Alexander And Zenobia
Written: July 1st. 1837.  First Published: 1934.

Another one of Anne's Gondal poems. This is the one mentioned by Emily in the diary paper of Monday, June 26th. 1837: 'A bit past 4 o'clock, Charlotte working in Aunts room, Branwell reading Eugene Aram to her - Anne and I writing in the drawing-room - Anne a poem beginning 'fair was the evening and brightly the sun' - I Agustus Almeda's life 1st vol - 4th page from the last . . . '. From the diary date, and the completion date of the poem, it obviously took her five days to complete.

(See also: Chitham, 'The Poems of Anne Brontë', p.52 & p.166)

Fair was the evening and brightly the sun
        Was shining on desert and grove,
Sweet were the breezes and balmy the flowers
        And cloudless the heavens above.

It was Arabia's distant land
        And peaceful was the hour;
Two youthful figures lay reclined
        Deep in a shady bower.

One was a boy of just fourteen
        Bold beautiful and bright;
Soft raven curls hung clustering round
        A brow of marble white.

The fair brow and ruddy cheek
        Spoke of less burning skies;
Words cannot paint the look that beamed
        In his dark lustrous eyes.

The other was a slender girl,
        Blooming and young and fair.
The snowy neck was shaded with
        The long bright sunny hair.

And those deep eyes of watery blue,
        So sweetly sad they seemed.
And every feature in her face
        With pensive sorrow teemed.

The youth beheld her saddened air
        And smiling cheerfully
He said, 'How pleasant is the land
        Of sunny Araby!

'Zenobia, I never saw
        A lovelier eve than this;
I never felt my spirit raised
        With more unbroken bliss!

'So deep the shades, so calm the hour,
        So soft the breezes sigh,
So sweetly Philomel begins
        Her heavenly melody.

'So pleasant are the scents that rise
        From flowers of loveliest hue,
And more than all -- Zenobia,
        I am alone with you!

Are we not happy here alone
        In such a healthy spot?'
He looked to her with joyful smile
        But she returned it not.

'Why are you sorrowful?' he asked
        And heaved a bitter sigh,
'O tell me why those drops of woe
        Are gathering in your eye.'

'Gladly would I rejoice,' she said,
        'But grief weighs down my heart.
'Can I be happy when I know
        Tomorrow we must part?

'Yes, Alexander, I must see
        This happy land no more.
At break of day I must return
        To distant Gondal's shore.

'At morning we must bid farewell,
        And at the close of day
You will be wandering alone
        And I shall be away.

'I shall be sorrowing for you
        On the wide weltering sea,
And you will perhaps have wandered here
        To sit and think of me.'

'And shall we part so soon?' he cried,
        'Must we be torn away?
Shall I be left to mourn alone?
        Will you no longer stay?

'And shall we never meet again,
        Hearts that have grown together?
Must they at once be rent away
        And kept apart for ever?'

'Yes, Alexander, we must part,
        But we may meet again,
For when I left my native land
        I wept in anguish then.

'Never shall I forget the day
        I left its rocky shore.
We thought that we had bid adieu
        To meet on earth no more.

'When we had parted how I wept
        To see the mountains blue
Grow dimmer and more distant -- till
        They faded from my view.

'And you too wept -- we little thought
        After so long a time,
To meet again so suddenly
        In such a distant clime.

'We met on Grecia's classic plain,
        We part in Araby.
And let us hope to meet again
        Beneath our Gondal's sky.'

'Zenobia, do you remember
        A little lonely spring
Among Exina's woody hills
        Where blackbirds used to sing,

'And when they ceased as daylight faded
        From the dusky sky
The pensive nightingale began
        Her matchless melody?

'Sweet bluebells used to flourish there
        And tall trees waved on high,
And through their ever sounding leaves
        The soft wind used to sigh.

'At morning we have often played
        Beside that lonely well;
At evening we have lingered there
        Till dewy twilight fell.

'And when your fifteenth birthday comes,
        Remember me, my love,
And think of what I said to you
        In this sweet spicy grove.

'At evening wander to that spring
        And sit and wait for me;
And 'ere the sun has ceased to shine
        I will return to thee.

'Two years is a weary time
        But it will soon be fled.
And if you do not meet me -- know
        I am not false but dead.'

*   *   *    

Sweetly the summer day declines
        On forest, plain, and hill
And in that spacious palace hall
        So lonely, wide and still.

Beside a window's open arch,
        In the calm evening air
All lonely sits a stately girl,
        Graceful and young and fair.

The snowy lid and lashes long
        Conceal her downcast eye,
She's reading and till now I have
        Passed unnoticed by.

But see she cannot fix her thoughts,
        They are wandering away;
She looks towards a distant dell
        Where sunny waters play.

And yet her spirit is not with
        The scene she looks upon;
She muses with a mournful smile
        On pleasures that are gone.

She looks upon the book again
        That chained her thoughts before,
And for a moment strives in vain
        To fix her mind once more.

Then gently drops it on her knee
        And looks into the sky,
While trembling drops are shining in
        Her dark celestial eye.
And thus alone and still she sits
        Musing on years gone by.

Till with a sad and sudden smile
        She rises up to go;
And from the open window springs
        On to the grass below.

Why does she fly so swiftly now
        Adown the meadow green,
And o'er the gently swelling hills
        And the vale that lies between?

She passes under giant trees
        That lift their arms on high
And slowly wave their mighty boughs
        In the clear evening sky,

And now she threads a path that winds
        Through deeply shaded groves
Where nought is heard but sighing gales
        And murmuring turtle doves.

She hastens on through sunless gloom
        To a vista opening wide;
A marble fountain sparkles there
        With sweet flowers by its side.

At intervals in the velvet grass
        A few old elm trees rise,
While a warm flood of yellow light
        Streams from the western skies.

Is this her resting place? Ah, no,
        She hastens onward still,
The startled deer before her fly
        As she ascends the hill.

She does not rest till she has gained
        A lonely purling spring,
Where zephyrs wave the verdant trees
        And birds in concert sing.

And there she stands and gazes round
        With bright and searching eye,
Then sadly sighing turns away
        And looks upon the sky.

She sits down on the flowery turf
        Her head drooped on her hand;
Her soft luxuriant golden curls
        Are by the breezes fanned.

A sweet sad smile plays on her lips;
        Her heart is far away,
And thus she sits till twilight comes
        To take the place of day.

But when she looks towards the west
        And sees the sun is gone
And hears that every bird but one
        To its nightly rest is flown,

And sees that over nature's face
        A sombre veil is cast
With mournful voice and tearful eye
        She says, 'The time is past!

'He will not come! I might have known
        It was a foolish hope;
But it was so sweet to cherish
        I could not yield it up.

'It may be foolish thus to weep
        But I cannot check my tears
To see in one short hour destroyed
        The darling hope of years.

'He is not false, but he was young
        And time rolls fast away.
Has he forgotten the vow he made
        To meet me here today?

'No. If he lives he loves me still
        And still remembers me.
If he is dead -- my joys are sunk
        In utter misery.

'We parted in the spicy groves
        Beneath Arabia's sky.
How could I hope to meet him now
        Where Gondal's breezes sigh?

'He was a shining meteor light
        That faded from the skies,
But I mistook him for a star
        That only set to rise.

'And with a firm yet trembling hand
        I've clung to this false hope;
I dared not surely trust in it
        Yet would not yield it up.

'And day and night I've thought of him
        And loved him constantly,
And prayed that Heaven would prosper him
        Wherever he might be.

'He will not come; he's wandering now
        On some far distant shore,
Or else he sleeps the sleep of death
        And cannot see me more!

'O, Alexander, is it thus?
        Did we but meet to part?
Long as I live thy name will be
        Engraven on my heart.

'I shall not cease to think of thee
        While life and thought remain,
For well I know that I can never
        See thy like again!'

She ceases now and dries her tears
        But still she lingers there
In silent thought till night is come
        And silver stars appear.

But lo! a tall and stately youth
        Ascends the grassy slope;
His bright dark eyes are glancing round,
        His heart beats high with hope.

He has journyed on unweariedly
        From dawn of day till now,
The warm blood kindles in his cheek,
        The sweat is on his brow.

But he has gained the green hill top
        Where lies that lonely spring,
And lo! he pauses when he hears
        Its gentle murmuring.

He dares not enter through the trees
        That veil it from his eye;
He listens for some other sound
        In deep anxiety.

But vainly -- all is calm and still;
        Are his bright day dreams o'er?
Has he thus hoped and longed in vain,
        And must they meet no more?

One moment more of sad suspense
        And those dark trees are past;
The lonely well bursts on his sight
        And they are met at last!

Copyright © 2000 Michael Armitage

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