FRIEND of old days, of suffering, storm, and strife,
Patient and kind through many a wild appeal;
In the arena of thy brilliant life
Never too busy or too cold to feel:
Companion from whose ever teeming store
Of thought and knowledge, happy memory brings
So much of social wit and sage's lore,
Garnered and gleaned by me as precious things:
Kinsman of him whose very name soon grew
Unreal as music heard in pleasant dreams,
So vain the hope my girlish fancy drew,
So faint and far his vanished presence seems.
To thee I dedicate this record brief
Of foreign scenes and deeds too little known;
This tale of noble souls who conquered grief
By dint of tending sufferings not their own.
Thou hast known all my life: its pleasant hours,
(How many of them have I owed to thee!)
Its exercise of intellectual powers,
With thoughts of fame and gladness not to be.
Thou knowest how Death for ever dogged my way,
And how of those I loved the best, and those
Who loved and pitied me in life's young day,
Narrow, and narrower still, the circle grows.
Thou knowest--for thou hast proved--the dreary shade
A first-born's loss casts over lonely days;
And gone is now the pale fond smile, that made
In my dim future, yet, a path of rays.
Gone, the dear comfort of a voice whose sound
Came like a beacon-bell, heard clear above
The whirl of violent waters surging round;
Speaking to shipwrecked ears of help and love.
The joy that budded on my own youth's bloom,
When life wore still a glory and a gloss,
Is hidden from me in the silent tomb;
Smiting with premature unnatural loss,
So that my very soul is wrung with pain,
Meeting old friends whom most I love to see.
Where are the younger lives, since these remain?
I weep the eyes that should have wept for me!
But all the more I cling to those who speak
Like thee, in tones unaltered by my change;
Greeting my saddened glance, and faded cheek,
With the same welcome that seemed sweet and strange
In early days: when I, of gifts made proud,
That could the notice of such men beguile,
Stood listening to thee in some brilliant crowd,
With the warm triumph of a youthful smile.
Oh! little now remains of all that was!
Even for this gift of linking measured words,
My heart oft questions, with discouraged pause,
Does music linger in the slackening chords?
Yet, friend, I feel not that all power is fled,
While offering to thee, for the kindly years,
The intangible gift of thought, whose silver thread
Heaven keeps untarnished by our bitterest tears.
So, in the brooding calm that follows woe,
This tale of LA GARAYE I fain would tell,--
As, when some earthly storm hath ceased to blow,
And the huge mounting sea hath ceased to swell;
After the maddening wrecking and the roar,
The wild high dash, the moaning sad retreat,
Some cold slow wave creeps faintly to the shore,
And leaves a white shell at the gazer's feet.
Take, then, the poor gift in thy faithful hand;
Measure its worth not merely by my own,
But hold it dear as gathered from the sand
Where so much wreck of youth and hope lies strown.
So, if in years to come my words abide--
Words of the dead to stir some living brain--
When thoughtful readers lay my book aside,
Musing on all it tells of joy and pain,
Towards thee, good heart, towards thee their thoughts shall roam,
Whose unforsaking faith time hath not riven;
And to their minds this just award shall come,
'Twas a TRUE friend to whom such thanks were given!