poem – a suttee

GATHER her raven hair in one rich cluster,
Let the white champac light it, as a star
Gives to the dusky night a sudden lustre,
Shining afar.

Shed fragrant oils upon her fragrant bosom,
Until the breathing air around grows sweet;
Scatter the languid jasmine’s yellow blossom
Beneath her feet.

Those small white feet are bare—too soft are they
To tread on aught but flowers; and there is roll’d
Round the slight ankle, meet for such display,
The band of gold.

Chains and bright stones are on her arms and neck;
What pleasant vanities are linked with them,
Of happy hours, which youth delights to deck
With gold and gem.

She comes! So comes the Moon, when she has found
A silvery path wherein thro’ heaven to glide.
Fling the white veil—a summer cloud—around;
She is a bride!

And yet the crowd that gather at her side
Are pale, and every gazer holds his breath.
Eyes fill with tears unbidden, for the bride—
The bride of Death!

She gives away the garland from her hair,
She gives the gems that she will wear no more;
All the affections, whose love-signs they were,
Are gone before.

The red pile blazes—let the bride ascend,
And lay her head upon her husband’s heart,
Now in a perfect unison to blend—
No more to part.

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