Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
  
Alexander Smith. 1829–1867
  
778. Barbara
  
      ON the Sabbath-day, 
      Through the churchyard old and gray, 
Over the crisp and yellow leaves I held my rustling way; 
And amid the words of mercy, falling on my soul like balms, 
'Mid the gorgeous storms of music—in the mellow organ-calms,         5
'Mid the upward-streaming prayers, and the rich and solemn psalms, 
      I stood careless, Barbara. 
 
      My heart was otherwhere, 
      While the organ shook the air, 
And the priest, with outspread hands, bless'd the people with a prayer;  10
But when rising to go homeward, with a mild and saintlike shine 
Gleam'd a face of airy beauty with its heavenly eyes on mine— 
Gleam'd and vanish'd in a moment—O that face was surely thine 
      Out of heaven, Barbara! 
 
      O pallid, pallid face!  15
      O earnest eyes of grace! 
When last I saw thee, dearest, it was in another place. 
You came running forth to meet me with my love-gift on your wrist: 
The flutter of a long white dress, then all was lost in mist— 
A purple stain of agony was on the mouth I kiss'd,  20
      That wild morning, Barbara. 
 
      I search'd, in my despair, 
      Sunny noon and midnight air; 
I could not drive away the thought that you were lingering there. 
O many and many a winter night I sat when you were gone,  25
My worn face buried in my hands, beside the fire alone— 
Within the dripping churchyard, the rain plashing on your stone, 
      You were sleeping, Barbara. 
 
      'Mong angels, do you think 
      Of the precious golden link  30
I clasp'd around your happy arm while sitting by yon brink? 
Or when that night of gliding dance, of laughter and guitars, 
Was emptied of its music, and we watch'd, through lattice-bars, 
The silent midnight heaven creeping o'er us with its stars, 
      Till the day broke, Barbara?  35
 
      In the years I've changed; 
      Wild and far my heart has ranged, 
And many sins and errors now have been on me avenged; 
But to you I have been faithful whatsoever good I lack'd: 
I loved you, and above my life still hangs that love intact—  40
Your love the trembling rainbow, I the reckless cataract. 
      Still I love you. Barbara. 
 
      Yet, Love, I am unblest; 
      With many doubts opprest, 
I wander like the desert wind without a place of rest.  45
Could I but win you for an hour from off that starry shore, 
The hunger of my soul were still'd; for Death hath told you more 
Than the melancholy world doth know—things deeper than all lore 
      You could teach me, Barbara. 
 
      In vain, in vain, in vain!  50
      You will never come again. 
There droops upon the dreary hills a mournful fringe of rain; 
The gloaming closes slowly round, loud winds are in the tree, 
Round selfish shores for ever moans the hurt and wounded sea; 
There is no rest upon the earth, peace is with Death and thee—  55
      Barbara! 
 
 
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