WE clutch our joys as children do their flowers;
We look at them, but scarce believe them ours,
Till our hot palms have smirched their colors rare
And crushed their dewy beauty unaware.
But the wise Gardener, whose they were, comes by
At hours when we expect not, and with eye
Mournful yet sweet, compassionate though stern,
Then in a moment we discern
By loss, what was possession, and, half-wild
With misery, cry out like angry child:
'O cruel! thus to snatch my posy fine!'
He answers tenderly, 'Not thine, but mine,'
And points to those stained fingers which do prove
Our fatal cherishing, our dangerous love;
At which we, chidden, a pale silence keep;
Yet evermore must weep, and weep, and weep.
So on through gloomy ways and thorny brakes,
Quiet and slow, our shrinking feet he takes
Let by the soilèd hand, which, laved in tears,
More and more clean beneath his sight appears.
At length the heavy eyes with patience shine--
'I am content. Thou took'st but what was thine.'
And then he us his beauteous garden shows,
Where bountiful the Rose of Sharon grows:'
Where in the breezes opening spice-buds swell,
And the pomegranates yield a pleasant smell:
While to and fro peace-sandalled angels move
In the pure air that they--not we--call Love:
An air so rare and fine, our grosser breath
Cannot inhale till purified by death.
And thus we, struck with longing joy, adore,
And, satisfied, wait mute without the door,
Until the gracious Gardener maketh sign,
'Enter in peace. All this is mine--and thine.'
'Emelie, that fayrer was to seene
Than is the lilye on hys stalke grene.....
Uprose the sun and uprose Emelie.'
DOST thou thus love me, O thou beautiful?
So beautiful, that by thy side I seem
Like a great ducky cloud beside a star:
Yet thou creep'st o'er its edges, and it rests
On its lone path, the slow deep-hearted cloud--
Then opes a rift and lets thee enter in;
And with thy beauty shining on its breast,
Feels no more its own blackness--thou art fair.
Dost thou thus love me, O thou all beloved,
In whose large store the very meanest coin
Would out-buy my whole wealth? Yet here thou comest
Like a kind heiress from her purple and down
Uprising, who for pity cannot sleep,
But goes forth to the stranger at her gate--
The beggared stranger at her beauteous gate--
And clothes and feeds; scarce blest till she has blest.
Dost thou thus love me, O thou pure of heart,
Whose very looks are prayers? What couldst thou see
In this forsaken pool by the yew-wood's side,
To sit down at its bank, and dip thy hand,
Saying, 'it is so clear!'--And lo, erelong
Its blackness caught the shimmer of they wings,
Its slimes slid downward from thy stainless palm,
Its depths grew still that there thy form might rise.
O beautiful! O well-beloved! O rich
In all that makes my need! I lay me down
I' the shadow of thy love, and feel no pain.
The cloud floats on, thee glittering on its breast,
The beggar wears thy purple as his own:
The noisome waves, made calm, creep to thy feet
Rejoicing that they yet can image thee,
And beyond thee, God's heaven, thick-sown with stars.
To A Beautiful Woman
SURELY, dame Nature made you in some dream
Of old-world women--Chriemhild, or bright
Aslauga, or Boadicea fierce and fair,
Or Berengaria as she rose, her lips
Yet ruddy from the poison that anoints
Her memory still, the queen of queenly wives.
I marvel, who will crown you wife, you grand
And goodly creature! who will mount supreme
The empty chariot of your maiden heart,
Curb the strong will that leaps and foams and chafes
Still masterless, and guide you safely home
Unto the golden gate, where quiet sits
Grave Matronhood, with gracious, loving eyes.
What eyes you have, you wild gazelle o' the plain,
You fierce hind of the forest! now they flash,
Now glow, now in their own dark down-dropt shade
Conceal themselves a moment, as some thought,
Too brief to be a feeling, flits across
The April cloudland of your careless soul--
There--that light laugh--and 't is full sun--full day.
Would I could paint you, line by line, ere Time
Touches the gorgeous picture! your ripe mouth,
Your white arched throat, your stature like to Saul's
Among his brethren, yet so fitly framed
In such harmonious symmetry, we say
As of a cedar among common trees
Never 'How tall!' but only 'O how fair!'
Who made you fair? moulded you in the shape
That poets dream of; sent you forth to men
His caligraph inscribed on every curve
Of your brave form?
Is it written on your soul?
--I know not.
Woman, upon whom is laid
Heaven's own sign-manual, Beauty, mock heaven not!
Reverence thy loveliness--the outward type
Of things we understand not, nor behold
But as in a glass, darkly; wear it thou
With awful gladness, grave humility,
That not contemns, nor boasts, nor is ashamed,
But lifts its face up prayerfully to heaven,--
'Thou who hast made me, make me worthy Thee!'
A Dream Of Resurrection
SO heavenly beautiful it lay,
It was less like a human corse
Than that fair shape in which perforce
A lost hope clothes itself alway.
The dream showed very plain: the bed
Where that known unknown face reposed,--
A woman's face with eyelids closed,
A something precious that was dead;
A something, lost on this side life,
By which the mourner came and stood,
And laid down, ne'er to be indued,
All flaunting robes of earthly strife;
Shred off, like votive locks of hair,
Youth's ornaments of pride and strength,
And cast them in their golden length
The silence of that bier to share.
No tears fell,--but with gazings long
Lorn memory tried to print that face
On the heart's ever-vacant place,
With a sun-finger, sharp and strong.--
Then kisses, dropping without sound,
And solemn arms wound round the dead,
And lifting from the natural bed
Into the coffin's strange new bound.
Yet still no farewell, or belief
In death, no more than one believes
In some dread truth that sudden weaves
The whole world in a shroud of grief.
And still unanswered kisses; still
Warm clingings to the image cold
With an incredulous faith's close fold,
Creative in its fierce 'I will.'
Hush,--hush! the marble eyelids move,
The kissed lips quiver into breath:
Avaunt, thou mockery of Death!
Avaunt!--we are conquerors, I and Love.
Corpse of dead Hope, awake, arise,
A living Hope that only slept
Until the tears thus overwept
Had washed the blindness from our eyes.
Come back into the upper day:
Pluck off these cerements. Patient shroud,
We'll wrap thee as a garment proud
Round the fair shape we thought was clay.
Clasp, arms; cling, soul; eyes, drink anew
The beauty that returns with breath:
Faith, that out-loved this trance-like death,
May see this resurrection too.