Quid Non Supremus, Amantes?
Why is there in the least touch of her hands
More grace than other women's lips bestow,
If love is but a slave in fleshly bands
Of flesh to flesh, wherever love may go?
Why choose vain grief and heavy-hearted hours
For her lost voice, and dear remembered hair,
If love may cull his honey from all flowers,
And girls grow thick as violets, everywhere?
Nay! She is gone, and all things fall apart;
Or she is cold, and vainly have we prayed;
And broken is the summer's splendid heart,
And hope within a deep, dark grave is laid.
As man aspires and falls, yet a soul springs
Out of his agony of flesh at last,
So love that flesh enthralls, shall rise on wings
Soul-centred, when the rule of flesh is past.
Then, most High Love, or wreathed with myrtle sprays,
Or crownless and forlorn, nor less a star,
Thee may I serve and follow, all my days,
Whose thorns are sweet as never roses are!
Shall one be sorrowful because of love,
Which hath no earthly crown,
Which lives and dies, unknown?
Because no words of his shall ever move
Her maiden heart to own
Him lord and destined master of her own:
Is Love so weak a thing as this,
Who can not lie awake,
Solely for his own sake,
For lack of the dear hands to hold, the lips to kiss,
A mere heart-ache?
Nay, though love's victories be great and sweet,
Nor vain and foolish toys,
His crowned, earthly joys,
Is there no comfort then in love's defeat?
Because he shall defer,
For some short span of years all part in her,
Submitting to forego
The certain peace which happier lovers know;
Because he shall be utterly disowned,
Nor length of service bring
Her least awakening:
Foiled, frustrate and alone, misunderstood, discrowned,
Is Love less King?
Grows not the world to him a fairer place,
How far soever his days
Pass from his lady's ways,
From mere encounter with her golden face?
Though all his sighing be vain,
Shall he be heavy-hearted and complain?
Is she not still a star,
Deeply to be desired, worshipped afar,
A beacon-light to aid
From bitter-sweet delights, Love's masquerade?
Though he lose many things,
Though much he miss:
The heart upon his heart, the hand that clings,
The memorable first kiss;
Love that is love at all,
Needs not an earthly coronal;
Love is himself his own exceeding great reward,
A mighty lord!
Lord over life and all the ways of breath,
Mighty and strong to save
From the devouring grave;
Yea, whose dominion doth out-tyrant death,
Thou who art life and death in one,
The night, the sun;
Who art, when all things seem:
Foiled, frustrate and forlorn, rejected of to-day
Go with me all my way,
And let me not blaspheme.