once how Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,
Who each one in a gracious
To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:
And, as I mused it in his antique
I saw, in gradual vision through
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy
Those of my own life, who by turns had flung
across me. Straightway I was 'ware
So weeping, how a mystic
Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward
by the hair;
And a voice said in mastery
, while I strove,-
"Guess now who holds thee!"-"Death," I said, But, there,
The silver answer rang, "Not Death, but Love."
But only three in all God's universe
Have heard this word thou hast said,-Himself, beside
Thee speaking, and me listening! and replied
One of us . . . that was God, . . . and laid the curse
So darkly on my eyelids, as to amerce
from seeing thee,-that if I had died,
The death-weights, placed there, would have signified
Less absolute exclusion
. "Nay" is worse
From God than from all others, O my friend!
Men could not part us with their worldly
Nor the seas change us, nor the tempests bend;
Our hands would touch for all the mountain-bars:
And, heaven being rolled between us at the end,
We should but vow
the faster for the stars.
Unlike are we, unlike, O princely Heart!
Unlike our uses and our destinies.
Our ministering two angels look surprise
On one another, as they strike athwart
Their wings in passing. Thou, bethink thee, art
A guest for queens to social
With gages from a hundred brighter eyes
Than tears even can make mine
, to play thy part
Of chief musician. What hast thou to do
With looking from the lattice-lights at me,
A poor, tired
, wandering singer, singing through
The dark, and leaning up a cypress tree?
The chrism is on thine head,-on mine
, the dew
And Death must dig the level
where these agree
Thou hast thy calling to some palace-floor,
singer of high poems! where
The dancers will break footing, from the care
Of watching up thy pregnant lips for more.
And dost thou lift this house's latch
For hand of thine? and canst thou think and bear
To let thy music drop
In folds of golden fulness at my door?
Look up and see the casement broken in,
The bats and owlets builders in the roof!
chirps against thy mandolin.
Hush, call no echo up in further proof
! there's a voice within
That weeps . . . as thou must sing . . . alone, aloof
I lift my heavy heart
As once Electra her sepulchral urn
And, looking in thine eyes, I over-turn
The ashes at thy feet. Behold and see
What a great heap of grief
lay hid in me,
And how the red wild sparkles dimly burn
Through the ashen
greyness. If thy foot in scorn
them out to darkness utterly
be well perhaps. But if instead
Thou wait beside me for the wind to blow
The grey dust up, . . . those laurels on thine head,
O my Belovëd, will not shield
That none of all the fires shall scorch
The hair beneath. Stand further off then! go!
Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Henceforward in thy shadow
Alone upon the threshold
of my door
life, I shall command
The uses of my soul
, nor lift my hand
Serenely in the sunshine as before,
Without the sense of that which I forbore-
Thy touch upon the palm
. The widest land
Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart
With pulses that beat double. What I do
And what I dream include
thee, as the wine
Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
And sees within my eyes the tears of two.
The face of all the world is changed, I think,
Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul
Move still, oh, still, beside me, as they stole
Betwixt me and the dreadful
death, where I, who thought
Was caught up into love, and taught the whole
Of life in a new rhythm
. The cup of dole
God gave for baptism
, I am fain
its sweetness, Sweet, with thee anear.
The names of country, heaven, are changed away
For where thou art or shalt be, there or here;
And this . . . this lute
and song . . . loved yesterday,
(The singing angels know) are only dear
Because thy name moves right
in what they say.
What can I give thee back, O liberal
And princely giver, who hast brought the gold
And purple of thine heart
, unstained, untold,
And laid them on the outside of the wall
For such as I to take or leave withal,
In unexpected largesse
? am I cold,
Ungrateful, that for these most manifold
High gifts, I render
nothing back at all?
Not so; not cold,-but very poor instead.
Ask God who knows. For frequent
tears have run
The colours from my life, and left so dead
a stuff, it were not fitly done
To give the same as pillow to thy head.
Go farther! let it serve