The Hermitage

Miss Vardill

It was the craggy chasm of a bourne
Where only weeds, dark fern and cypress grow;
While from its crevice in a rock-built urn
A scanty rill dropp’d silently and slow
On the cold meagre moss which crept below.
Beneath the bare arms of a blasted tree
Stray’d the pale victim of forsaken woe;
Till on the chasm’s brink she bent her knee,
And sighing, smil’d and said, “How near is peace to me!”

“Look round and ask if gentle peace is here!
Ask if these lonely caves no shelter yield!”
A voice breath’d softly in her list’ning ear
Sweet as the breezes over Arno’s fields
When the rich orange grove their verdure shields.
From earth the mourner rais’d her dewy eyes
And gaz’d upon the form which Chance reveal’d:
A form uncouthly wrapp’d in hermit-guise
Lean’d o’er her mossy couch with sad and strange surprise.

Yet in his hollow eyes a lustre shone
Which seem’d the relic of a glorious day;
Such as when Summer’s ardent sun is gone,
Shows thro’ the dark blue sky its fiery way:
His chestnut locks were strew’d with silver grey;
But time so softly touch’d his damask cheek,
That there a lingering dimple well might stay
Of youthful mirth and past delight to speak,
And tell the calm content which hoary sages seek.

“Peace to thee, mourner, peace!” the Hermit said;
“Nor Pride, nor Scorn, nor lurking Fraud is nigh:
Woe to the heart of tenfold iron made
Which yields to Woman’s voice no soft reply,
And reads no sacred language in her eye!
If e’er those precious tears unheeded roll
It is not a man who dares their pow’r deny;
It is not a man! — a demon’s dire control
Usurps his noble form and banishes his soul!

“Beneath yon arch of twining osiers green,
A lonely mansion spreads its hallow’d door;
Where seven meek Brothers dwell in peace unseen,
And share with pining want their humble store:
But Woman’s foot must enter there no more,
Nor ever beauteous eye behold the shade
Where their dim porch receives its tenants hoar;
Nor beauteous hand that rev’rend porch invade
Till in forgotten dust their mould’ring hearts are laid.

“Yet read this fading scroll and thou shalt find
Imperial Man may Woman’s pow’r lament:
Read, and behold how oft her whisper kind
Has the stern vigor of his wisdom bent
While on the roses in her lap he leant.
Then if thy heart has bled for Manhood’s pride,
Be with the records of our woe content;
And let thy pity, like this silent tide,
Soft o’er our barren path with cheering sweetness glide.”