Great poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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Vaudracour and Julia by William Wordsworth

O happy time of youthful lovers (thus

My story may begin) O balmy time,

In which a love-knot on a lady’s brow

Is fairer than the fairest star in heaven!

To such inheritance of blessed fancy

(Fancy that sports more desperately with minds

Than ever fortune hath been known to do)

The high-born Vaudracour was brought, by years

Whose progress had a little overstepped

His stripling prime. A town of small repute,

Among the vine-clad mountains of Auvergne,

Was the Youth’s birth-place. There he wooed a Maid

Who heard the heart-felt music of his suit

With answering vows. Plebeian was the stock,

Plebeian, though ingenuous, the stock,

From which her graces and her honours sprung:

And hence the father of the enamoured Youth,

With haughty indignation, spurned the thought

Of such alliance. From their cradles up,

With but a step between their several homes,

Twins had they been in pleasure; after strife

And petty quarrels, had grown fond again;

Each other’s advocate, each other’s stay;

And, in their happiest moments, not content,

If more divided than a sportive pair

Of sea-fowl, conscious both that they are hovering

Within the eddy of a common blast,

Or hidden only by the concave depth

Of neighbouring billows from each other’s sight.

Thus, not without concurrence of an age

Unknown to memory, was an earnest given

By ready nature for a life of love,

For endless constancy, and placid truth;

But whatsoe’er of such rare treasure lay

Reserved, had fate permitted, for support

Of their maturer years, his present mind

Was under fascination; he beheld

A vision, and adored the thing he saw.

Arabian fiction never filled the world

With half the wonders that were wrought for him.

Earth breathed in one great presence of the spring;

Life turned the meanest of her implements,

Before his eyes, to price above all gold;

The house she dwelt in was a sainted shrine;

Her chamber-window did surpass in glory

The portals of the dawn; all paradise

Could, by the simple opening of a door,

Let itself in upon him: pathways, walks,

Swarmed with enchantment, till his spirit sank,

Surcharged, within him, overblest to move

Beneath a sun that wakes a weary world

To its dull round of ordinary cares;

A man too happy for mortality!

So passed the time, till whether through effect

Of some unguarded moment that dissolved

Virtuous restraint ah, speak it, think it, not!

Deem rather that the fervent Youth, who saw

So many bars between his present state

And the dear haven where he wished to be

In honourable wedlock with his Love,

Was in his judgment tempted to decline

To perilous weakness, and entrust his cause

To nature for a happy end of all;

Deem that by such fond hope the Youth was swayed,

And bear with their transgression, when I add

That Julia, wanting yet the name of wife,

Carried about her for a secret grief

The promise of a mother.

To conceal

The threatened shame, the parents of the Maid

Found means to hurry her away by night,

And unforewarned, that in some distant spot

She might remain shrouded in privacy,

Until the babe was born. When morning came

The Lover, thus bereft, stung with his loss,

And all uncertain whither he should turn,

Chafed like a wild beast in the toils; but soon

Discovering traces of the fugitives,

Their steps he followed to the Maid’s retreat.

Easily may the sequel be divined

Walks to and fro watchings at every hour;

And the fair Captive, who, whene’er she may,

Is busy at her casement as the swallow

Fluttering its pinions, almost within reach,

About the pendent nest, did thus espy

Her Lover! thence a stolen interview,

Accomplished under friendly shade of night.

I pass the raptures of the pair; such theme

Is, by innumerable poets, touched

In more delightful verse than skill of mine

Could fashion; chiefly by that darling bard

Who told of Juliet and her Romeo,

And of the lark’s note heard before its time,

And of the streaks that laced the severing clouds

In the unrelenting east. Through all her courts

The vacant city slept; the busy winds,

That keep no certain intervals of rest,

Moved not; meanwhile the galaxy displayed

Her fires, that like mysterious pulses beat

Aloft; momentous but uneasy bliss!

To their full hearts the universe seemed hung

On that brief meeting’s slender filament!

They parted; and the generous Vaudracour

Reached speedily the native threshold, bent

On making (so the Lovers had agreed)

A sacrifice of birthright to attain

A final portion from his father’s hand;

Which granted, Bride and Bridegroom then would flee

To some remote and solitary place,

Shady as night, and beautiful as heaven,

Where they may live, with no one to behold

Their happiness, or to disturb their love.

But ‘now’ of this no whisper; not the less,

If ever an obtrusive word were dropped

Touching the matter of his passion, still,

In his stern father’s hearing, Vaudracour

Persisted openly that death alone

Should abrogate his human privilege

Divine, of swearing everlasting truth,

Upon the altar, to the Maid he loved.

“You shall be baffled in your mad intent

If there be justice in the court of France,”

Muttered the Father. From these words the Youth

Conceived a terror; and, by night or day,

Stirred nowhere without weapons, that full soon

Found dreadful provocation: for at night

When to his chamber he retired, attempt

Was made to seize him by three armed men,

Acting, in furtherance of the father’s will,

Under a private signet of the State.

One the rash Youth’s ungovernable hand

Slew, and as quickly to a second gave

A perilous wound he shuddered to behold

The breathless corse; then peacefully resigned

His person to the law, was lodged in prison,

And wore the fetters of a criminal.

Have you observed a tuft of winged seed

That, from the dandelion’s naked stalk,

Mounted aloft, is suffered not to use

Its natural gifts for purposes of rest,

Driven by the autumnal whirlwind to and fro

Through the wide element? or have you marked

The heavier substance of a leaf-clad bough,

Within the vortex of a foaming flood,

Tormented? by such aid you may conceive

The perturbation that ensued; ah, no!

Desperate the Maid the Youth is stained with blood;

Unmatchable on earth is their disquiet!

Yet as the troubled seed and tortured bough

Is Man, subjected to despotic sway.

For him, by private influence with the Court,

Was pardon gained, and liberty procured;

But not without exaction of a pledge,

Which liberty and love dispersed in air.

He flew to her from whom they would divide him

He clove to her who could not give him peace

Yea, his first word of greeting was, “All right

Is gone from me; my lately-towering hopes,

To the least fibre of their lowest root,

Are withered; thou no longer canst be mine,

I thine the conscience-stricken must not woo

The unruffled Innocent, I see thy face,

Behold thee, and my misery is complete!”

“One, are we not?” exclaimed the Maiden “One,

For innocence and youth, for weal and woe?”

Then with the father’s name she coupled words

Of vehement indignation; but the Youth

Checked her with filial meekness; for no thought

Uncharitable crossed his mind, no sense

Of hasty anger rising in the eclipse

Of true domestic loyalty, did e’er

Find place within his bosom. Once again

The persevering wedge of tyranny

Achieved their separation: and once more

Were they united, to be yet again

Disparted, pitiable lot! But here

A portion of the tale may well be left

In silence, though my memory could add

Much how the Youth, in scanty space of time,

Was traversed from without; much, too, of thoughts

That occupied his days in solitude

Under privation and restraint; and what,

Through dark and shapeless fear of things to come,

And what, through strong compunction for the past,

He suffered breaking down in heart and mind!

Doomed to a third and last captivity,

His freedom he recovered on the eve

Of Julia’s travail. When the babe was born,

Its presence tempted him to cherish schemes

Of future happiness. “You shall return,

Julia,” said he, “and to your father’s house

Go with the child. You have been wretched; yet

The silver shower, whose reckless burthen weighs

Too heavily upon the lily’s head,

Oft leaves a saving moisture at its root.

Malice, beholding you, will melt away.

Go! ’tis a town where both of us were born;

None will reproach you, for our truth is known;

And if, amid those once-bright bowers, our fate

Remain unpitied, pity is not in man.

With ornaments the prettiest, nature yields

Or art can fashion, shall you deck our boy,

And feed his countenance with your own sweet looks

Till no one can resist him. Now, even now,

I see him sporting on the sunny lawn;

My father from the window sees him too;

Startled, as if some new-created thing

Enriched the earth, or Faery of the woods

Bounded before him; but the unweeting Child

Shall by his beauty win his grandsire’s heart

So that it shall be softened, and our loves

End happily, as they began!”

These gleams

Appeared but seldom; oftener was he seen

Propping a pale and melancholy face

Upon the Mother’s bosom; resting thus

His head upon one breast, while from the other

The Babe was drawing in its quiet food.

That pillow is no longer to be thine,

Fond Youth! that mournful solace now must pass

Into the list of things that cannot be!

Unwedded Julia, terror-smitten, hears

The sentence, by her mother’s lip pronounced,

That dooms her to a convent. Who shall tell,

Who dares report, the tidings to the lord

Of her affections? so they blindly asked

Who knew not to what quiet depths a weight

Of agony had pressed the Sufferer down:

The word, by others dreaded, he can hear

Composed and silent, without visible sign

Of even the least emotion. Noting this,

When the impatient object of his love

Upbraided him with slackness, he returned

No answer, only took the mother’s hand

And kissed it; seemingly devoid of pain,

Or care, that what so tenderly he pressed,

Was a dependant on the obdurate heart

Of one who came to disunite their lives

For ever sad alternative! preferred,

By the unbending Parents of the Maid,

To secret ‘spousals meanly disavowed.

So be it!

In the city he remained

A season after Julia had withdrawn

To those religious walls. He, too, departs

Who with him? even the senseless Little-one.

With that sole charge he passed the city-gates,

For the last time, attendant by the side

Of a close chair, a litter, or sedan,

In which the Babe was carried. To a hill,

That rose a brief league distant from the town,

The dwellers in that house where he had lodged

Accompanied his steps, by anxious love

Impelled; they parted from him there, and stood

Watching below till he had disappeared

On the hill top. His eyes he scarcely took,

Throughout that journey, from the vehicle

(Slow-moving ark of all his hopes!) that veiled

The tender infant: and, at every inn,

And under every hospitable tree

At which the bearers halted or reposed,

Laid him with timid care upon his knees,

And looked, as mothers ne’er were known to look,

Upon the nursling which his arms embraced.

This was the manner in which Vaudracour

Departed with his infant; and thus reached

His father’s house, where to the innocent child

Admittance was denied. The young man spake

No word of indignation or reproof,

But of his father begged, a last request,

That a retreat might be assigned to him

Where in forgotten quiet he might dwell,

With such allowance as his wants required;

For wishes he had none. To a lodge that stood

Deep in a forest, with leave given, at the age

Of four-and-twenty summers he withdrew;

And thither took with him his motherless Babe,

And one domestic for their common needs,

An aged woman. It consoled him here

To attend upon the orphan, and perform

Obsequious service to the precious child,

Which, after a short time, by some mistake

Or indiscretion of the Father, died.

The Tale I follow to its last recess

Of suffering or of peace, I know not which:

Theirs be the blame who caused the woe, not mine!

From this time forth he never shared a smile

With mortal creature. An Inhabitant

Of that same town, in which the pair had left

So lively a remembrance of their griefs,

By chance of business, coming within reach

Of his retirement, to the forest lodge

Repaired, but only found the matron there,

Who told him that his pains were thrown away,

For that her Master never uttered word

To living thing not even to her. Behold!

While they were speaking, Vaudracour approached;

But, seeing some one near, as on the latch

Of the garden-gate his hand was laid, he shrunk

And, like a shadow, glided out of view.

Shocked at his savage aspect, from the place

The visitor retired.

Thus lived the Youth

Cut off from all intelligence with man,

And shunning even the light of common day;

Nor could the voice of Freedom, which through France

Full speedily resounded, public hope,

Or personal memory of his own deep wrongs,

Rouse him: but in those solitary shades

His days he wasted, an imbecile mind!

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