The Wanderer Looking Into Other Homes

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A LONE, wayfaring wretch I saw, who stood
Wearily pausing by the wicket gate;
And from his eyes there streamed a bitter flood,
Contrasting his with many a happier fate.
Bleak howled the wind, the sleety shower fell fast
On his bare head, and scanty-covered breast;
As through the village with quick step I past,
To find sweet shelter in my home of rest.

"Oh! that I too could call a home my own!"
Said the lone wanderer, as he wistful gazed
Through the clear lattice, on the hearth's wide stone,
Where cheerily the jocund fire blazed.
"Oh! that I too, in such a cot might dwell!
Where the bright homefire blazeth clear and high:
Where joy alone my grateful heart might swell,
And children's children bless me when I die!"

Little he deemed what bitterness was there,
Who murmured thus his aspirations vain,--
Little he deemed that one as fond as fair
Lay faintly sighing on a bed of pain:
And by her side, a restless vigil keeping,
One who had deeply wronged that gentle heart--
Knelt with clasped hands; now praying, and now weeping;
Dreading, each hour, to see the soul depart.

They were two sisters jealous love had twained;
And one had slandered he who faded lay,
Because she deemed her slighted love disdained:
And he they both had loved was far away:
And from that hour, the younger drooped and pined,
Like a pale snowdrop bowing down her head;
Joyless of life--to slow disease resigned--
The heart within her was already dead.

Here, for her sake, they woo the mountain gale,
If, haply, change may yet prevent her fate.
But he, the wanderer, knew not of this tale,
And humbly sues admittance at their gate.
He enters--what hath met his eager eyes?
Pale as the white-fringed drapery spread beneath,
His early loved, his sorely slandered, lies,
Heaving with pain her faint and quickened breath.

O'er her soft arm her long, dark, glossy hair,
Floats in unbraided beauty,--and her cheek,--
Ah, me! the deeply-crimsoned tinge is there,
That of sharp woe and early death doth speak.
How beautiful, beneath her drooping eye,
The glowing hectic of that cheek appears,
Where the long lashes like soft shadows lie,
Seeking in vain to prison back her tears.

She gazes--shrieks--'tis he! at length 'tis he,
Whom dreams and waking thoughts have brought in vain!
And must she die, e'er yet from sorrow free,
Her head hath rested on his heart again?
A few slow, bitter words of wild appeal--
Of earnest explanation faintly given--
A pressure, which his hand can scarcely feel,
And her freed soul is on its way to heaven!

So, wanderers in the world may pausing gaze
Upon some radiant form with smiles of light,
And seeing but the outward beam that plays,
Envy their joys--and deem that all is bright.
The homes of other hearts! oh! yet beware,
Ye, who with friendly guise would enter in,
Lest all be false,--and ye be doomed to share
Their guilt or woe--their sadness or their sin!

© Caroline Norton