Near Hastings

Near Hastings, on the shingle-beach,
      We loitered at the time
When ripens on the wall the peach,
      The autumn’s lovely prime.
Far off, — the sea and sky seemed blent,
      The day was wholly done,
The distant town its murmurs sent,
      Strangers, — we were alone.

We wandered slow; sick, weary, faint,
      Then one of us sat down,
No nature hers to make complaint: —
      The shadows deepened brown.
A lady passed, — she was not young,
      But oh! her gentle face
No painter-poet ever sung,
      Or saw such saintlike grace.

She past us, — then she came again,
      Observing at a glance
That we were strangers; one, in pain, —
      Then asked, — Were we from France?
We talked awhile, — some roses red
      That seemed as wet with tears,
She gave my sister, and she said,
       “God bless you both, my dears!”

Sweet were the roses, — sweet and full,
      And large as lotus flowers
That in our own wide tanks we cull
      To deck our Indian bowers.
But sweeter was the love that gave
      Those flowers to one unknown,
I think that He who came to save
      The gift a debt will own.

The lady’s name I do not know,
      Her face no more may see,
But yet, oh yet I love her so!
      Blest, happy, may she be!
Her memory will not depart,
      Though grief my years should shade,
Still bloom her roses in my heart!
      And they shall never fade!

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