Isabelle and I

by Marietta Holley

Marietta Holley

Isabelle has gold, and lands,
Fate gave her a fair lot;
Like the white lilies of the field
Her soft hands toil not.
I gaze upon her splendor
Without an envious sigh;
I have no wealth in lands and gold,
And yet sweet peace have I.

I know the blue sky smiles as bright
On the low field violet,
As on the proud crest of the pine
On loftiest mountain set.
I am content — God loveth all,
And if He tenderly
The sparrow guides, He knoweth best
The place where I should be.

Her violet velvet curtains trail
Down to the floor,
But brightly God's rich sunshine streams
Into my cottage door;
And not a picture on her walls,
Hath beauty unto me,
Like that which from my window frame
I daily lean to see.

She has known such pomp, she careth not,
For any humble sight;
Flowers bending o'er the brook's green edge,
To her give no delight;
She tends her costly eastern bird
With gold upon its wing;
But her wild roses bloom for me,
For me her wild birds sing.

She tires of home, and fain would see
The brightest clime of earth,
And so she sails for summer lands
With friends to share her mirth;
She waves her jewelled hand to me
The opal spray-clouds fly;
She leaves me with the fading shore —
Do I envy her? not I.

She will see the sailor's hardened palms
Curbing the toiling sails,
She will faint beneath the tropic calms
And face the angry gales.
She will labor for her happiness
While I've no need to speak,
But on a lotus leaf I float,
Unto the land they seek.

There, like a dream from out the wave,
I see a city rise,
I stand entranced, as by a spell,
Upon the Bridge of Sighs.
The low and measured dip of oars
Falls softly on my ear
Blent with the tender evening song,
Of some swart gondolier.

And down from marble terraces
Veiled ladies slowly pass,
And, entering antique barges,
Glide down the streets of glass;
And eyes filled with the dew and fire
Of their own midnight sky,
Gleam full on me, as silently
The gondolas float by.

The sunset burns, and turns the wave
To an enchanted stream,
And far up on the shadowy steeps
The white walled convents gleam,
The music of their bells float out —
The sweet wind bears it by,
Adown the warm and sunny slopes,
Where purple vineyards lie.

And I stand in old cathedrals,
By tombs of buried kings,
White angels bend above them —
Mute guard with folded wings.
Far down the aisle the organ peals,
The priests are knelt in prayer
And memories flood its ancient walls,
As the music fills the air.

I may not see that blessed land,
But she roams o'er the sod
The Lord's pure eyes have hallowed,
Where once His feet have trod.
Yet He in mercy has drawn near,
He has me comforted —
So near He seemed I almost felt
His hand upon my head.

And I with slow and reverent steps
Through ancient cities roam,
Treading o'er crumbling columns,
The dust of spire and dome;
The tall and shattered arches
Their flickering shadows cast,
Like bent and hoary spectres,
Low murmuring of the past.

And Isabelle toils o'er the Alps,
Through fields of ice and snow,
To see the lofty glaciers
Flash in the sun's red glow.

I feel no cold, and yet on high
Their shining spires I see.
Why should I envy Isabelle?
Why should she pity me?

Why should I envy Isabelle
When thus so easily,
Upon a tropic flower's perfume
I float across the sea?

Last updated October 26, 2022