Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Unseen Spirits

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

Unseen Spirits

By Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806–1867)

[Born in Portland, Me., 1806. Died at “Idelwlld,” near Newburgh, N. Y., 1867. From Poems, Sacred, Passionate, and Humorous.—Complete Edition. 1864.]

THE SHADOWS lay along Broadway,

’Twas near the twilight-tide—

And slowly there a lady fair

Was walking in her pride.

Alone walked she; but, viewlessly,

Walked spirits at her side.

Peace charmed the street beneath her feet,

And Honor charmed the air;

And all astir looked kind on her,

And called her good as fair—

For all God ever gave to her,

She kept with chary care.

She kept with care her beauties rare

From lovers warm and true,

For her heart was cold to all but gold,

And the rich came not to woo—

But honored well are charms to sell

If priests the selling do.

Now walking there was one more fair—

A slight girl, lily-pale;

And she had unseen company

To make the spirit quail:

’Twixt Want and Scorn she walked forlorn,

And nothing could avail.

No mercy now can clear her brow

For this world’s peace to pray;

For, as love’s wild prayer dissolved in air,

Her woman’s heart gave way!—

But the sin forgiven by Christ in heaven

By man is cursed alway!