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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Southern States: Appendix: New Orleans, La.

Out of the Plague-Stricken City

By Marie B. Williams

“WE will go, my love, together to the golden autumn field;

Ah! mellow falls the sunshine where the roses blow;

This day in wood and meadow we ’ll forget the pale lips sealed;

This day to love and gladness, whate’er the morrows yield.”

Sweet, sweet the peaceful forest where the cool streams flow.

Through the dread plague-stricken city passed the lovers on their way,

Far floats the yellow banner in the morning’s glow;

Through the ranks of dead and dying, where the fever-smitten lay,

Through the wailing and the horror of the fateful autumn day.

Ah! God’s wrath lieth heavy where the south-winds blow.

“Nay, love, why gaze you backward at the dead-cart in its round?

Tolls the solemn death-bell, tolling long and slow;

Death holds the pallid city, but we ’ll cross its farthest bound,

And forget for one brief hour every ghastly sight and sound.”

List! that voice that crieth, “Woe, ye people, woe!”

Like children through the meadows they wandered, hand in hand;

Soft the mossy hillocks where the violets grow;

They gathered leaf and flower; but she wrote upon the sand,

“Ay, strong is love, but stronger is Death’s unsparing hand.”

Sad the under voices in the river’s flow.

“Why speak of death, belovéd? to-day is surely ours;

Each hour holds a secret which the angels know;

Yon gracious sky above us, our feet upon the flowers;

Why vex with thoughts of dolor the peace of happy hours?”

Swift the lights and shadows where the aspens grow.

The air is thrilled with bird notes, in the rapture of their singing;

Minor chords are sounding in the dove’s plaint, soft and low;

I am drunken with the gladness that Nature’s grace is bringing.

Be merry, then, O sweetheart; list the woodland chorus ringing.”

Far-off bells are tolling a requiem, sad and slow.

She closed her heavy eyelids, laid her head upon his shoulder;

Nevermore the dreaming of the happy long ago.

“Alas! love, ’neath the flowers I see the dead leaves moulder.

I am chill, so chill and weary; has the sunny day grown colder?”

Autumn leaves are falling, as the west-winds come and go.

Plague-stricken? Yes, O lover, for the Yellow King has seized her,

Vast the realm of shadows, where no earth winds blow;

Midst the bird songs and the clover and the fresh free air he claims her.

Vainly, vainly from his power would thy frantic love withhold her.

Weep o’er sweetest flowers, killed by winter’s snow.

He laid her ’neath the aspens, but e’er the first gray dawning,

Blessed the peaceful garden where God’s lilies blow,

Her lovely eyes half opened, and without sigh or warning,

Her soul beyond the shadows had sprung to meet the morning.

Oh, the blissful morning which His people know!