Page images


At the foot of the mountain height

Where is perched Castèl-Cuillè,
When the apple, the plum, and the almond tree

In the plain below were growing white,

This is the song one might perceive
On a Wednesday morn of Saint Joseph's Eve:

“The roads should blossom, the roads should bloom,
So fair a bride shall leave her home!
Should blossom and bloom with garlands gay,
So fair a bride shall pass to-day!”

This old Te Deum, rustic rites attending,

Seemed from the clouds descending;

When lo! a merry company
Of rosy village girls, clean as the eye,

Each one with her attendant swain,
Came to the cliff, all singing the same strain;
Resembling there, so near unto the sky,
Rejoicing angels, that kind heaven had sent
For their delight and our encouragement.

Together blending,
And soon descending
The narrow sweep
Of the hill-side steep,
They wind aslant
Towards Saint Amant,
Through leafy alleys
Of verdurous vallies
With merry sallies,
Singing their chant:

“The roads should blossom, the roads should bloom,
So fair a bride shall leave her home!
Should blossom and bloom with garlands gay,
So fair a bride shall pass to-day!”

It is Baptiste, and his affianced maiden,
With garlands for the bridal laden!

The sky was blue; without one cloud of gloom,

The sun of March was shining brightly,
And to the air the freshening wind gave lightly

Its breathings of perfume.
When one beholds the dusky hedges blossom,
A rustic bridal, ah! how sweet it is!

To sounds of joyous melodies,

That touch with tenderness the trembling bosom,

A band of maidens,
Gayly frolicking,
A band of youngsters
Wildly rollicking!


With fingers pressing,

Till in the veriest
Madness of mirth, as they dance,
They retreat and advance,
Trying whose laugh shall be loudest and

While the bride, with roguish eyes,
Sporting with them, now escapes and cries :

Those who catch me

Married verily
This year shall be !"

And all pursue with eager haste,

And all attain what they pursue,
And touch her pretty apron fresh and new,

And the linen kirtle round her waist.

Meanwhile, whence comes it that among
These youthful maidens fresh and fair,
So joyous with such laughing air,
Baptiste stands sighing, with silent tongue ?

And yet the bride is fair and young!
Is it Saint Joseph would say to us all,
That love, o'er-basty, precedeth a fall?

O, no! for a maiden frail, I trow,

Never bore so lofty a brow!
What lovers! they give not a single caress!
To see them so careless and cold to-day,

These are grand people, one would say.
What ails Baptiste ? what grief doth him oppress ?

It is, that, half way up the hill,
In yon cottage, by whose walls
Stand the cart-house and the stalls,
Dwelleth the blind orphan still,
Daughter of a veteran old;
And you must know, one year ago,
That Margaret, the young and tender,
Was the village pride and splendor,
And Baptiste her lover bold.
Love, the deceiver, them ensnared;
For them the altar was prepared;
But alas! the summer's blight,
The dread disease that none can stay,

The pestilence that walks by night,

Took the young bride's sight away.
All at the father's stern command was changed;
Their peace was gone, but not their love estranged.
Wearied at home, ere long the lover fled;

Returned but three short days ago,
The golden chain they round him throw,
He is enticed, and onward led
To marry Angela, and yet
Is thinking ever of Margaret.
Then suddenly a maiden cried,

“Anna, Theresa, Mary, Kate ! Here comes the cripple Jane!” And by a fountain's side

A woman, bent and gray with years,
Under the mulberry-trees appears,
And all towards her run, as fleet
As had they wings upon their feet.
It is that Jane, the cripple Jane,
Is a soothsayer, wary and kind.
She telleth fortunes, and none complain;
She never deceives, she never errs.
But for this once the village seer

Wears a countenance severe,
And from beneath her eyebrows thin and white

Her two eyes flash like cannons bright
Aimed at the bridegroom in waistcoat blue,
Who, like a statue, stands in view;
Changing color, as well he might,
When the beldame wrinkled and gray
Takes the young bride by the hand,
And, with the tip of her reedy wand,
Making the sign of the cross, doth say:-
“Thoughtless Angela, beware!
Lest, when thou weddest this false bridegroom,

Thou diggest for thyself a tomb !"
And she was silent; and the maidens fair
Saw from each eye escape a swollen tear;
But on a little streamlet silver-clear,

What are two drops of turbid rain ?
Saddened a moment, the bridal train

Resumed the dance and song again;
The bridegroom only was pale with fear;

And down green alleys
Of verdurous valleys,
With merry sallies,

They sang the refrain :-
“The roads should blossom, the roads should bloom.
So fair a bride shall leave her home!
Should blossom and bloom with garlands gay,
So fair a bride shall pass to-day!”

[Margaret, the Blind Girl, learns that Baptiste is to be married to Angela; griefstricken at the intelligence, she determines to be present at the wedding.]

Now rings the bell, nine times reverberating,
And the white daybreak, stealing up the sky,
Sees in two cottages two maidens waiting,

How differently!
Queen of a day, by flatterers caressed,

The one puts on her cross and crown,
Decks with a huge bouquet her breast,
And flaunting, fluttering up and down,
Looks at herself and cannot rest.
The other, blind, within her little room,

Has neither crown nor flowers' perfume ;
But in their stead for something gropes apart,

That in a drawer's recess doth lie,
And, 'neath her bodice of bright scarlet dye,

Convulsive clasps it to her heart.

The one, fantastic, light as air,

'Mid kisses ringing,

And joyous singing,
Forgets to say her morning prayer!

The other, with cold drops upon her brow,

Joins her two hands, and kneels upon the floor,
And whispers, as her brother opes the door,

"O God! forgive me now!"

And then the orphan, young and blind,
Conducted by her brother's hand,
Towards the church, through paths unscanned,

With tranquil air, her way doth wind.
Odors of laurel, making her faint and pale,

Round her at times exhale,
And in the sky as yet no sunny ray,

But brumal vapors gray.

Near that castle, fair to see,
Crowded with sculptures old, in every part,

Marvels of nature and of art,

And proud of its name of high degree,
A little chapel, almost bare
At the base of the rock, is builded there;
All glorious that it lifts aloof,

Above each jealous cottage roof,
Its sacred summit, swept by autumn gales,

And its blackened steeple high in air,
Round which the osprey screams and sails.

“Paul, lay thy noisy rattle by!'
Thus Margaret said. “ Where are we? we ascend !"

“Yes; seest thou not our journey's end?
Hearest not the osprey from the belfry cry?
The hideous bird, that brings ill luck, we know !
Dost thou remember when our father said,

The night we watched beside his bed,

'O daughter, I am weak and low;
Take care of Paul; I feel that I am dying!
And thou, and he, and I, all fell to crying?
Then on the roof the osprey screamed aloud;
And here they brought our father in his shroud.
There is his grave; there stands the cross we set;
Why dost thou clasp me so, dear Margaret ?

Come in the bride will be here soon:
Thou tremblest! O my God! thou art going to swoon 1"
She could no more, the blind girl, weak and weary!
A voice seemed crying from that grave so dreary,
"What wouldst thou do, my daughter?” and she started,

And quick recoiled, aghast, faint-hearted;
But Paul, impatient, urges ever more

Her steps towards the open door;
And when, beneath her feet, the unhappy maid
Crushes the laurel near the house immortal,
And with her head, as Paul talks on again,

Touches the crown of filigrane
Suspended from the low-arched portal,
No more restrained, no more afraid,

She walks, as for a feast arrayed,
And in the ancient chapel's sombre night,
They both are lost to sight.

At length the bell.
With booming sound,

Sends forth, resounding round,
Its hymeneal peal o'er rock and down the dell.

It is broad day, with sunshine and with rain;

And yet the guests delay not long,
For soon arrives the bridal traiu,
And with it brings the village throng.

In sooth, deceit maketh no mortal gay,
For lo! Baptiste on this triumphant day,
Mute as an idiot, sad as yester-morning,
Thinks only of the beldame's words of warning.
And Angela thinks of her cross, I wis ;
To be a bride is all!• •The pretty lisper
Feels her heart swell to hear all round her whisper,
“How beautifull how beautiful she is I"

But she must calm that giddy head,
For already the Mass is said;

At the holy table stands the priest;
The wedding ring is blessed; Baptiste receives it;

« PreviousContinue »