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Tended the garden from morn to even;
And the meteors of that sublunar heaven,
Like the lamps of the air when night walks forth,
Laugh'd round her footsteps up from the earth!
She had no companion of mortal race,
But her tremulous breath and her flushing face,
Told, whilst the morn kiss'd the sleep from her
eyes, That her dreams were less slumber than paradise ,
As if some bright spirit for her sweet sake
Had deserted heaven while the stars were awake,
As if yet around her he lingering were,
Though the veil of daylight conceal'd him from
Her step seem'd to pity the grass it prest;
You might hear, by the heaving of her breast,
That the coming and the going of the wind
Brought pleasure there, and left passion behind.
And wherever her airy footstep trod,
Her trailing hair from the grassy sod
Erased its light vestige, with shadowy sweep,
Like a sunny storm o'er the dark green deep,
I doubt not the flowers of that garden sweet
Rejoiced in the sound of her gentle fcet;
I doubt not they felt the spirit that came
From her glowing fingers through all their frame.
She sprinkled bright water from the stream
On those that were faint with the sunny beam;
And out of the cups of the heavy flowers
She emptied the rain of the thunder showers.
She lifted their heads with her tender hands,
And sustain'd them with rods and osier bands;
If the flowers had been her own infants, she
Could never have nursed them more tenderly.
And all killing insects and gnawing worms,
And things of obscene and unlovely forms,
She bore in a basket of Indian woof
Into the rough woods far aloof.
In a basket, of grasses and wild flowers full,
The freshest her gentle hands could pull
For the poor banish'd insects, whose intent,
Although they did ill, was innocent.
But the bee and the beam-like ephemeris,
Whose path is the lightning's and soft moths that
The sweet lips of the flowers, and harm not, did
Make her attendant angels be.
And many an antenatal tomb,
Where butterflies dream of the life to come,
She left clinging round the smooth and dark
Edge of the odorous cedar bark.
This fairest creature from earliest spring
Thus moved through the garden ministering,
All the sweet season of the summer-tide,
And ere the first leaf look'd brown-she died !
Three days the flowers of the garden fair,
Like stars when the noon is awaken’d, were,
Or the waves of the Baiæ, ere luminous
She floats up through the smoke of Vesuvius.
And on the fourth, the sensitive plant
Felt the sound of the funeral chant,
And the steps of the bearers, heavy and slow,
And the sobs of the mourners, deep and low.
The weary sound and the heavy breath,
And the silent motions of passing death,
And the smell, cold, oppressive, and dank,
Sent through the pores of the coffin plank ;
The dark grass, and the flowers among the grass, Were bright with tears as the crowds did pass ;
From their sighs the wind caught a mournful tone, And sate in the pines, and gave groan for groan,
The garden, once fair, became cold and foul,
Like the corpse of her who had been its soul:
Which at first was lovely as if in sleep,
Then slowly changed, till it grew a heap
To make men tremble who never weep.
Swift summer into the autumn flow'd,
And frost in the mist of the morning rode,
Though the noon-day sun look'd clear and bright,
Mocking the spoil of the secret night.
The rose-leaves, like flakes of crimson snow,
Paved the turf and the moss below;
The lilies were drooping, and white, and wan,
Like the head and the skin of a dying man.
And Indian plants, of scent and hue
The sweetest that ever were fed on dew,
Leaf after leaf, day by day,
Were massed into the common clay.
And the leaves, brown, yellow, and gray and red And white with the whiteness of what is dead, Like troops of ghosts on the dry wind pass'd; Their whistling noise made the birds aghast.
And the gusty winds waked the winged seeds
Out of their birth-place of ugly weeds,
Till they clung round many a sweet flower's stem
Which rotted into the earth with them.
The water-blooms under the rivulet
Fell from the stalks on which they were set;
And the eddies drove them here and there,
As the winds did those of the upper air.
Then the rain came down, and the broken stalks
Were bent and tangled across the walks ;
And the leaflegs net-work of parasite bowers
Mass'd into ruin, and all sweet flowers.
Between the time of the wind and the snow,
All loathliest weeds began to grow,
Whose coarse leaves were splash'd with many
speck, Like the water-snake's belly and the toad's back.
The sensitive plant, like one forbid,
Wept, and the tears within each lid
Of its folded leaves, which together grew,
Were changed to a blight of frozen glue.
For the leaves soon fell, and the branches soon
By the heavy axe of the blast were hewn;
The sap shrank to the root through every pore,
As blood to a heart that will beat no more.