The Poetry Corner

The Garden. (From Gilbert)

By Charlotte Bronte

Above the city hung the moon, Right o'er a plot of ground Where flowers and orchard-trees were fenced With lofty walls around: 'Twas Gilbert's garden, there to-night Awhile he walked alone; And, tired with sedentary toil, Mused where the moonlight shone. This garden, in a city-heart, Lay still as houseless wild, Though many-windowed mansion fronts Were round it; closely piled; But thick their walls, and those within Lived lives by noise unstirred; Like wafting of an angel's wing, Time's flight by them was heard. Some soft piano-notes alone Were sweet as faintly given, Where ladies, doubtless, cheered the hearth With song that winter-even. The city's many-mingled sounds Rose like the hum of ocean; They rather lulled the heart than roused Its pulse to faster motion. Gilbert has paced the single walk An hour, yet is not weary; And, though it be a winter night He feels nor cold nor dreary. The prime of life is in his veins, And sends his blood fast flowing, And Fancy's fervour warms the thoughts Now in his bosom glowing. Those thoughts recur to early love, Or what he love would name, Though haply Gilbert's secret deeds Might other title claim. Such theme not oft his mind absorbs, He to the world clings fast, And too much for the present lives, To linger o'er the past. But now the evening's deep repose Has glided to his soul; That moonlight falls on Memory, And shows her fading scroll. One name appears in every line The gentle rays shine o'er, And still he smiles and still repeats That one name, Elinor. There is no sorrow in his smile, No kindness in his tone; The triumph of a selfish heart Speaks coldly there alone; He says: "She loved me more than life; And truly it was sweet To see so fair a woman kneel, In bondage, at my feet. "There was a sort of quiet bliss To be so deeply loved, To gaze on trembling eagerness And sit myself unmoved. And when it pleased my pride to grant At last some rare caress, To feel the fever of that hand My fingers deigned to press. "'Twas sweet to see her strive to hide What every glance revealed; Endowed, the while, with despot-might Her destiny to wield. I knew myself no perfect man, Nor, as she deemed, divine; I knew that I was glorious, but By her reflected shine; "Her youth, her native energy, Her powers new-born and fresh, 'Twas these with Godhead sanctified My sensual frame of flesh. Yet, like a god did I descend At last, to meet her love; And, like a god, I then withdrew To my own heaven above. "And never more could she invoke My presence to her sphere; No prayer, no plaint, no cry of hers Could win my awful ear. I knew her blinded constancy Would ne'er my deeds betray, And, calm in conscience, whole in heart. I went my tranquil way. "Yet, sometimes, I still feel a wish, The fond and flattering pain Of passion's anguish to create In her young breast again. Bright was the lustre of her eyes, When they caught fire from mine; If I had power, this very hour, Again I'd light their shine. "But where she is, or how she lives, I have no clue to know; I've heard she long my absence pined, And left her home in woe. But busied, then, in gathering gold, As I am busied now, I could not turn from such pursuit, To weep a broken vow. "Nor could I give to fatal risk The fame I ever prized; Even now, I fear, that precious fame Is too much compromised." An inward trouble dims his eye, Some riddle he would solve; Some method to unloose a knot, His anxious thoughts revolve. He, pensive, leans against a tree, A leafy evergreen, The boughs, the moonlight, intercept, And hide him like a screen He starts, the tree shakes with his tremor, Yet nothing near him pass'd; He hurries up the garden alley, In strangely sudden haste. With shaking hand, he lifts the latchet, Steps o'er the threshold stone; The heavy door slips from his fingers, It shuts, and he is gone. What touched, transfixed, appalled, his soul? A nervous thought, no more; 'Twill sink like stone in placid pool, And calm close smoothly o'er.