By looking a little further in this direction, we might suggest an

explanation of an often-suggested mystery. Why are poets so apt to

choose their mates, not for any similarity of poetic endowment, but for

qualities which might make the happiness of the rudest handicraftsman

as well as that of the ideal craftsman of the spirit? Because,

probably, at his highest elevation, the poet needs no human

intercourse; but he finds it dreary to descend, and be a stranger.

There was something very beautiful in the relation that grew up between

this pair, so closely and constantly linked together, yet with such a

waste of gloomy and mysterious years from his birthday to hers. On


Clifford's part it was the feeling of a man naturally endowed with the

liveliest sensibility to feminine influence, but who had never quaffed

the cup of passionate love, and knew that it was now too late. He knew

it, with the instinctive delicacy that had survived his intellectual

decay. Thus, his sentiment for Phoebe, without being paternal, was not

less chaste than if she had been his daughter. He was a man, it is

true, and recognized her as a woman. She was his only representative

of womankind. He took unfailing note of every charm that appertained

to her sex, and saw the ripeness of her lips, and the virginal

development of her bosom. All her little womanly ways, budding out of

her like blossoms on a young fruit-tree, had their effect on him, and

sometimes caused his very heart to tingle with the keenest thrills of

pleasure. At such moments,--for the effect was seldom more than

momentary,--the half-torpid man would be full of harmonious life, just

as a long-silent harp is full of sound, when the musician's fingers

sweep across it. But, after all, it seemed rather a perception, or a

sympathy, than a sentiment belonging to himself as an individual. He

read Phoebe as he would a sweet and simple story; he listened to her as

if she were a verse of household poetry, which God, in requital of his

bleak and dismal lot, had permitted some angel, that most pitied him,

to warble through the house. She was not an actual fact for him, but

the interpretation of all that he lacked on earth brought warmly home

to his conception; so that this mere symbol, or life-like picture, had

almost the comfort of reality.

But we strive in vain to put the idea into words. No adequate

expression of the beauty and profound pathos with which it impresses us

is attainable. This being, made only for happiness, and heretofore so

miserably failing to be happy,--his tendencies so hideously thwarted,

that, some unknown time ago, the delicate springs of his character,

never morally or intellectually strong, had given way, and he was now

imbecile,--this poor, forlorn voyager from the Islands of the Blest, in

a frail bark, on a tempestuous sea, had been flung, by the last

mountain-wave of his shipwreck, into a quiet harbor. There, as he lay

more than half lifeless on the strand, the fragrance of an earthly

rose-bud had come to his nostrils, and, as odors will, had summoned up

reminiscences or visions of all the living and breathing beauty amid

which he should have had his home. With his native susceptibility of

happy influences, he inhales the slight, ethereal rapture into his

soul, and expires!