Home  »  Complete Poetical Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  »  I. Juvenile Poems. The Lunatic Girl

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.


I. Juvenile Poems. The Lunatic Girl

MOST beautiful, most gentle! Yet how lost

To all that gladdens the fair earth; the eye

That watched her being; the maternal care

That kept and nourished her; and the calm light

That steals from our own thoughts, and softly rests

On youth’s green valleys and smooth-sliding waters.

Alas! few suns of life, and fewer winds,

Had withered or had wasted the fresh rose

That bloomed upon her cheek: but one chill frost

Came in that early autumn, when ripe thought

Is rich and beautiful, and blighted it;

And the fair stalk grew languid day by day,

And drooped—and drooped, and shed its many leaves,

’T is said that some have died of love; and some,

That once from beauty’s high romance had caught

Love’s passionate feelings and heart-wasting cares,

Have spurned life’s threshold with a desperate foot;

And others have gone mad,—and she was one!

Her lover died at sea; and they had felt

A coldness for each other when they parted,

But love returned again: and to her ear

Came tidings that the ship which bore her lover

Had sullenly gone down at sea, and all were lost.

I saw her in her native vale, when high

The aspiring lark up from the reedy river

Mounted on cheerful pinion; and she sat

Casting smooth pebbles into a clear fountain,

And marking how they sunk; and oft she sighed

For him that perished thus in the vast deep.

She had a sea-shell, that her lover brought

From the far-distant ocean; and she pressed

Its smooth, cold lips unto her ear, and thought

It whispered tidings of the dark blue sea;

And sad, she cried, “The tides are out!—and now

I see his corse upon the stormy beach!”

Around her neck a string of rose-lipped shells,

And coral, and white pearl, was loosely hung;

And close beside her lay a delicate fan,

Made of the halcyon’s blue wing; and when

She looked upon it, it would calm her thoughts

As that bird calms the ocean,—for it gave

Mournful, yet pleasant, memory. Once I marked,

When through the mountain hollows and green woods

That bent beneath its footsteps, the loud wind

Came with a voice as of the restless deep,

She raised her head, and on her pale, cold cheek

A beauty of diviner seeming came;

And then she spread her hands, and smiled, as if

She welcomed a long-absent friend,—and then

Shrunk timorously back again, and wept.

I turned away: a multitude of thoughts,

Mournful and dark, were crowding on my mind;

And as I left that lost and ruined one,—

A living monument that still on earth

There is warm love and deep sincerity,—

She gazed upon the west, where the blue sky

Held, like an ocean, in its wide embrace

Those fairy islands of bright cloud, that lay

So calm and quietly in the thin ether.

And then she pointed where, alone and high,

One little cloud sailed onward, like a lost

And wandering bark, and fainter grew, and fainter,

And soon was swallowed up in the blue depths;

And, when it sunk away, she turned again

With sad despondency and tears to earth.

Three long and weary months—yet not a whisper

Of stern reproach for that cold parting! Then

She sat no longer by her favorite fountain:

She was at rest forever.