The Closing Scene

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Who can bring healing to her heart's despair,
Her whole rich sum of happiness lies there! ~ CROLY.

Pale is his cheek with deep, impassioned thought,
Save when a feverish hectic crosses it,
Flooding its lines with crimson. From beneath
The long, dark fringes of its drooping lid
Flash forth the fitful glances of his eye
With an unearthly brightness. On that lid
The swelling brow weighs heavily, as though
Bursting with thought for utterance too intense!
His lip is curled with something too of pride
Which ill beseems the meekness and repose
That should, at such an hour, within his heart,
Spite of this world's vexations, be combined.
'Tis not disdain; for only those he loves
Are near him now, with soft, low-whispered words
Tendering heart-offered services, and watching,
With fond inquietude, the couch on which
His slender form reclines. What can it be?—
Perchance some rooted memory of the past;
Some dream of injured pride that fain would wreak
Its force on dumb expression;—some fierce wrong
That his young soul hath suffered unappeased:
But thoughts like these must be dispelled before
That soul can plume its wings to part in peace.
And now his glance is lifted to the face
Of one who bends above him with an air
Of fond solicitude, and props his head,
With her own graceful arm, until at length
The sliding pillow is replaced; but, ere
His cheek may press on its uneven down,
Her delicate hand hath smoothed it.
Too well divineth he the voiceless woe
That breathes in each unbidden sigh, and beams
From her large, loving eyes! Too well he knows
That grief and keen anxiety for him
Have chased the rose from her once brilliant cheek.
His quivering lips unclose, as if to pour
The fond acknowledgments of duteous love
In that sweet mourner's ear; but his parched tongue
Its aid refuses. Gathering then each ray,
Each vivid ray, of feeling from his heart
Into a single focus, in his eye
His inmost soul is glassed, and love, deep love,
And grateful admiration, beam confessed
In one wild, passionate glance! The gentle girl
Basks her awhile in that full blaze, then stoops,
And, hiding her pale face upon his breast,
Murmurs sounds inarticulate but sweet
As the low wail of summer's evening breath
Amid the wind-harp's strings. Then bursts the tide
Of woe that may no longer be repressed,
Stirred from its source by chill, hope-withering fears,
And from her charged 'lids big drops descend
In swift succession. With more tremulous hand
Clasps she the sufferer's neck. Upon his brow
The damps of death are settling, and his eyes
Grow fixed and meaningless. She marks the change
With desperate earnestness; and staying even
Her breath, that nothing may disturb the hush,
Lays her wan cheek still closer to his heart,
And listens, as its varying pulses move,
Haply to catch a sound betokening life.
It beats—again—another—and another,—
And now hath ceased for ever! What a shriek,
A shrill and soul-appalling shriek bursts forth,
When the full truth hath rushed upon her brain!
Who may describe the rigidness of frame,
The stony look of hopeless misery
With which she hangs o'er that unmoving clay?
Not I; my pencil hath no further power,
So here I'll drop the Grecian painter's veil!

© Alaric Alexander Watts