by Adah Isaacs Menken
O angels! will ye never sweep the drifts from my door?
Will ye never wipe the gathering rust from the hinges?
How long must I plead and cry in vain?
Lift back the iron bars, and lead me hence.
Is there not a land of peace beyond my door?
Oh, lead me to it-give me rest-release me from this unequal strife.
Heaven can attest that I fought bravely when the heavy blows fell fast.
Was it my sin that strength failed?
Was it my sin that the battle was in vain?
Was it my sin that I lost the prize? I do not sorrow for all the bitter pain and blood it cost me.
Why do ye stand sobbing in the sunshine?
I cannot weep.
There is no sunlight in this dark cell. I am starving for light.
O angels! sweep the drifts away-unbar my door!
Oh, is this all?
Is there nothing more of life?
See how dark and cold my cell.
The pictures on the walls are covered with mould.
The earth-floor is slimy with my wasting blood.
The embers are smouldering in the ashes.
The lamp is dimly flickering, and will soon starve for oil in this horrid gloom.
My wild eyes paint shadows on the walls.
And I hear the poor ghost of my lost love moaning and sobbing without.
Shrieks of my unhappiness are borne to me on the wings of the wind.
I sit cowering in fear, with my tattered garments close around my choking throat.
I move my pale lips to pray; but my soul has lost her wonted power.
Faith is weak.
Hope has laid her whitened corse upon my bosom.
The lamp sinks lower and lower. O angels! sweep the drifts away-unbar my door!
Angels, is this my reward?
Is this the crown ye promised to set down on the foreheads of the loving-the suffering-the deserted?
Where are the sheaves I toiled for?
Where the golden grain ye promised?
These are but withered leaves.
Oh, is this all?
Meekly I have toiled and spun the fleece.
All the work ye assigned, my willing hands have accomplished.
See how thin they are, and how they bleed.
Ah me! what meagre pay, e'en when the task is over!
My fainting child, whose golden head graces e'en this dungeon, looks up to me and pleads for life.
O God! my heart is breaking!
Despair and Death have forced their skeleton forms through the grated window of my cell, and stand clamoring for their prey.
The lamp is almost burnt out.
Angels, sweep the drifts away-unbar my door!
Life is a lie, and Love a cheat.
There is a graveyard in my poor heart-dark, heaped-up graves, from which no flowers spring.
The walls are so high, that the trembling wings of birds do break ere they reach the summit, and they fall, wounded, and die in my bosom.
I wander 'mid the gray old tombs, and talk with the ghosts of my buried hopes.
They tell me of my Eros, and how they fluttered around him, bearing sweet messages of my love, until one day, with his strong arm, he struck them dead at his feet.
Since then, these poor lonely ghosts have haunted me night and day, for it was I who decked them in my crimson heart-tides, and sent them forth in chariots of fire.
Every breath of wind bears me their shrieks and groans.
I hasten to their graves, and tear back folds and folds of their shrouds, and try to pour into their cold, nerveless veins the quickening tide of life once more.
Too late-too late!
Despair hath driven back Death, and clasps me in his black arms.
And the lamp! See, the lamp is dying out!
O angels! sweep the drifts from my door!-lift up the bars!
Oh, let me sleep.
I close my weary eyes to think-to dream.
Is this what dreams are woven of?
I stand on the brink of a precipice, with my shivering child strained to my bare bosom.
A yawning chasm lies below. My trembling feet are on the brink.
I hear again his voice; but he reacheth not out his hand to save me.
Why can I not move my lips to pray?
They are cold.
My soul is dumb, too.
Death hath conquered!
I feel his icy fingers moving slowly along my heart-strings.
How cold and stiff!
The ghosts of my dead hopes are closing around me.
They stifle me.
They whisper that Eros has come back to me.
But I only see a skeleton wrapped in blood-stained cerements.
There are no lips to kiss me back to life.
O ghosts of Love, move back-give me air!
Ye smell of the dusty grave.
Ye have pressed your cold hands upon my eyes until they are eclipsed.
The lamp has burnt out.
O angels! be quick! Sweep the drifts away!-unbar my door!
Oh, light! light!
Last updated July 05, 2015