The Bridal of the Year

Denis MacCarthy

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Yes! the Summer is returning,
Warmer, brighter beams are burning
Golden mornings, purple evenings,
Come to glad the world once more.
Nature from her long sojourning
In the Winter-House of Mourning,
With the light of hope outpeeping,
From those eyes that late were weeping,
Cometh dancing o'er the waters
To our distant shore.
On the boughs the birds are singing,
Never idle,
For the bridal
Goes the frolic breeze a-ringing
All the green bells on the branches,
Which the soul of man doth hear;
It doth waken,
Half in hope, and half in fear,
And dons its festal garments for the Bridal of the Year!

For the Year is sempiternal,
Never wintry, never vernal,
Still the same through all the changes
That our wondering eyes behold.
Spring is but his time of wooing--
Summer but the sweet renewing
Of the vows he utters yearly,
Ever fondly and sincerely,
To the young bride that he weddeth,
When to heaven departs the old,
For it is her fate to perish,
Having brought him,
In the Autumn,
Children for his heart to cherish.
Summer, like a human mother,
Dies in bringing forth her young;
Sorrow blinds him,
Winter finds him
Childless, too, their graves among,
Till May returns once more, and the bridal hymns are sung.

Thrice the great Betroth'ed naming,
Thrice the mystic banns proclaiming,
February, March, and April,
Spread the tidings far and wide;
Thrice they questioned each new-comer,
"Know ye, why the sweet-faced Summer,
With her rich imperial dower,
Golden fruit and diamond flower,
And her pearly raindrop trinkets,
Should not be the green Earth's Bride?"
All things vocal spoke elated
(Nor the voiceless
Did rejoice less)--
"Be the heavenly lovers mated!"
All the many murmuring voices
Of the music-breathing Spring,
Young birds twittering,
Streamlets glittering,
Insects on transparent wing--
All hailed the Summer nuptials of their King!

Now the rosy East gives warning,
'Tis the wished-for nuptial morning.
Sweetest truant from Elysium,
Golden morning of the May!
All the guests are in their places--
Lilies with pale, high-bred faces--
Hawthorns in white wedding favours,
Scented with celestial savours--
Daisies, like sweet country maidens,
Wear white scolloped frills to-day;
'Neath her hat of straw the Peasant
Primrose sitteth,
Nor permitteth
Any of her kindred present,
Specially the milk-sweet cowslip,
E'er to leave the tranquil shade;
By the hedges,
Or the edges
Of some stream or grassy glade,
They look upon the scene half wistful, half afraid.

Other guests, too, are invited,
From the alleys dimly lighted,
From the pestilential vapours
Of the over-peopled town--
From the fever and the panic,
Comes the hard-worked, swarth mechanic--
Comes the young wife pallor-stricken
At the cares that round her thicken--
Comes the boy whose brow is wrinkled,
Ere his chin is clothed in down--
And the foolish pleasure-seekers,
Nightly thinking
They are drinking
Life and joy from poisoned beakers,
Shudder at their midnight madness,
And the raving revel scorn:
All are treading
To the wedding
In the freshness of the morn,
And feel, perchance too late, the bliss of being born.

And the Student leaves his poring,
And his venturous exploring
In the gold and gem-enfolding
Waters of the ancient lore--
Seeking in its buried treasures,
Means for life's most common pleasures;
Neither vicious nor ambitious--
Simple wants and simple wishes.
Ah! he finds the ancient learning
But the Spartan's iron ore;
Without value in an era
Far more golden
Than the olden--
When the beautiful chimera,
Love, hath almost wholly faded
Even from the dreams of men.
From his prison
Newly risen--
From his book-enchanted den--
The stronger magic of the morning drives him forth again.

And the Artist, too--the Gifted--
He whose soul is heaven-ward lifted.
Till it drinketh inspiration
At the fountain of the skies;
He, within whose fond embraces
Start to life the marble graces;
Or, with God-like power presiding,
With the potent pencil gliding,
O'er the void chaotic canvas
Bids the fair creations rise!
And the quickened mass obeying
Heaves its mountains;
From its fountains
Sends the gentle streams a-straying
Through the vales, like Love's first feelings
Stealing o'er a maiden's heart;
The Creator--
From his easel forth doth start,
And from God's glorious Nature learns anew his Art!

But who is this with tresses flowing,
Flashing eyes and forehead glowing,
From whose lips the thunder-music
Pealeth o'er the listening lands?
'Tis the first and last of preachers--
First and last of priestly teachers;
First and last of those appointed
In the ranks of the anointed;
With their songs like swords to sever
Tyranny and Falsehood's bands!
'Tis the Poet--sum and total
Of the others,
With his brothers,
In his rich robes sacerdotal,
Singing with his golden psalter.
Comes he now to wed the twain--
Truth and Beauty--
Rest and Duty--
Hope, and Fear, and Joy, and Pain,
Unite for weal or woe beneath the Poet's chain!

And the shapes that follow after,
Some in tears and some in laughter,
Are they not the fairy phantoms
In his glorious vision seen?
Nymphs from shady forests wending,
Goddesses from heaven descending;
Three of Jove's divinest daughters,
Nine from Aganippe's waters;
And the passion-immolated,
Too fond-hearted Tyrian Queen,
Various shapes of one idea,
Cythna, Genevieve, and Nea,[14]
Rosalind and all her sisters,
Born by Avon's sacred stream,
All the blooming
Shapes, illuming
The Eternal Pilgrim's dream,[15]
Follow the Poet's steps beneath the morning's beam.

But the Bride--the Bride is coming!
Birds are singing, bees are humming;
Silent lakes amid the mountains
Look but cannot speak their mirth;
Streams go bounding in their gladness,
With a bacchanalian madness;
Trees bow down their heads in wonder,
Clouds of purple part asunder,
As the Maiden of the Morning
Leads the blushing Bride to Earth!
Bright as are the planets seven--
With her glances
She advances,
For her azure eyes are Heaven!
And her robes are sunbeams woven,
And her beauteous bridesmaids are
Hopes and wishes--
Dreams delicious--
Joys from some serener star,
And Heavenly-hued Illusions gleaming from afar.

Now the mystic right is over--
Blessings on the loved and lover!
Strike the tabours, clash the cymbals,
Let the notes of joy resound!
With the rosy apple-blossom,
Blushing like a maiden's bosom;
With all treasures from the meadows
Strew the consecrated ground;
Let the guests with vows fraternal
Pledge each other,
Sister, brother,
With the wine of Hope--the vernal
Vine-juice of Man's trustful heart:
And Forbearance,
Love and Labour, Song and Art,
Be this the cheerful creed wherewith the world may start.

But whither the twain departed?
The United--the One-hearted--
Whither from the bridal banquet
Have the Bride and Bridegroom flown?
Ah! their steps have led them quickly
Where the young leaves cluster thickly;
Blossomed boughs rain fragrance o'er them,
Greener grows the grass before them,
As they wander through the island,
Fond, delighted, and alone!
At their coming streams grow brighter,
Skies grow clearer,
Mountains nearer,
And the blue waves dancing lighter
From the far-off mighty ocean
Frolic on the glistening sand;
Breathe around, as hand-in-hand
They roam the Sutton's sea-washed shore, or soft Shanganah's strand.

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