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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Woman’s Love

By John Hay (1838–1905)

[Pike County Ballads, and Other Pieces. 1871.]

A SENTINEL angel sitting high in glory

Heard this shrill wail ring out from Purgatory:

“Have mercy, mighty angel, hear my story!

“I loved—and, blind with passionate love, I fell.

Love brought me down to death, and death to Hell.

For God is just, and death for sin is well.

“I do not rage against his high decree,

Nor for myself do ask that grace shall be;

But for my love on earth who mourns for me.

“Great Spirit! Let me see my love again

And comfort him one hour, and I were fain

To pay a thousand years of fire and pain.”

Then said the pitying angel, “Nay, repent

That wild vow! Look, the dial finger’s bent

Down to the last hour of thy punishment!”

But still she wailed, “I pray thee, let me go!

I cannot rise to peace and leave him so.

O, let me soothe him in his bitter woe!”

The brazen gates ground sullenly ajar,

And upward, joyous, like a rising star,

She rose and vanished in the ether far.

But soon adown the dying sunset sailing,

And like a wounded bird her pinions trailing,

She fluttered back, with broken-hearted wailing.

She sobbed, “I found him by the summer sea

Reclined, his head upon a maiden’s knee—

She curled his hair and kissed him. Woe is me!”

She wept, “Now let my punishment begin!

I have been fond and foolish. Let me in

To expiate my sorrow and my sin.”

The angel answered, “Nay, sad soul, go higher!

To be deceived in your true heart’s desire

Was bitterer than a thousand years of fire!”