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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Lucile’s Letter
By E. Robert Bulwer, Lord Lytton (Owen Meredith) (1831–1891)
 
From ‘Lucile’

YET ere bidding farewell to Lucile de Nevers,
Hear her own heart’s farewell in this letter of hers.
 
THE COMTESSE DE NEVERS TO A FRIEND IN INDIA

Once more, O my friend, to your arms and your heart,
And the places of old … never, never to part!
Once more to the palm, and the fountain! Once more        5
To the land of my birth and the deep skies of yore!
From the cities of Europe, pursued by the fret
Of their turmoil wherever my footsteps are set;
From the children that cry for the birth, and behold,
There is no strength to bear them—old Time is so old!        10
From the world’s weary masters, that come upon earth
Sapped and mined by the fever they bear from their birth;
From the men of small stature, mere parts of a crowd,
Born too late, when the strength of the world hath been bowed:
Back, back to the Orient, from whose sunbright womb        15
Sprang the giants which now are no more, in the bloom
And the beauty of times that are faded forever!
To the palms! to the tombs! to the still Sacred River!
Where I too, the child of a day that is done,
First leaped into life, and looked up at the sun,—        20
Back again, back again, to the hill-tops of home
I come, O my friend, my consoler, I come!
 
Are the three intense stars, that we watched night by night
Burning broad on the band of Orion, as bright?
Are the large Indian moons as serene as of old,        25
When, as children, we gathered the moonbeams for gold?
Do you yet recollect me, my friend? Do you still
Remember the free games we played on the hill,
’Mid those huge stones upheaved, where we recklessly trod
O’er the old ruined fane of the old ruined god?        30
How he frowned while around him we carelessly played!
That frown on my life ever after hath stayed,
Like the shade of a solemn experience upcast
From some vague supernatural grief in the past.
For the poor god, in pain more than anger he frowned,—        35
To perceive that our youth, though so fleeting, had found,
In its transient and ignorant gladness, the bliss
Which his science divine seemed divinely to miss.
Alas! you may haply remember me yet,—
The free child, whose glad childhood myself I forget.        40
I come—a sad woman, defrauded of rest;
I bear to you only a laboring breast;
My heart is a storm-beaten ark, wildly hurled
O’er the whirlpools of time, with the wrecks of a world.
The dove from my bosom hath flown far away;        45
It is flown and returns not, though many a day
Have I watched from the windows of life for its coming.
Friend, I sigh for repose, I am weary of roaming.
I know not what Ararat rises for me
Far away, o’er the waves of the wandering sea:        50
I know not what rainbow may yet, from far hills,
Lift the primrose of hope, the cessation of ills:
But a voice, like the voice of my youth, in my breast
Wakes and whispers me on—to the East! to the East!
Shall I find the child’s heart that I left there? or find        55
The lost youth I recall, with its pure peace of mind?
Alas! who shall number the drops of the rain?
Or give to the dead leaves their greenness again?
Who shall seal up the caverns the earthquake hath rent?
Who shall bring forth the winds that within them are pent?        60
To a voice who shall render an image? or who
From the heats of the noontide shall gather the dew?
I have burned out within me the fuel of life,
Wherefore lingers the flame? Rest is sweet after strife.
I would sleep for a while. I am weary.

                            My friend,
        65
I had meant in these lines to regather, and send
To our old home, my life’s scattered links. But ’tis vain!
Each attempt seems to shatter the chaplet again;
Only fit now for fingers like mine to run o’er,
Who return, a recluse, to those cloisters of yore        70
Whence too far I have wandered.

                        How many long years
Does it seem to me now since the quick, scorching tears,
While I wrote to you, splashed out a girl’s premature
Moans of pain at what women in silence endure!
To your eyes, friend of mine, and to yours alone,        75
That now long-faded page of my life hath been shown
Which recorded my heart’s birth, and death, as you know,
Many years since,—how many?

                    A few months ago
I seemed reading it backward, that page! Why explain
Whence or how? The old dream of my life rose again.        80
The old superstition! the idol of old!
It is over. The leaf trodden down in the mold
Is not to the forest more lost than to me
That emotion. I bury it here by the sea,
Which will bear me anon far away from the shore        85
Of a land which my footsteps will visit no more;
And a heart’s requiescat I write on that grave.
Hark! the sight of the wind, and the sound of the wave,
Seem like voices of spirits that whisper me home!
I come, O you whispering voices, I come!        90
My friend, ask me nothing.

                Receive me alone
As a Santon receives to his dwelling of stone
In silence some pilgrim the midnight may bring:
It may be an angel that, weary of wing,
Hath paused in his flight from some city of doom,        95
Or only a wayfarer strayed in the gloom.
This only I know: that in Europe at least
Lives the craft or the power that must master our East.
Wherefore strive where the gods must themselves yield at last?
Both they and their altars pass by with the Past.        100
The gods of the household, Time thrusts from the shelf;
And I seem as unreal and weird to myself
As these idols of old.

                Other times, other men,
Other men, other passions!

                        So be it! yet again
I turn to my birthplace, the birthplace of morn,        105
And the light of those lands where the great sun is born!
Spread your arms, O my friend! on your breast let me feel
The repose which hath fled from my own.
YOUR LUCILE.    
 
 
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