George Barlow, “Sophia Perovskaia” (1895)

SOPHIA PEROVSKAIA.

Blue-eyed, fair-haired, a girl in outward seeming,
With lips, men held, that only cared to sing,
When thy foot passed along the meadows dreaming
Soft dreams and tender of the gold-haired Spring—

When other maidens dreamed with longing wonder
Of love, thou crowned with Spring’s most loving light
Beneath blue skies wast dreaming of the thunder,
Beneath the morn wast dreaming of the night .

High-born, thou didst forsake the lordly places;
Thy young heart thrilled at Freedom’s trumpet-call:
Thou wanderedst forth, a light for poor men’s faces;
Love, wealth, repose,—thou didst surrender all.

And has not yet from our free isle resounded
One song, one hymn of passionate love for thee,
Who, when the tyrant’s red-stained deeds abounded,
Didst say, “One soul in Russia still is free”?

When thou didst strike, were all our singers staggered
At thy vast force of soul that none could say,
“A strong god at a touch turned pale and haggard,
A Czar before a girl’s stroke passed away “?

I would not die without one true word spoken
Whereby, if but for one short moment’s space,
The English chill grim silence may be broken:
I love, who never looked upon thy face.

Singing, I hail thee from a land that never
For all its errors, countless though they are,
Stooped to endure, nor will it stoop for ever
To endure, the smile or sceptre of a Czar.

The message of our English ringing fountains,
The message of the fells, to thee I bear:
For thee speaks once again from cloud-crowned mountains
The voice at which world-tyrannies despair.

The greeting of our English oaks and willows,
The greeting of our flowers, I send to thee;
The royal love-song of our kingless billows,
And our sun’s song, wherewith he loves our sea:

The solemn kiss of England’s pure-souled daughters
That should have been, that one day will be, thine;
The song of stars that gleam o’er English waters;
The song that makes the enchanted night divine:

The song of English cliff and gold-flowered hollow;
The chant of poet-souls as yet unborn,
Whose stronger footsteps on my step shall follow;
The love-song of the winds that woo the morn:

All these are thine for ever.—When Love hearkened
With listening heart and tearful eyes to thee,
Thou then didst choose the loveless road that darkened;
Beloved by Time, didst choose Eternity.

Behind, a thousand flowers of varied pleasure;
In front, the scentless air, the starless gloom!
A life that might yield joy in sumptuous measure,
Glad rainbow-hopes, behind. In front, the tomb!

Yet thou didst choose the tomb. With stern lips firmer
Than hers by whom foul Marat’s fate was planned
Thou chosest death. Thou diedst without a murmur,
Thy white hand locked in Charlotte Corday’s hand.


George Barlow, From Dawn to Sunset (London: Roxburghe Press, 1895): 190-191.

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