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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

The Maid of St. Helena

By Charles Henry Phelps (1853–1933)

[Born in Stockton, Cal., 1853. Died, 1933. Californian Verses. 1882.]

ACROSS the long, vine-covered land

She gazed, with lifted, shading hand.

Behind were hillsides, purple, brown;

Before were vineyards sloping down;

While northward rose, through golden mist,

St. Helen’s mount of amethyst.

But forest, vine, and mountain height

Were less divinely benedight

Than she who so serenely stood

To gaze on mountain, vine, and wood.

Her presence breathed in sweet excess

The fragrance of rare loveliness—

A simple beauty in her face,

And in her form a simple grace.

She was so perfect and so fair,

So like a vision, and so rare,

The air that touched her seemed to me

To thrill with trembling ecstasy.

Spell-bound, for fear she might not stay,

I stood afar in sweet dismay.

At last, she sang some olden song.

I did not know its tale of wrong;

I only knew the oriole’s note

Grew garrulous within its throat—

It seemed so shameful birds should sing

To silence so divine a thing.

She faded, singing, from my sight,

A dream of beauty and delight:

And I, with unconsenting will,

Retraced my footsteps down the hill.