The Two Birth Nights

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Bright glittering lights are gleaming in yonder mansion proud,
And within its walls are gathered a gemmed and jewelled crowd;
Robes of airy gauze and satin, diamonds and rubies bright,
Rich festoons of glowing flowers—truly ’tis a wondrous sight.

Time and care and gold were lavished that it might be, every way,
The success of all the season—brilliant fashionable gay.
’Tis the birth night of the heiress of this splendor wealth and state,
The sole child, the only darling, of a household of the great.

Now the strains of the fast galop on the perfumed air arise,
Rosy cheeks are turning carmine, brighter grow the brightest eyes,
As the whirling crowds of dancers pass again and yet again—
Girls coquettish, silly women, vapid and unmeaning men.

’Tis a scene to fill the thoughtful with a silent, vague dismay,
And from its unholy magic we are fain to steal away;
Out here in the quiet moonlight we may pause awhile and rest,
Whilst the solemn stars of heaven bring back peace unto our breast.

Soft! who is the fair young being—she who nightly joins us now,
In a robe of airy lightness, and with jewels on her brow,
Fair as the most fair ideal dreaming poet e’er inspired,
Or as lover, charmed by beauty, ever worshipped and admired.

Strange! what means that look so weary, that long-drawn and painful sigh;
And that gaze, intense and yearning, fixed upon the starlit sky?
Is she not the child of fortune, fortune’s pet and darling bright,
Yes, the beauteous, courted heiress—heroine of the gala night?

From the crowds of ardent lovers, who would beset her way,
Sickened by their whispered flatt’ries, she has coldly turned away;
And, as now the thrilling music falls upon her wearied ear,
She cannot resist a shudder, caused by mingled hate and fear.

“This is pleasure, then,” she murmurs; this is what the world calls bliss,
Oh! for objects less unworthy, for a holier life than this!
I am weary of its folly. O, Great Father, grant my boon:
“From its sinful, silken meshes, I pray Thee, free me soon!”

Did He answer? Now another year has passed with rapid flight,—
O’er the crowded, silent city broods the spirit of the night;
In the sick wards of the convent, fever-stricken, gasping, lies,
One with death’s damps on his brow, and its film o’er his eyes.

There beside him kneels a Sister, in coarse dusky robe and veil,
And with gentle care she moistens those poor lips so dry and pale;
Now she whispers hope and courage, now she tells of Heaven bright—
Thus it is the gentle heiress celebrates her next birth-night.

Not a trace of weary languor rests upon that ivory brow,
No vague sigh of restless yearning e’er escapes her bosom now;
Yet more fair and happy looks she, in that simple garb I ween,
Than when, robed in lace and jewels, she was called a ballroom’s queen.

© Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon