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Anna Jane Vardill

The Minute Bell

    Toll for an hour!
 Life needs no longer knell!
One little hour’s brief history
Told o’er and o’er, is all we see
In manhood’s best and brightest scene,
And all that yet has ever been—
In less than one brief minute’s space
All precious things that nature grace,
And all that can with beauty live,
Or wisdom teach, or greatness give,
 Have perish’d like the sounds that tell
 “’Tis nothing that we lov’d so well!”

    Toll but one hour!
 O, it were well for failing life,
Could one sad hour decide its strife,
If this frail frame of earth would pass
As sands sink thro’ the brittle glass!
Then Love, that wastes its vain excess,
And loves its own fond uselessness,
Might spare the ling’ring, doubting care,
That shrinking meets the dull eye’s glare,
And asks, yet shuns, what passes there:—
Or leaning on the hopeless bed,
Lifts to its breast the sinking head,
 Till the last start and sob reveal.
 The icy change it dare not feel.

    Toll for an hour!
 Love has no longer date!—
Poor mortal! Gratitude’s frail flow’r
Scarce blooms to grace one little hour—
All that thy rich heart’s bounty gave
To grasping Av’rice, could not save
Thy spirit from a ling’ring grave—
A burial among hearts of stone,
That heid thee desolate and lone:—
 Thy bounty spent its balm to sate
 An envious few, and one ingrate.

    Toll not an hour!
The hearts of brothers change to ice,
Touch’d by the wizard Avarice;
And sons have ceased to bless the link
That held them back from ruin’s brink:
And daughters’ eyes have gladly scann’d
The dew that chill’d the kindest hand
Yet there was one that o’er thee bent,
To see thy life’s last ember spent—
One friend, whose long and warm caress
Thy hand, tho’ lifeless, strove to press—
One that for tedious minutes gazed
On eyes by dim remembrance glazed,
And waited for the last long look,
That told when parting life forsook
The bounteous heart and gracious eye,
That glow’d with man’s divinity.

And was there but that lonely one
That would not thy damp death-bed shun?
But one of all thy rich youth’s pride
Then left to linger by thy side
One comfort only found among
The tinsel pomp, and abject throng,
That hover’d round thy couch so long?
Now they are gone—the gaudy crowd
Has vanish’d like a sun-set cloud;
And all that Glory has to tell,
Is, but the echo of that bell
    Told in an hour!


The European Magazine, Vol. 75, June 1819, p. 545