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Love’s Ordeal
by [?]

The moon was sunken low in the dim west,
Curled upwards on the steep horizon’s brink,
A leaf of glory falling to its rest.
The maiden’s hand, still trembling, scarce could link
Her to his side; but his arm round her waist
Stole gently; so she walked, and did not sink;
Her hand on his right side soon held him fast,
And so together wound, they onward passed.

And, clinging to his side, she felt full well
The strong and measured beating of his heart;
But as the floating moon aye lower fell,
Slowly she felt its bounding force depart,
Till like a throbbing bird; nor can she tell
Whether it beats, at length; and with a start
She felt the arm relax around her flung,
And on her circling arm he leaned and hung.

But as his steps more and more feeble grow,
She feels her strength and courage rise amain.
He lifted up his head; the moon was low,
Almost on the world’s edge. A smile of pain
Was on his lips, as his large eyes turned slow
Seeking for hers; which, like a heavy rain,
Poured love on him in many a love-lit gleam.
So they walked like two souls, linked by one dream.[2]

[Footnote 2:

In a lovely garden walking,
Two lovers went hand in hand;
Two wan, sick figures, talking,
They sat in the flowery land.

On the cheek they kissed each other,
And they kissed upon the mouth;
Fast clasped they one another–
And back came their health and youth.

Two little bells rang shrilly,
And the dream went with the hour:
She lay in the cloister stilly,
He far in the dungeon-tower.

Translated from Uhland.]

Hanging his head, behind each came a hound,
With slow and noiseless paws upon the road.
What is that shining on the weedy ground?
Nought but the bright eyes of the dingy toad.
The silent pines range every way around;
A deep stream on the left side hardly flowed.
Their path is towards the moon, dying alone–
It touches the horizon, dips, is gone.

Its last gleam fell upon dim glazed eyes;
An old man tottered feebly in her hold,
Stooping with bended knees that could not rise;
Nor longer could his arm her waist infold.
The maiden trembled; but through this disguise
Her love beheld what never could grow old;
And so the aged man, she, young and warm,
Clasped closer yet with her supporting arm.

Till with short, dragging steps, he turned aside
Into a closer thicket of tall firs,
Whose bare, straight, slender stems behind them hide
A smooth grey rock. Not a pine-needle stirs
Till they go in. Then a low wind blows wide
O’er their cone-tops. It swells until it whirrs
Through the long stems, as if aeolian chords
For moulding mystic sounds in lack of words.

But as they entered by a narrow cleft
Into the rock’s heart, suddenly it ceased;
And the tall pines stood still as if bereft
Of a strong passion, or from pain released;
Once more they wove their strange, dark, moveless weft
O’er the dull midnight sky; and in the East
A mist arose and clomb the skyey stairs;
And like sad thoughts the bats came unawares.

‘Tis a dark chamber for the bridal night,
O poor, pale, saviour bride! A faint rush-lamp
He kindled with his shaking hands; its light
Painted a tiny halo on the damp
That filled the cavern to its unseen height,
Like a death-candle on the midnight swamp.
Within, each side the entrance, lies a hound,
With liquid light his green eyes gleaming round.