Our Life is Twofold

by Frances Fuller Victor

Sweet, kiss my eyelids close, and let me lie,

On this old-fashioned sofa, in the dim

And purple twilight, shut out from the sky,

Which is too garish for my softer whim.

And while I, looking inward on my thought,

Tell thee what phantoms thicken in its air.

Twine thou thy gentle fingers, slumber-fraught,

With the loose shreds of my disheveled hair:

I shall see inly better if thou keep

My outer senses in a charmed sleep.

Sweet friend!—I love that pleasant name of friend—

We walk not ever singly, through the world;

But even as our shadow doth attend

Our going in the sunshine, and is furled

About us in the darkness—so that shade

Which haunts our other self, is faintly seen

Beside us in our gladness, and is made

To wrap us coldly life's bright hours between.

Unconsciously we court it. In our youth,

While yet our morning sky is pink with joy,

We, curious if our happiness be truth,

Try to discern the shadow of alloy.

O, I remember well the earliest time

A sorrow touched me, and I nursed it then;

Tho' but few summers of our northern clime

Had sunned my growth among the souls of men.

In an old wood, reputed for its age,

And for its beauty wild and picturesque;

The bound and goal of each day's pilgrimage,

Where were all forms of graceful and grotesque;

And countless hues, from the dark stately pine

That whispered its wild mysteries to my ear,

To the smooth silver of the birch-trees shine,

Showing between the aspens straight and fair;

With forest flowers, and delicate vines that crept

From the rich soil far up among the trees,

Seeking that light their boughs did intercept,

And dalliance and caresses of the breeze.

In midst of these, sheltered from sun and wind

Glimmered a lake, in long and shining curves,

Like a bright fillet that should serve to bind

That scene to earth—if she the gem deserves!

For gem it was, as proud upon her brow

As jewels on the forehead of a queen;

And one thought as one turned from it, of how

Eve exiled, must have missed some just such scene.

O, there I type my life! I used to sigh

Sitting on this side, with my lap piled up

With violets of the real sapphire dye,

For the gay gold of the bright buttercup

Spangling the green sod on the other side—

For the lake's breadth was but an arrow's flight,

And the brief distance did not serve to hide

What yet could not be reached except by sight.

Day after day I dreamed there, while my heart

Gathered up knowledge in its childish way,

Making fine pictures with unconscious art,

And learning beauty more and more each day.

Ever and ever haunted I that spot—

Sitting in dells scooped out between the hills,

That rising close around me, formed a grot

Fragrant with ferns, and musical with rills.

Far up above me grew the long-armed beech,

Dropping its branches down in graceful bent;

While farther up, beyond my utmost reach,

Stood dusky hemlocks, crowning the ascent.

And all about were sweeter sights and sounds

Than elsewhere, but in poet's dream, abounds.

Thus, and because my life was all too fair,

I sought to color it with thoughts I nursed

In sylvan solitudes: and in the air

Of these soft, silent influences, I first

Saw, or felt, rather, that the shadow fell

Upon my pathway from the light behind—

The light of youth's first joyousness. Ah, well,

If it had stayed there, nor been more unkind!

My earliest sorrow was a flower's death—

At which I wept until my swollen eyes

Refused to shed more tears—just that my wreath

One morn in autumn lacked its choicest dyes.

So, knowing what it was to have a loss,

I went on losing, and the shadow grew

Darker and longer, 'till it lies across

My pathway to the measure of my view.

We all remember sorrow's first impress—

No matter whether we had cause to grieve,

Or whether sad in very willfulness—

The lesson is the same that we receive.

And afterwards, when the great shadow falls—

The tempest—when the lightning's flash reveals

The darkness brooding o'er us, and appals

Hope by the terror of the stroke it deals—

Then, how the shadow hugs us in its fold!

We see no light behind, and none to come;

But dumbly shiver in the gloom and cold,

Or with despair lie down, and wait our doom.

Sweet, press thy cheek upon my own again—

Even now my life's dark ghost is haunting nigh:

Sing me to sleep with some old favorite strain—

Some gentle poet's loving lullaby;

For I would dream, and in my dream forget

Our twofold life is full of shadows set.