'Twas night, and the moonbeams palely fell
by Owen Suffolk
On the gloomy walls of a cheerless cell,
Where a captive sought a brief repose
From the bitter pangs of his waking woes.
O'er the dark blue waves the mighty deep
His spirit roamed in the dream of sleep,
To each well-loved spot of his native shore,
Where joyous he roved in the days of yore.
But o'er each scene a shadow threw
A gloom that never used to be,
All seemed so real, yet so untrue
To things once dear to memory.
The hill-side seemed a prison wall
That, grimly frowning, pained the eye;
The old oak-tree, with branches tall,
Looked like a gibbet 'gainst the sky.
Each face familiar once seemed now
A gaoler-face with a stony stare
A mark was set on each fair brow,
And in each voice were tones of care.
Thus mingled in the dreamer's brain
The present with the olden time,
Life's pleasant things with those of pain
And guiltless days with days of crime.
On, on in dream by lofty hill,
Through forest and o'er stormy wave,
He wandered; but he only still
Beheld a world of fettered slaves.
He saw a king surnamed the Great,
Who ruled the nations by his nod;
To billions his one word was fate -
He was a kind of demi-god.
He sat upon a lofty throne
A monarch, with a monarch's mien,
Earth's fairest forms were all his own,
And untold wealth was his I ween.
In the battlfield his arm was might
And his kingly heart was firm and brave;
But he knew not the charm of freedom's light.
For he was ambition's willing slave.
Then he turned from the monarch's throne to gaze
On a lonely cot in a peaceful dell,
Which lit by the sun's departing rays,
Seemed a home of bliss where no woe could dwell.
At the cottage door, with locks of white,
An old man gazed on the western sky,
And watched the sun's declining light
As it slowely sank from his haggard eye.
Alas! His spirit even there,
Where all around was bright and fair,
Was firmly bound to each crime-stained hour
By vivid mem'ry's haunting power,
While conscience o'er the sea of time
A lurid shade of darkness cast,
And conjured up the deeds of crime
That chained him to a guilty past.
In the captive's dream of fancy wild,
He looked no more on the man of care;
His gaze was fixed on a beauteous child
Who knelt at its mother's feet in prayer.
Its little hands were clasped - its eyes
Uplifted were to paradise;
Its simple words of faith and love
Were registered in heaven above;
Recorded there with angels' tears
As they wept o'er the hopes the mother built,
For they looked through the vista of the coming years,
And saw it fettered to future guilt.
And next he saw a youthful pair,
A gallant youth and maiden fair,
Reclining in a vine wreathed bower
At evening's calm and gentle hour.
Their words were such as lovers speak
When none are near; and on her cheek
The blushes deepened while he knelt
And poured out all his passion felt,
And not in vain. Then surely they
Were happy as a summer-day?
Ah! No, for happiness is twin
To purity of life and soul;
And those who only love in sin
Must wander widely from the goal.
The flowers that scented the ev'ing air,
The stars that gleamed from their home above,
Shed pitying tears for the guilty pair,
For they were the slaves of unholy love.
Then he turned from the things of earth to gaze
On the regions of immortality,
Where seraphs chanted their songs of praise,
And every tongue was tuned in joy,
Where countless thousands, clothed in white,
To angel-harps sang 'We are free,
And all who enter these realms of light
From sin and sorrow shall be as we.
Here freedom's waters bright and fair,
Flow undimmed by a single care;
And all who taste of the crystal tide
Of the stream of life that for ever flows,
Can never again be to sin allied,
And is free forever from earthly woes.'
'Twas now the drear-toned prison bell
Loud-echoed through the captive's cell.
He rose - the vision of the night
Again was present to his sight.
He knelt -with fervency he prayed;
Through faith in Christ, his sins forgiven,
The narrow boundary of the grave
Should be the vestibule of Heaven,
Where, disenthralled from all below,
He'd dwell beyond the starry sky,
Free from the pains of earthly woe,
In never-ending liberty!