BETA

The Ballad of Richard Burnell.


From his bed rose Richard Bernell1
At the early dawn of day,2
Ere the bells of London City3
Welcomed in the morn of May.4
Early on that bright May morning5
Rose the young man from his bed,6
He, the happiest man in London,—7
And blithely to himself he said :8
‛When the men and maids are dancing,9
And the folk are mad with glee,10
In the Temple’s shady gardens11
Let me walk and talk with thee ! ’12
Thus my Alice spake last even,13
Thus with trembling lips she spake,14
And those blissful words have kept me15
Through the live-long night awake.16
’ Tis a joy beyond expression,17
When we first, in truth, perceive18
That the love we long have cherished19
Will not our fond hearts deceive !20
Never dared I to confess it,21
Deeds of homage spoke instead ;22
True love is its own revealer,23
She must know it ! oft, I said.24
All my words, and all my actions,25
But one meaning could impart ;26
Love can love’s least sign interpret,27
And she reads my inmost heart.28
And her good, old merchant father,29
—Father he has been to me30
Saw the love growing up between us,31
Saw—and was well-pleased to see.32
Seven years I truly served him,33
Now my time is at an end34
Master is he now no longer,35
Father will be—has been friend.36
I was left betimes an orphan,37
Heir unto great merchant-wealth,38
But the iron rule of kinsfolk39
Dimmed my youth, and sapped my health.40
Death had been my early portion41
Had not my good guardian come ;42
He, the father of my Alice,43
And conveyed me to his home.44
Here began a new existence,45
—Then how new the love of friends !46
And for all the child’s afflictions,47
Each one strove to make amends.48
Late my spring-time came, but quickly49
Youth’s rejoicing currents run,50
And my inner life unfolded51
Like a flower before the sun.52
Hopes, and aims, and aspirations,53
Grew within the growing boy ;54
Life had new interpretation ;55
Manhood brought increase of joy.56
In and over all was Alice,57
Life-infusing, like the spring ;58
My soul’s soul ! even joy without her59
Was a poor and barren thing !60
And she spoke last eve at parting,61
When the folk are mad with glee,62
In the Temple’s pleasant gardens63
Let me walk and talk with thee ! ’64
As she spoke, her sweet voice trembled—65
Love such tender tones can teach !66
And those words have kept me waking,67
And the manner of her speech !68
For such manner has deep meaning,”69
Said young Burnell, blithe and gay ; —70
And the bells of London City71
Pealed a welcome to the May.72

Whilst the folk were mad with pleasure,73
’Neath the elm-tree’s vernal shade,74
In the Temple’s quiet gardens75
Walked the young man and the maid.76
On his arm her hand was resting,77
And her eyes were on the ground ;78
She was speaking, he was silent ;79
Not a word his tongue had found.80
Friend beloved,” she thus addressed him,81
I have faith and hope in thee !82
Thou canst do what no one else can—83
Thou canst be a friend to me !84
Richard, we have lived together85
All these years of happy youth ;86
Have, as sister and as brother,87
Lived in confidence and truth.88
Thou from me hast hid no feelings,89
Thy whole heart to me is known ;90
I—I only have kept from thee91
One dear, little thought alone.92
Have I wronged thee in so doing,93
Then forgive me ! but give ear,94
’Tis to bare my heart before thee95
That I now am with thee here.96
Well thou know’st my father loves thee ;97
’Tis his wish that we should wed,—98
I shame not to speak thus frankly99
Wish, or will more justly said.100
But this cannot be, my brother,101
Cannot be—’twere nature’s wrong ! -102
I have said so to my father,—103
But thou know’st his will is strong.”104
Not a word spake Richard Burnell ;105
Not a word came to his lips ;106
Like one tranced he stood and listened ;107
Life to him was in eclipse.108
In a lower tone she murmured,109
Murmured like a brooding dove,110
Know thou,—Leonard Woodvil love me,—111
And—that he has won my love.”112
—Came a pause. The words she uttered113
Seemed to turn him into stone,114
Pale he stood and mute beside her,115
And with blushes she went on.116
This is known unto my father ; —117
Leonard is well known to thee,118
Thou hast praised him, praised him often—119
Oh, how dear such praise to me !120
But my father, stern and stedfast,121
Will not list to Leonard’s prayer ; —122
And ’ tis only thou canst move him,—123
Only thou so much canst dare.124
Tell my father firmly, freely,125
That we only love each other126
’Tis the truth, thou know’st it, Richard,127
As a sister and a brother !128
Tell my father, if we wedded,129
Thou and I, it would be guilt ! —130
Thus it is that thou canst aid us,—131
And thou wilt—I know thou wilt !132
Yes, ‘tis thus that thou must aid us,133
And thou wilt ! —I say no more ! —134
We’ve been friends, but this will make us135
Better friends than heretofore ! ”136
Yet some moments he was silent ;137
His good heart was well nigh broke ;138
She was blinded to his anguish ; —139
And “I will ! ” at length he spoke.140

They were wedded. ’Twas a wedding141
That had far and nigh renown,142
And from morning until even143
Rang the bells of London town.144
Time went on : the good, old merchant145
Wore a cloud upon his brow :146
Wherefore this ? ” his friends addresed him,147
No man should be blithe as thou ! ”148
In my old age I am lonely,”149
Said the merchant ; “she is gone ; —150
And young Burnell, he I nurtured,151
He who was to me a son ;152
He has left me ! —I’m deserted—153
E’en an old man feels such woe !154
’Twas but natural she should marry,155
But he should not have served me so ?156
’ Twas not that which I expected ! —157
He was very dear to me,—158
And I thought no London merchant159
Would have stood as high as he !160
He grew very strange and moody,161
What the cause I cannot say ; —162
And he left me when my daughter,163
My poor Alice went away !164
This I felt a sore unkindness ; —165
Youth thinks little, feels still less ! —166
Burnell should have stayed beside me,167
Stayed to cheer my loneliness !168
I had been a father to him,169
He to me was like a son ;170
Young folks should have more reflection,—171
’Twas what I could not have done !172
True, he writes me duteous letters ;173
Calls me father, tells me all174
That in foreign parts are doing : —175
But young people write so small,176
That I’m often forced to leave them,177
Pleasant letters though they be,178
Until Alice comes from Richmond,179
Then she reads them out to me.180
Alice fain would have me with her ;181
Leonard well deserves my praise182
But he’s not my Richard Burnell,183
Knows not my old wants and ways !184
No, my friends, I’ll not deny it,185
It has cut me to the heart,186
That the son of my adoption187
Thus has played a cruel part ! ”188
So the merchant mourned and murmured ;189
And all foreign charms unheeding,190
Dwelt the lonely Richard Burnell,191
With his bruisèd heart still bleeding.192

Time went on, and in the spring-tide,193
When the birds begun to build,194
And the heart of all creation195
With a vast delight was filled.196
Came a letter unto Alice—197
Then a babe lay on her breast198
’Twas the first which Richard Burnell199
Unto Alice had addressed.200
Few the words which it contained,201
But each word was like a sigh ;202
I am sick and very lonely ; —203
Let me see thee ere I die !204
In this time of tribulation205
Thou wilt be a friend to me :206
Therefore in the Temple Gardens207
Let me once more speak with thee.”208
Once more in the Temple Gardens209
Sat they ’ neath the bright blue sky,210
With the leafage thick around them,211
And the river rolling by.212
Pale and weak was Richard Burnell,213
Gone all merely outward grace,214
Yet the stamp of meek endurance215
Gave sad beauty to his face.216
Silent by his side sat Alice,217
Now no word her tongue could speak,218
All her soul was steeped in pity,219
And large tears were on her cheek.220
Burnell spake ; “ Within these Gardens221
Thy commands on me were laid,222
And although my heart was breaking223
Yet were those commands obeyed.224
What I suffered no one knoweth,225
Nor shall know, I proudly said,226
And, when grew the grief too mighty,227
Then—there was no help—I fled.228
Yes, I loved thee, long had loved thee,229
And alone the God above,230
He, who at that time sustained me,231
Knows the measure of my love !232
Do not let these words displease thee ;233
Life’s sore battle will soon cease ;234
I have fallen amid the conflict,235
But within my soul is peace.236
It has been a fiery trial,237
But the fiercest pang is past ;238
Once more I am come amongst you—239
Oh, stand by me at the last !240
Leonard will at times come to me,241
And thy father, I will try242
To be cheerful in his presence,243
As I was in days gone by.244
Bitter had it been to leave him,245
But in all my heart’s distress,246
The great anguish which consumed me,247
Seemed to swallow up the less.248
Let me go ! my soul is wearied,249
No fond heart of me has need,250
Life has no more duties for me ; —251
I am but a broken reed !252
Let me go, ere courage faileth,253
Gazing, gazing thus on thee ! —254
But in life’s last awful moment,255
Alice ! thou wilt stand by me ! ”256
From her seat rose Alice Woodvil,257
And in stedfast tones began,258
Like a strong yet mourning angel,259
To address the dying man.260
Not in death alone, my brother,261
Would I aid thee in the strife,262
I would fain be thy sustainer,263
In the fiercer fight of life.264
With the help of God, thy spirit,265
Shall not sink an easy prey.266
Oh, my friend, prayer is a weapon267
Which can turn whole hosts away !268
God will aid thee !  We will hold thee269
By our love ! —thou shalt not go ! —270
And from out thy wounded spirit,271
We will pluck the thorns of woe.272
Say not life has no more duties273
Which can claim thee ! where are then,274
All the sinners ; the neglected ;275
All the weeping sons of men ?276
Ah, my friend, hast thou forgotten277
All our dreams of early days ?278
How we would instruct poor children,279
How we would the fallen raise !280
God has not to me permitted,281
Such great work of human love,282
He has marked me out a lower283
Path of duty where to move.284
But to thee, His chosen servant,285
Is this higher lot allowed ;286
He has brought thee through deep waters,287
Through the furnace, through the cloud ;288
He has made of thee, a mourner289
Like the Christ, that thou may’st rise,290
To a purer height of glory,291
Through the pangs of sacrifice !292
’ Tis alone of his appointing,293
That thy feet on thorns have trod ;294
Suffering, woe, renunciation,295
Only bring us nearer God.296
And when nearest Him then largest297
The enfranchised heart’s embrace : —298
It was Christ, the man rejected,299
Who redeemed the human race.300
Say not then thou hast no duties ; —301
Friendless outcasts on thee call,302
And the sick and the afflicted,303
And the children, more than all.304
Oh, my friend, rise up and follow,305
Where the hand of God shall lead ;306
He has brought thee through affliction,307
But to fit thee for his need ! ”308
—Thus she spoke, and as from midnight,309
Springs the opal-tinted morn,310
So, within his dreary spirit,311
A new day of life was born.312
Strength sublime may rise from weakness,313
Groans be turned to songs of praise,314
Nor are life’s divinest labours,315
Only told by length of days.316
Young he died : but deeds of mercy,317
Beautified his life’s short span,318
And he left his worldly substance,319
To complete what he began.320