O stern impassive River!
O still unanswering River!
The shivering willows quiver
As the night-winds moan and rave.
From the past a voice is calling,
From heaven a star is falling,
And dew swells in the bluebells
Above her hillside grave.
In the whole wide world there was but one,
Others for others, but she was mine,
The one fair woman beneath the sun.
From her gold-flax curls’ most marvellous shine
Down to the lithe and delicate feet
There was not a curve nor a waving line
But moved in a harmony firm and sweet
With all of passion my life could know.
By knowledge perfect and faith complete
I was bound to her,—as the planets go
Adoring around their central star,
Free, but united for weal or woe.
She was so near and Heaven so far—
She grew my heaven and law and fate
Rounding my life with a mystic bar
No thought beyond could violate.
Our love to fulness in silence nursed
Grew calm as morning, when through the gate
Of the glimmering East the sun has burst,
With his hot life filling the waiting air.
She kissed me once,—that last and first
Of her maiden kisses was placid as prayer.
Against all comers I sat with lance
In rest, and, drunk with my joy, I sware
Defiance and scorn to the world’s worst chance.
In vain! for soon unhorsed I lay
At the feet of the strong god Circumstance—
And never again shall break the day,
And never again shall fall the night
That shall light me, or shield me, on my way
To the presence of my sad soul’s delight.
Her dead love comes like a passionate ghost
To mourn the Body it held so light,
And Fate, like a hound with a purpose lost,
Goes round bewildered with shame and fright.
Through the long days and years
What will my loved one be,
Parted from me?
Through the long days and years.
Always as then she was
Loveliest, brightest, best,
Blessing and blest,—
Always as then she was.
Never on earth again
Shall I before her stand,
Touch lip or hand,—
Never on earth again.
But while my darling lives
Peaceful I journey on,
Not quite alone,
Not while my darling lives.
Wise men I hold those rakes of old
Who, as we read in antique story,
When lyres were struck and wine was poured,
Set the white Death’s Head on the board—
Love well! love truly! and love fast!
True love evades the dilatory.
Life’s bloom flares like a meteor past;
A joy so dazzling cannot last—
Stop not to pluck the leaves of bay
That greenly deck the path of glory,
The wreath will wither if you stay,
So pass along your earnest way—