If chance some pensive stranger, hither led,
His bosom glowing from majestic views,
The gorgeous dome or the proud landscape's hues,
Should ask who sleeps beneath this lowly bed—
'Tis poor MATILDA. To the cloister'd scene
A mourner, beauteous and unknown, she came,
To shed her tears unseen; and quench the flame
Of fruitless love: yet was her look serene
As the pale moon-light in the midnight isle;—
Her voice was soft, which yet a charm could lend,
Like that which spoke of a departed friend,
And a meek sadness sat upon her smile!—
Ah! be the spot by passing pity blest
Where, hush’d to long repose, the wretched rest.
Poor old Matilda. We're still in Germany, or at least northern Europe (we know this because 'Matilda' is, for eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century English writers, coded 'Germanic' and 'Gothic'). The irony, as in many other instances of this kind of scenario, is that M.'s removal from the world of erotic love only makes her more beautifully desirable: her look serene, her voice charming, beautiful and meekly sad. Phwoar! These lines
....yet was her look serene
As the pale moon-light in the midnight isle;
interest me. Is that an 'isle' as in island? (Like the moonlit islands of Arnold's 1853 'To Marguerite—Continued') Or is it Bowlesian spelling of 'aisle', and the image is of a church at midnight? Either would work, I suppose; and both are appropriately Gothic. The original version of the poem had a completely different final couplet:
Now, far removed from every earthly ill,
Her woes are buried, and her heart is still.
This is bland, but perhaps better than the revision, where 'wretched' is used as a noun, but can hardly fail to strike the reader as an adjective, whereupon the final word comes unexpectedly, as when you're climbing the stairs and have come to the top but think there is another step to take, and bring your foot down with a startling thud.
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