--and thus appears,
Ere the sun comes to lend them light,
A cluster of three fairest flowers,
Lily, violet and rose,
Sorrowing in the dewy showers,
The night has wept on their repose--
And one white arm she tossed on high,
And it fell against a green bank nigh,
Resting there unconsciously--
And over it her head was drooping
So hopelessly!--And she was stooping,
Half turned from my enraptured look,
That now in all its glancings took
Abundant love.--Oh! who could pause
For the cold pitiful applause
Of prudence then!--Nay had I stood
On the bare edge of a rock--
And saw her thus beneath a flood
The wildest of the wild--its shock
I could despise and brave, and mock--
Plunging--tho' to my early grave,
To clasp and kiss her under its wave!--
And forward I have bent and sighed
A sigh that her's have multiplied--
And now my wooing arms are stealing
Round her--and now I am unveiling
Her young cheek from the wild bright hair
That strove to hide its blushings fair,--
Like a golden sun--burst streaming proud
O'er summer evening's crimson--cloud--
And gentle strife I have to turn
Her lips to mine that madly burn--
And half an effort she would make,
My fond embraces not to take;
At last she paused and in my eyes
Looked up in questioning surprise,
And chilling doubts, and hopes and fears,
And wishings wild, and smiles and tears,--
On her cheek and in her eye
Mingled and fought for mastery--
And love can read the look it loves,
So true, the reading never proves
Doubtful or false--and when she dwelt
Long, long, on mine, and knew and felt
My heart was her's--that happy maid,
One step drew back, while laughter played
Convulsive on her lip--then flung
Herself around me, warm and young--
And blushing bright and wildly weeping,
Crept close into my bosom's keeping.

``By the smooth lake's silver wave
A bower of loveliness I have--
Over the mountain, away and far,
Where nothing but flowers and breezes are--
I wove it in that pathless wild,
To weep alone, when others smiled--
And its friendly shade my secret kept,
And no laugh was round me when I wept--
And not a leaf its wildness wears,
But has been nurtured in my tears!--
``Oh!--we will go together there,
And give the drooping flowers one smile--
And they will look more fresh and fair,
Than any in this blessed isle!--
No sound or voice will ever come
On our silence to intrude--
And thou shalt have my flowery home,
And faithful heart in solitude!''--

--The kiss was given!--and a wind
Came rushing o'er the rocks behind,
Too rude to be the breeze that fanned
The roses of that happy land--
And as it hurried by, the air
Darkened, and made a shadow there,
Which feebly and confusedly took
My spirit's form--her cloudy look
Glanced anger on me--and she past
Careering on the wrathful blast--
Then I was in a place, all light
And silence--shapes more chastely white
Than I had seen stood in a throng,
Entranced--as listening to some song
Of holy power, which they alone
Might hear and worship--and there was one,
Throned in the midst, a radiant form
Of unveiled glory--but not warm
And scorching like the sun's--his light,
Tho' it dazzled more, was silvery bright
And awful--and he was the king
Of Paradise--and every thing
That lives or breathes. A creature knelt
Weeping beneath his smile, which dwelt
Pleasantly on her--then I felt
The fear of crime, for well I knew
Her to whose love I was untrue.
She motioned at me, and that high
And aweful being on my eye
Flashed frowning terrors--a frown--but aught
Of earthly anger it had not--
There was no shade in it--nor less
Of glory--rather, it did compress
Into one self--assuming glance
The rays of his whole countenance,
And it was a frown of gathered light,
More dreadful than the glooms of night.--

Then all things faded--: from my soul
Its pure immortal spirit stole--
And human terrors filled my brain,
And curdling ran thro' every vein--
And either the land receded fast,
And shook me from its edge at last,
Or some strong invisible arm
Bound me in its chilly charm,
And unresisting I was hurled
Into a cold and darkened world--

I stood alone in thickened gloom--
I thought it might be one spreading tomb
For the whole earth--and that around,
All things their sepulchre had found
Under the broad vault of the sky,
Which closed on them too suddenly,
While yet they lived--feeble and far,
A blood--red, half distinguished star
Lent sullen light--one lurid streak
Fell from it on the raven cheek
Of utter darkness--and around,
Terrific forms in silence frown'd,
Shapeless and nameless: and to mine eye,
Sometimes they rolled off cloudily,
Wedding themselves with gloom--or grew
Gigantic on my troubled view,
And seemed to gather round me. Few
And fearful were the thoughts that came
Upon me in that hour--the same
Might be his thinkings who hath stood
Dizzy amid the dashing flood
On a poor plank, hopeless to save
One breathing moment from that wave;
Or, it was as if within the womb,
While yet in uncreated gloom,
The embryo--soul could faintly feel
A little while its promised zeal,
Then darkening in its own essay,
Melt once again to night away!--

And I looked toward that far, far light,
And suddenly upon my sight
It swelled and parted--and, as a spark
Shook from it, but now quenched and dark,
I saw a dim and dusky form,
Like any our fancy's dream may warm,
With life come forward--and I thought,
Far off, with clouds and gloom it fought,
And traversed hills and desarts, set,
Even in remotest distance yet--
But quick and dark it came, and swelled
To giant size--and I beheld
Its cloudy face--on me it bent
A look of dark and dread intent--
I strove to flee it, but my blood
Curdled, and there unnerved I stood,
Helpless and hopeless--nearer still
The giant came--intent to kill,
His cloudy arm he raised on high,
And again I feebly strove to fly
And backward fell--Oh! then I stept
On a loose rock that trembling kept
Unfaithful watch o'er a gulf below
Of depth unfathomed--I slide--I go--
But in my fall I madly grasp
And cling to something!--and I gasp,
Suspended there in sickening dread,
Ruin below, and over head
Darkness, and that terrific form--
My heart's blood shrinks from-- Breathings warm
Are near me--Mighty God! I see,
That maid so well beloved of me,
In fainting weakness clinging there,
Like a white mist, hung in morning air,
O'er the hill's brow--her only stay
Is a loose ledge of rock and clay,
That cannot give her rest--it shakes!--
It yields--it crumbles--ha!--it breaks--
O horror, horror!--and she falls
Thro' depths of darkness--and she calls
On Ossian still--her frenzied shriek
Still upward thro' that gloom will break
On my pierced ear--again--again--
It thrills my heart and stabs my brain,
And I am sick with fear and pain!--
I fail--I faint!--I sink--I fall--
Down--down thro' darkness rocks and all!

This was my punishment. I woke,
I know not how as the morning broke,
And again sat under the wild wood tree,
An earthly sun once more to see--
And thro' the leaves his beamings glanced,
And on the green turf gaily danced,
In chequered radiance quick and fair,
Like laughing eyes thro' parted hair.