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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 Skaters

By Fitz-James O’Brien (1828–1862)

[Born in County Limerick, Ireland, 1828. Died at Cumberland, Md., 1862. Poems and Stories. Edited, with a Sketch of the Author, by William Winter. 1881.]

LIKE clouds they scud across the ice,

His hand holds hers as in a vice;

The moonlight strikes the back-blown hair

Of handsome Madge and Rupert Clare.

The ice resounds beneath the steel;

It groans to feel his spurning heel:

While ever with the following wind

A shadowy skater flits behind.

“Why skate we thus so far from land?

O Rupert Clare, let go my hand!

I cannot see—I cannot hear—

The wind about us moans with fear!”

His hand is stiffer than a vice,

His touch is colder than the ice,

His face is paler than the moon

That paves with light the lone lagoon!

“O Rupert Clare, I feel—I trace

A something awful in your face!

You crush my hand—you sweep me on—

Until my breath and sense are gone!”

His grasp is stiffer than a vice,

His touch is colder than the ice;

She only hears the ringing tune

Of skates upon the lone lagoon.

“O Rupert Clare! sweet Rupert Clare!

For heaven’s mercy hear my prayer!

I could not help my heart you know!

Poor Willy Gray,—he loves me so!”

His grip is stiffer than a vice,

His lip is bluer than the ice;

While ever thrills the ringing tune

Of skates along the lone lagoon.

“O Rupert Clare! where are your eyes?

The rotten ice before us lies!

You dastard! Loose your hold, I say!—

O God! Where are you, Willy Gray?”

A shriek that seems to split the sky,—

A wilder light in Rupert’s eye,—

She cannot—cannot loose that grip;

His sinewy arm is round her hip!

But like an arrow on the wind

The shadowy skater scuds behind;

The lithe ice rises to the stroke

Of steel-shod heels that seem to smoke.

He hurls himself upon the pair;

He tears his bride from Rupert Clare;

His fainting Madge, whose moist eyes say,

Ah! here, at last, is Willy Gray!

The lovers stand with heart to heart,—

“No more,” they cry, “no more to part!”

But still along the lone lagoon

The steel skates ring a ghostly tune!

And in the moonlight, pale and cold,

The panting lovers still behold

The self-appointed sacrifice

Skating toward the rotten ice!