Read CHAPTER XXII of Raphael Pages Of The Book Of Life At Twenty, free online book, by Alphonse de Lamartine, on

My resigned tone seemed to delight her, and to redouble the confiding charm of her manner. Night had spread over all, the stars glassed themselves in the lake, and the silence of Nature lulled the earth to rest. The winds, the trees and waves were hushed, to let us listen to all the fugitive impressions of feeling and of thought that whisper in the hearts of the happy. The boatmen sang snatches of their drawling and monotonous chants, which seem like the noted modulations of the waves on the shore. I was reminded of her voice, which seemed ever to sound in my ear, and I exclaimed, “Oh, that you would mark this enchanting night for me, by some sweet tones addressed to these winds and waves, so that they may be forever full of you!” I made a sign to the boatmen to be silent, and to stifle the sound of their oars, from which the drops came trickling back into the lake like a musical accompaniment of silvery notes. She sang a Scotch ballad, half naval and half pastoral, in which a young girl, whose sailor lover has left her to seek wealth beyond the seas, relates how her parents, wearied of waiting his return, had induced her to marry an old man, with whom she might have been happy, but for the remembrance of her early love. The ballad begins thus:

“When the sheep are in the fauld and the ky at hame,
And a’ the weary warld to rest are gane,
The waes of my heart fa’ in showers frae my e’e,
While my gude-man lies sound by me.”

After each verse there is a long revery, sung in vague notes, without words, which lulls the heart with unspeakable melancholy, and brings tears into the eyes and voice. Each succeeding verse takes up the story in the dull and distant tone of memory, weeping, regretting, yet resigned. If the Greek strophes of Sappho are the very fire of love, these Scotch notes are the very life’s blood and tears of a heart stricken to death by Fate. I know not who wrote the music, but whoever he may be, thanks be to him for having found in a few notes, and in the mournful melody of a voice, the expression of infinite human sadness. I have never since then heard the first measures of that air without flying from it as one pursued by a spirit; and when I wish to soften my heart by a tear, I sing within myself the plaintive burden of that song, and feel ready to weep, I, who never weep!