Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
By Fitz-Greene Halleck (1790–1867)
        ————The imperial votaress pass’d on
In maiden meditation, fancy free.
Shall I never see a bachelor of three-score again?

WHEN the tree of love is budding first,
  Ere yet its leaves are green,
Ere yet, by shower and sunbeam nurst
  Its infant life has been;
The wild bee’s slightest touch might wring        5
  The buds from off the tree,
As the gentle dip of the swallow’s wing
  Breaks the bubbles on the sea.
But when its open leaves have found
  A home in the free air,        10
Pluck them, and there remains a wound
  That ever rankles there.
The blight of hope and happiness
  Is felt when fond ones part,
And the bitter tear that follows is        15
  The life-blood of the heart.
When the flame of love is kindled first,
  ’T is the fire-fly’s light at even,
’T is dim as the wandering stars that burst
  In the blue of the summer heaven.        20
A breath can bid it burn no more,
  Or if, at times, its beams
Come on the memory, they pass o’er
  Like shadows in our dreams.
But when that flame has blazed into        25
  A being and a power,
And smiled in scorn upon the dew
  That fell in its first warm hour,
’T is the flame that curls round the martyr’s head,
  Whose task is to destroy;        30
’T is the lamp on the altars of the dead,
  Whose light is not of joy!
Then crush, even in their hour of birth,
  The infant buds of Love,
And tread his growing fire to earth,        35
  Ere ’t is dark in clouds above;
Cherish no more a cypress tree
  To shade thy future years,
Nor nurse a heart-flame that may be
  Quench’d only with thy tears.        40

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