Alexander Anderson

1845-1909 / Scotland


Lying full-length upon the summer grass,
And by the murmur of a summer stream,
I heard the village bell, and turning round
To him who sat beside me with his feet
Touching the ripple of the brook, I said,
'Who sinks into the churchyard rest to-day?'
Then he, half lifting up his earnest face,
Paused for a little while, and then replied—
'Ada, whose beauty was a fairy thing,
But brighter now by Death, whose pencil tints
His marks with such sweet colours.'
Then he sunk
Into that dreamy reverie which shuts
All thought from out its vision, and so thinks,
And thinks, and thinks, and yet thinks naught at all;
But I, half-answer'd, could but ill abide
His silentness, and so I question'd still:
'But who is Ada? you have never said;
And there you dream, and think, and all the while
The tolling of the bell within my ear,
And yet I know not unto whom it offers
Such sweet and stirless rest.'
Then starting up
From all his fit of mute philosophy
He said, 'Why, surely you have not forgot
Ada, who flash'd upon you like a star
Three months ago, when you were in the woods.
At your old rambles, and she knew it not,
But pass'd you in her beauty by, and you
Fell half in love with her and writ a song?'
Then all at once came, like remember'd dreams,
The solitude around the woodland walk,
And all the fringing of the idle rhyme
(Now something better by the help of Death),
Which I had made in haste, and sung to him
A half-hour after. 'Now, what better time
Than this,' I cried, 'to sing that song again,
When she is passing from all mortal view
Into the shady quietness.' And he,
Catching the broader finish of the plan,
Said, 'Let the song be sung, but make a pause
Between each stanza, that the bell may chime
Its echoes at the finish of each verse,
And let your poet's fancy shape the words'
So, with the humming idyll of the brook
As an accompaniment I sang the song:
Ada came down by the path in the wood,
In the flush and the warmth of the day,
And the spirits that live in the solitude
(For there be such they say)
Came out from their haunts by tree and brook,
And wherever sunbeams play,
To gaze, as she pass'd like a bud on the lake—
A sweet Diana of earthly make—
In the clasp of the amorous day.
I ceased, and the sad bell took up the pause,
And sang an answer to its solemn chime:
Ada walks no earthly path,
Other things are hers this hour
She has all an angel hath—
Glory and celestial power;
Nought may look on her but eyes
Purged from aught of mortal sight,
As she walks in balmy light
In the halls of Paradise.
So the dust may shrink, but she
Through the years, in the spheres,
Is one great type of immortality.
So sang the bell, and when its echo died
I took my part in turn, and sang again:
I was out in the wood when she pass'd me by,
Half-hid that she could not see,
So a woman's wish was in her eye,
And a smile that made me, I know not why,
Guess and dream that she
Was far away in the golden hope
Of the coming time, and the novel scope
Of wifehood, and the prattling bliss
Of little lips, and this, and this
Was the light and colour within her eye,
And the smile as she pass'd me by.
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