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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By Poems Old and New. II. Before

Charles Dent Bell (1819–1898)

WE watched beside her thro’ the night—

Thro’ night unto the morning grey,

Till on the casement smote the light,

And sudden flashed the day.

She kept all thro’ a silence deep,

With closed and heavy-lidded eye,

And murmurs as of one asleep,

And now and then a sigh.

Oh, passing sweet she was and fair,

A fragrant lily in its prime,

That fed on honey’d dew and air,

Had blossomed for a time!

Her two white hands extended were

Upon the little snowy bed;

The rippling of her golden hair

With glory touch’d her head.

The little lamp we lit at night,

Which faintly burnt with dull red glow,

Scarce broke the darkness with its light,

Or showed the bed of snow.

It stood upon a table near,

It flickered low, it flickered high;

We wondered, with a strange sad fear,

Which life should soonest die.

One now threw back the window pane,

The close-drawn curtains were withdrawn;

There came a smell of fresh’ning rain

From off the fragrant lawn.

And in the dim and dewy grove,

The sweet birds piped from every bush;

’Midst glistening boughs sang songs of love—

Sweetest of all, the thrush.

We did not speak or move the while,

Fast held in wonder to our place,

Watching a rare and radiant smile

Transfigure all her face.

But hushed, and awed, and very still,

We prayed in thrilling silence near;

And down our faces flowed at will,

Unchecked, the burning tear.

When all at once, as we stood there,

There rose a sudden, startling cry,

That stayed our weeping, checked our prayer,

As came it ringing by.

She started forward on the bed,

She raised her trembling hands on high;

All paleness from the face had fled,

Now flushed with ecstasy.

Her eyes were lifted up to heaven,

Her parted lips did gently stir;

We felt Christ, and the Spirits seven,

Communion held with her.

Her look of rapture grew and grew,

As tho’ before her wondering sight

There stretched the way she must pass thro’,

All lined with angels bright.

Our hearts were filled with deep’ning awe,

We dared not move, or speak a word;

We knew she saw what no one saw,

And heard what no one heard.

So for a space the rapture lay

Upon her glowing cheek and brow;

And dawnings of a brighter day

Seemed breaking on her now.

The arms relaxed, a shadow stole

O’er quivering lip, and cheek, and brow;

We knew full well the golden bowl

Was being broken now.

I clasped her gently to my breast,

And held her closely there, until

The aching head had sunk to rest,

The tossing arms were still.

The glory soon was past and gone,

The light went slowly from her eyes,

Though still beneath their lashes shone

A look of sweet surprise.

We knew that she had passed away,

So deep the awe upon her face;

We knew her ransom’d spirit lay

Fast clasped in Christ’s embrace;

Who called her to His home above,

And drew her to His happy side;

Where now they walked in perfect love,

The Bridegroom and His Bride.