Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Lamentation of Selima for the Death of Irad
By Timothy Dwight (1752–1817)
  CANST thou forget, when, call’d from southern bowers,
Love tuned the groves, and spring awaked the flowers,
How, loosed from slumbers by the morning ray,
O’er balmy plains we bent our frequent way?
On thy fond arm, with pleasing gaze, I hung,        5
And heard sweet music murmur o’er thy tongue;
Hand lock’d in hand, with gentle ardor press’d,
Pour’d soft emotions through the heaving breast,
In magic transport heart with heart entwined,
And in sweet languors lost the melting mind.        10
  ’T was then, thy voice, attuned to wisdom’s lay,
Show’d fairer worlds, and traced the immortal way;
In virtue’s pleasing paths my footsteps tried,
My sweet companion, and my skilful guide;
Through varied knowledge taught my mind to soar,        15
Search hidden truths, and new-found walks explore:
While still the tale, by nature learn’d to rove,
Slid, unperceived, to scenes of happy love.
Till weak, and lost, the faltering converse fell,
And eyes disclosed what eyes alone could tell;        20
In rapturous tumult bade the passions roll,
And spoke the living language of the soul.
  With what fond hope, through many a blissful hour,
We gave the soul to fancy’s pleasing power;
Lost in the magic of that sweet employ        25
To build gay scenes, and fashion future joy!
We saw mild peace o’er fair Canaan rise,
And shower her pleasures from benignant skies.
On airy hills our happy mansion rose,
Built but for joy, nor room reserved for woes.        30
Round the calm solitude, with ceaseless song,
Soft roll’d domestic ecstacy along:
Sweet as the sleep of innocence, the day,
By raptures number’d, lightly danced away:
To love, to bliss, the union’d soul was given,        35
And each, too happy! ask’d no brighter heaven.
Yet then, even then, my trembling thoughts would rove,
And steal an hour from Irad, and from love,
Through dread futurity all anxious roam,
And cast a mournful glance on ills to come.        40
“Hope not, fond maid,” some voice prophetic cried—
“A life, thus wafted down the unruffled tide:
Trust no gay, golden doom, from anguish free,
Nor wish the laws of heaven reversed for thee.
Survey the peopled world; thy soul shall find        45
Woes, ceaseless woes, ordain’d for poor mankind.
Life ’s a long solitude, an unknown gloom,
Closed by the silence of the dreary tomb.
  “For soon, ah soon shall fleet thy pleasing dreams;
Soon close the eye, that, bright as angel’s, beams        50
Grace irresistible. To mouldering clay
Shall change the face, that smiles thy griefs away:
Soon the sweet music of that voice be o’er,
Hope cease to charm, and beauty bloom no more:
Strange, darksome wilds, and devious ways be trod,        55
Nor love, nor Irad, steal thy heart from God.”
  And must the hours in ceaseless anguish roll?
Must no soft sunshine cheer my clouded soul?
Spring charm around me brightest scenes, in vain?
And youth’s angelic visions wake to pain?        60
Oh come once more, with fond endearments come;
Burst the cold prison of the sullen tomb;
Through favorite walks, thy chosen maid attend;
Where well known shades for thee their branches bend:
Shed the sweet poison from thy speaking eye;        65
And look those raptures, lifeless words deny!
Still be the tale rehearsed, that ne’er could tire;
But, told each eve, fresh pleasure could inspire:
Still hoped those scenes, which love and fancy drew;
But, drawn a thousand times, were ever new!        70
  Again all bright shall glow the morning beam;
Again soft suns dissolve the frozen stream:
Spring call young breezes from the southern skies,
And, clothed in splendor, flowery millions rise.
In vain to thee—no morn’s indulgent ray        75
Warms the cold mansion of the slumbering clay.
No mild etherial gale, with tepid wing,
Shall fan thy locks, or wast approaching spring:
Unfelt, unknown, shall breathe the rich perfume,
And unheard music wave around thy tomb.        80
  A cold, dumb, dead repose invests thee round;
Still as a void, ere nature form’d a sound.
O’er thy dark region, pierced by no kind ray,
Slow roll the long, oblivious hours away.
In these wild walks, this solitary round,        85
Where the pale moon-beam lights the glimmering ground,
At each sad turn, I view thy spirit come,
And glide, half seen, behind a neighboring tomb;
With visionary hand, forbid my stay,
Look o’er the grave, and beckon me away.        90

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