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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 Portrait

By Sarah Helen Power Whitman (1803–1878)

[Born in Providence, R. I., 1803. Died there, 1878. From Poems by Sarah Helen Whitman. 1879.]

AFTER long years I raised the folds concealing

That face, magnetic as the morning’s beam:

While slumbering memory thrilled at its revealing,

Like Memnon wakening from his marble dream.

Again I saw the brow’s translucent pallor,

The dark hair floating o’er it like a plume;

The sweet, imperious mouth, whose haughty valor

Defied all portents of impending doom.

Eyes planet-calm, with something in their vision

That seemed not of earth’s mortal mixture born,

Strange mythic faiths and fantasies Elysian,

And far, sweet dreams of “faery lands forlorn.”

Unfathomable eyes that held the sorrow

Of vanished ages in their shadowy deeps,

Lit by that prescience of a heavenly morrow

Which in high hearts the immortal spirit keeps.

Oft has that pale, poetic presence haunted

My lonely musings at the twilight hour,

Transforming the dull earth-life it enchanted,

With marvel and with mystery and with power.

Oft have I heard the sullen sea-wind moaning

Its dirge-like requiems on the lonely shore,

Or listening to the autumn woods intoning

The wild, sweet legend of the lost Lenore;

Oft in some ashen evening of October,

Have stood entranced beside a moldering tomb

Hard by that visionary Lake of Auber,

Where sleeps the shrouded form of Ulalume;

Oft in chill, star-lit nights have heard the chiming

Of far-off mellow bells on the keen air,

And felt their molten-golden music timing

To the heart’s pulses, answering unaware.

Sweet, mournful eyes, long closed upon earth’s sorrow,

Sleep restfully after life’s fevered dream!

Sleep, wayward heart! till on some cool, bright morrow,

Thy soul, refreshed, shall bathe in morning’s beam.

Though cloud and sorrow rest upon thy story,

And rude hands lift the drapery of thy pall,

Time, as a birthright, shall restore the glory,

And Heaven rekindle all the stars that fall.