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Posts Tagged ‘Bessie’

In the Orchard-Days, when you
Children look like blossoms, too,
Bessie, with her jaunty ways
And trim poise of head and face,
Must have looked superior
Even to the blossoms, – for
Little Winnie once averred
Bessie looked just like the bird
Tilted on the topmost spray
Of the apple boughs in May.
With the redbreast, and the strong
Clear, sweet warble of his song  –
“I don’t know their name,” Win said –
“I ist maked a name instead.” –
So forever afterwards
We called robins “Bessie-birds.”

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Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight

England’s sun was slowly setting
O’er the hills so far away,
Filling all the land with beauty
At the close of one sad day;
And the last rays kissed the forehead
Of a man and maiden fair –
He with a step so slow and weakened,
She with sunny, floating hair;
He with sad bowed head, and thoughtful,
She with lips so cold and white,
Struggling to keep back the murmur,
“Curfew must not ring tonight.”

“Sexton,” Bessie’s white lips faltered,
Pointing to the prison old,
With its walls so dark and gloomy –
Walls so dark, and damp, and cold –
“I’ve a love in that prison,
Doomed this very night to die,
At the ringing of the curfew,
And no earthly help is nigh.
Cromwell will not come till sunset”;
And her face grew strangely white,
As she spoke in husky whispers,
“Curfew must not ring tonight.”

“Bessie,” calmly spoke the sexton –
Every word pierced her young heart
Like a thousand gleaming arrows,
Like a deadly poisoned dart –
“Long, long years I’ve rung the curfew
From that gloomy shadowed tow’r;
Every evening, just at sunset,
It has told the twilight hour.
I have done my duty ever.
Tried to do it just and right;
Now I’m old, I will not miss it;
Girl, the curfew rings tonight!”

Wild her eyes and pale her features,
Stern and white her thoughtful brow,
And within her heart’s deep center,
Bessie made a solemn vow.
She had listened while the judges
Read, without a tear or sigh,
“At the ringing of the curfew
Basil Underwood must die.”
And her breath came fast and faster,
And her eyes grew large and bright;
One low murmur, scarcely spoken –
“Curfew must not ring tonight.”

She with light step bounded forward,
Sprang within the old church door,
Left the old man coming slowly,
Paths he’d often trod before;
Not one moment paused the maiden,
But with cheek and brow aglow,
Staggered up the gloomy tower,
Where the bell swung to and fro;
Then she climbed the slimy ladder,
Dark, without one ray of light,
Upward still, her pale lips saying,
“Curfew shall not ring tonight.”

She has reached the topmost ladder,
O’er her hangs the great dark bell,
And the awful gloom beneath her,
Like the pathway down to Hell.
See the ponderous tongue is swinging,
‘Tis the hour of curfew now;
And the sight has chilled her bosom,
Stopped her breath, and paled her brow.
Shall she let it ring?  No, never!
Her eyes flash with sudden light,
As she springs and grasps it firmly –
“Curfew shall not ring tonight.”

Out she swung, far out, the city
Seemed a tiny speck below;
There twixt heaven and earth suspended
As the bell swung to and fro;
And the half-deaf sexton ringing
(Years he had not heard the bell)
And he thought the twilight curfew
Rang young Basil’s funeral knell;
Still the maiden clinging firmly,
Cheek and brow so pale and white,
Still her frightened heart’s wild beating –
“Curfew shall not ring tonight.”

It was o’er – the bell ceased swaying,
And the maiden stepped once more
Firmly on the damp old ladder,
Where for hundred years before
Human foot had not been planted;
And what she this night had done
Should be told in long years after:
As the rays of setting sun
Light the sky with mellow beauty,
Aged sires with heads of white,
Tell the children why the curfew
Did not ring that one sad night.

O’er the distant hills came Cromwell;
Bessie saw him, and her brow,
Lately white with sickening terror,
Glows with sudden beauty now.
At his feet she told the story,
Showed her hands all bruised and torn;
And her sweet young face so haggard,
With a look so sad and worn,
Touched his heart with sudden pity,
Lit his eyes with misty light:
“Go, your love lives!” cried Cromwell:
“Curfew shall not ring tonight.”

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