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Even so they did ; and I may say
That to sweet Ruth that happy day
Was more than human life.
Through dream and vision did she sink,
Delighted all the while to think
That on those lonesome floods,
And green savannahs, she should share
His board with lawful joy, and bear
His name in the wild woods.
But, as you have before been told,
This stripling, sportive, gay, and bold,
And with his dancing crest
So beautiful, through savage lands
Had roamed about, with vagrant bands
Of Indians in the west.
The wind, the tempest roaring high,
The tumult of a tropic sky,
Might well be dangerous food
For him, a youth to whom was given
So much of earth-so much of heaven,
And such impetuous blood.
Whatever in those climes he found
Irregular in sight or sound
Did to his mind impart
A kindred impulse, seemed allied
To his own powers, and justified
The workings of his heart.
Nor less, to feed voluptuous thought,
The beauteous forms of Nature wrought,
Fair trees and lovely flowers;
The breezes their own languor lent;
The stars had feelings, which they sent
Into those gorgeous bowers.
Yet, in his worst pursuits, I ween
That sometimes there did intervene
Pure hopes of high intent:
For passions linked to forms so fair
And stately, needs must have their share
Of noble sentiment.
But ill he lived, much evil saw
With men to whom no better law,
Nor better life was known;
Deliberately, and undeceived,
Those wild men's vices he received,
And gave them back his own.
His genius and his moral frame
Were thus impaired, and he became
The slave of low desires :
A man who without self-control
Would seek what the degraded soul
And yet he with no feigned delight, Had wooed the maiden, day and night Had loved her, night and morn:
What could he less than love a maid Whose heart with so much nature played ? So kind and so forlorn !
Sometimes, most earnestly, he said,
“O Ruth ! I have been worse than dead;
False thoughts, thoughts bold and vain,
Encompassed me on every side
When first, in confidence and pride,
I crossed the Atlantic main.
“It was a fresh and glorious world,
A banner bright that was unfurled
Before me suddenly :
I looked upon those hills and plains,
And seemed as if let loose from chains,
To live at liberty.
“But wherefore speak of this ? For now,
Sweet Ruth! with thee, I know not how,
I feel my spirit burn-
Even as the east when day comes forth;
And, to the west, and south, and north,
The morning doth return."
Full soon that purer mind was gone ;
No hope, no wish remained—not one, -
They stirred him now no more ;
New objects did new pleasure give,
And once again he wish'd to live
As lawless as before.
Meanwhile, as thus with him it fared,
They for the voyage were prepared,
And went to the sea-shore;
But, when they thither came, the youth
Deserted his poor bride, and Ruth
Could never find him more.
God help thee, Ruth !-Such pains she had,
That she in half a year was mad,
And in a prison housed ;
And there she sang tumultuous songs,
By recollection of her wrongs
To fearful passion roused.
Yet sometimes milder hours she knew,
Nor wanted sun, nor rain, nor dew,
Nor pastimes of the May,
—They all were with her in her cell;
And a wild brook, with cheerful knell
Did o'er the pebbles play.
When Ruth three seasons thus had lain,
There came a respite to her pain ;
She from her prison fled ;
But of the vagrant none took thought ;
And where it liked her best she sought
Her shelter and her bread.
Among the fields she breathed again :
The master current of her brain
Ran permanent and free ;
And, coming to the banks of Tone,
There did she rest ; and dwell alone
Under the greenwood tree.
The engines of her pain, the tools
That shaped her sorrow, rocks and pools,
And airs that gently stir
The vernal leaves, she loved them still,
Nor ever taxed them with the ill
Which had been done to her.
A barn her winter bed supplies ;
But, till the warmth of summer skies
And summer days is gone,
(And all do in this tale agree)
She sleeps beneath the greenwood tree,
And other home hath none.
An innocent life, yet far astray !
And Ruth will, long before her day,
Be broken down and old :
Sore aches she needs must have ! but less
Of mind, than body's wretchedness,
From damp, and rain, and cold.
If she is prest by want of food,
She from her dwelling in the wood
Repairs to a road-side ;
And there she begs at one steep place,
Where up and down with easy pace
The horsemen-travellers ride.