How many many brows of happy lovers
The fragrant lips of night even now are kissing!
Some wandering hand in hand through arched lanes;
Some listening for loved voices at the lattice;
Some steeped in dainty dreams of untried bliss;
Some nestling soft and deep in well-known arms,
Whose touch makes sleep rich life. The very birds
Within their nests are wooing! So much love!
All seek their mates, or finding, rest in peace;
The earth seems one vast bride-bed. Doth God tempt us?
Is’t all a veil to blind our eyes from him?
A fire-fly at the candle. ’Tis love leads him;
Love’s light, and light is love: O Eden! Eden!
Eve was a virgin there, they say; God knows.
Must all this be as it had never been?
Is it all a fleeting type of higher love?
Why, if the lesson’s pure, is not the teacher
Pure also? Is it my shame to feel no shame?
Am I more clean, the more I scent uncleanness?
Shall base emotions picture Christ’s embrace?
Rest, rest, torn heart! Yet where? in earth or heaven?
Still, from out the bright abysses, gleams our Lady’s silver
Still the light-world sleeps beyond her, though the night-clouds
Oh that I were walking, far above, upon that dappled pavement,
Heaven’s floor, which is the ceiling of the dungeon where we lie.
Ah, what blessed Saints might meet me, on that platform, sliding
Past us in its airy travels, angel-wafted, mystical!
They perhaps might tell me all things, opening up the secret
Which now struggle, dark and turbid, through their dreary prison
Love! art thou an earth-born streamlet, that thou seek’st the lowest
Sure some vapours float up from thee, mingling with the highest
Spirit-love in spirit-bodies, melted into one existence—
Joining praises through the ages—Is it all a minstrel’s dream?
Alas! he wakes. [Lewis rises.]
Lewis. Ah! faithless beauty,
Is this your promise, that whene’er you prayed
I should be still the partner of your vigils,
And learn from you to pray? Last night I lay dissembling
When she who woke you, took my feet for yours:
Now I shall seize my lawful prize perforce.
Alas! what’s this? These shoulders’ cushioned ice,
And thin soft flanks, with purple lashes all,
And weeping furrows traced! Ah! precious life-blood!
Who has done this?
Eliz. Forgive! ’twas I—my maidens—
Lewis. O ruthless hags!
Eliz. Not so, not so—They wept
When I did bid them, as I bid thee now
To think of nought but love.
Speak! I will know the meaning of this madness!
Eliz. Beloved, thou hast heard how godly souls,
In every age, have tamed the rebel flesh
By such sharp lessons. I must tread their paths,
If I would climb the mountains where they rest.
Grief is the gate of bliss—why wedlock—knighthood—
A mother’s joy—a hard-earned field of glory—
By tribulation come—so doth God’s kingdom.