The Nun and Harp

Harriet Prescott Spofford

What memory fired her pallid face,
What passion stirred her blood,
What tide of sorrow and desire
Poured its forgotten flood

Upon a heart that ceased to beat,
Long since, with thought that life was sweet,
When nights were rich with vernal dusk,
And the rose burst its bud?

Had not the western glory then
Stolen through the latticed room,
Her funeral raiment would have shed
A more heart-breaking gloom;

Had not a dimpled convent-maid
Hung in the doorway, half afraid,
And left the melancholy place
Bright with her blush and bloom!

Beside the gilded harp she stood,
And through the singing strings
Wound those wan hands of folded prayer
In murmurous preludings.

Then, like a voice, the harp rang high
Its melody, as climb the sky,
Melting against the melting blue,
Some bird's vibrating wings.

Ah, why, of all the songs that grow
Forever tenderer,
Chose she that passionate refrain
Where lovers 'mid the stir

Of wassailers that round them pass
Hide their sweet secret? Now, alas,
In her nun's habit, coifed and veiled,
What meant that song to her!

Slowly the western ray forsook
The statue in its shrine;
A sense of tears thrilled all the air
Along the purpling line.

Earth seemed a place of graves that rang
To hollow footsteps, while she sang,
"Drink to me only with thine eyes.
And I will pledge with mine!"

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