The Barmaid.

She was a pretty, gentle girl—a farmer’s
orphan daughter, and the landlord’s niece—
whom I strongly suspected of being engaged
to be married very shortly, to the writer of
the letter that I saw her reading at least
twenty times, when I passed the bar, and
which I more than believe I saw her kiss one
night. She told me a tale of that country
which went so pleasantly to the music of her
voice, that I ought rather to say it turned
itself into verse, than was turned into verse
by me.
A little past the village1
The inn stood, low and white,2
Green shady trees behind it,3
And an orchard on the right,4
Where over the green paling5
The red-cheeked apples hung,6
As if to watch how wearily7
The sign-board creeked and swung.8
The heavy-laden branches9
Over the road hung low,10
Reflecting fruit or blossom11
In the wayside well below ;12
Where children, drawing water,13
Looked up and paused to see,14
Amid the apple branches,15
A purple Judas Tree.16
The road stretch’d winding onward17
For many a weary mile18
So dusty footsore wanderers19
Would pause and rest awhile ;20
And panting horses halted,21
And travellers loved to tell22
The quiet of the wayside inn,23
The orchard, and the well.24
Here Maurice dwelt ; and often25
The sunburnt boy would stand26
Gazing upon the distance,27
And shading with his hand28
His eyes, while watching vainly29
For travellers, who might need30
His aid to loose the bridle,31
And tend the weary steed.32
And once (the boy remember’d33
That morning many a day34
The dew lay on the hawthorn,35
The bird sang on the spray)36
A train of horsemen, nobler37
Than he had seen before,38
Up from the distance gallopp’d,39
And paused before the door.40
Upon a milk-white pony,41
Fit for a faery queen,42
Was the loveliest little damsel43
His eyes had ever seen ;44
A servant-man was holding45
The leading rein, to guide46
The pony and its mistress47
Who cantered by his side.48
Her sunny ringlets round her49
A golden cloud had made,50
While her large hat was keeping51
Her calm blue eyes in shade ;52
One hand held firm the silken reins53
To keep her steed in check,54
The other pulled his tangled mane,55
Or stroked his glossy neck.56
And as the boy brought water,57
And loosed the rein, he heard58
The sweetest voice, that thank’d him59
In one low gentle word ;60
She turned her blue eyes from him,61
Look’d up, and smiled to see62
The hanging purple blossoms63
Upon the Judas Tree.64
And show’d it with a gesture,65
Half pleading, half command,66
Till he broke the fairest blossom,67
And laid it in her hand ;68
And she tied it to her saddle69
With a ribbon from her hair,70
While her happy laugh rang gaily,71
Like silver on the air.72
But the champing steeds were rested—73
The horsemen now spurr’d on,74
And down the dusty highway75
They vanish’d and were gone.76
Years pass’d, and many a traveller77
Paused at the old inn-door,78
But the little milk-white pony79
And the child return’d no more.80
Years pass’d, the apple branches81
A deeper shadow shed ;82
And many a time the Judas Tree,83
Blossom and leaf lay dead ;84
When on the loitering western breeze85
Came the bells’ merry sound,86
And flowery arches rose, and flags87
And banners waved around.88
And Maurice stood expectant,89
The bridal train would stay90
Some moments at the inn-door,91
The eager watchers say ;92
They come—the cloud of dust draws near—93
’Mid all the state and pride,94
He only sees the golden hair95
And blue eyes of the bride.96
The same, yet, ah ! still fairer,97
He knew the face once more98
That bent above the pony’s neck99
Years past at the inn-door :100
Her shy and smiling eyes look’d round,101
Unconscious of the place102
Unconscious of the eager gaze103
He fix’d upon her face.104
He pluck’d a blossom from the tree—105
The Judas Tree—and cast106
Its purple fragrance towards the bride,107
A message from the Past.108
The signal came, the horses plunged—109
Once more she smiled around :110
The purple blossom in the dust111
Lay trampled on the ground.112
Again the slow years fleeted,113
Their passage only known114
By the height the Passion-flower115
Around the porch had grown ;116
And many a passing traveller117
Paused at the old inn-door,118
But the bride, so fair and blooming119
Return’d there never more.120
One winter morning, Maurice,121
Watching the branches bare,122
Rustling and waving dimly123
In the grey and misty air,124
Saw blazon’d on a carriage125
Once more the well-known shield,126
The azure fleurs-de-lis and stars127
Upon a silver field.128
He looked—was that pale woman,129
So grave, so worn, so sad,130
The child, once young and smiling,131
The bride, once fair and glad ?132
What grief had dimm’d that glory133
And brought that dark eclipse134
Upon her blue eyes’ radiance,135
And paled those trembling lips ?136
What memory of past sorrow,137
What stab of present pain,138
Brought that deep look of anguish,139
That watch’d the dismal rain,140
That watch’d (with the absent spirit141
That looks, yet does not see)142
The dead and leafless branches143
Upon the Judas Tree.144
The slow dark months crept onward145
Upon their icy way,146
’Till April broke in showers,147
And Spring smiled forth in May,148
Upon the apple-blossoms149
The sun shone bright again,150
When slowly up the highway151
Came a long funeral train.152
The bells toll’d slowly, sadly,153
For a noble spirit fled ;154
Slowly, in pomp and honour,155
They bore the quiet dead.156
Upon a black-plumed charger157
One rode, who held a shield,158
Where azure fleurs-de-lis and stars159
Shone on a silver field.160
’Mid all that homage given161
To a fluttering heart at rest,162
Perhaps an honest sorrow163
Dwelt only in one breast.164
One by the inn-door standing165
Watch’d with fast-dropping tears166
The long-procession passing,167
And thought of bygone years.168
The boyish, silent homage169
To child and bride unknown,170
The pitying tender sorrow171
Kept in his heart alone,172
Now laid upon the coffin173
With a purple flower, might be174
Told to the cold dead sleeper ;175
The rest could only see176
A fragrant purple blossom177
Pluck’d from a Judas Tree.178