Lewis. Ay, marriage is the life-long miracle,
The self-begetting wonder, daily fresh;
The Eden, where the spirit and the flesh
Are one again, and new-born souls walk free,
And name in mystic language all things new,
Naked, and not ashamed. [Eliz. hides her face.]
Eliz. O God! were that true!
[Clasps him round the neck.]
There, there, no more—
I love thee, and I love thee, and I love thee—
More than rich thoughts can dream, or mad lips speak;
But how, or why, whether with soul or body,
I will not know. Thou art mine.—Why question further?
[Aside] Ay if I fall by loving, I will love,
And be degraded!—how? by my own troth-plight?
No, but my thinking that I fall.—’Tis written
That whatsoe’er is not of faith is sin.—
O Jesu Lord! Hast Thou not made me thus?
Mercy! My brain will burst: I cannot leave him!
Lewis. Beloved, if I went away to war—
Eliz. O God! More wars? More partings?
Lewis. Nay, my sister—
My trust but longs to glory in its surety:
What would’st thou do?
Eliz. What I have done already.
Have I not followed thee, through drought and frost,
Through flooded swamps, rough glens, and wasted lands,
Even while I panted most with thy dear loan
Of double life?
Lewis. My saint! but what if I bid thee
To be my seneschal, and here with prayers,
With sober thrift, and noble bounty shine,
Alone and peerless? And suppose—nay, start not—
I only said suppose—the war was long,
Our camps far off, and that some winter, love,
Or two, pent back this Eden stream, where now
Joys upon joys like sunlit ripples pass,
Alike, yet ever new.—What would’st thou do, love?
Eliz. A year? A year! A cold, blank,
Strange, that mere words should chill my heart with fear—
This is no hall of doom,
No impious Soldan’s feast of old,
Where o’er the madness of the foaming gold,
A fleshless hand its woe on tainted walls enrolled.
Yet by thy wild words raised,
In Love’s most careless revel,
Looms through the future’s fog a shade of evil,
And all my heart is glazed.—
Alas! What would I do?
I would lie down and weep, and weep,
Till the salt current of my tears should sweep
My soul, like floating weed, adown a fitful sleep,
A lingering half-night through.
Then when the mocking bells did wake
My hollow eyes to twilight gray,
I would address my spiritless limbs to pray,
And nerve myself with stripes to meet the weary day,
And labour for thy sake.
Until by vigils, fasts, and tears,
The flesh was grown so spare and light,
That I could slip its mesh, and flit by night
O’er sleeping sea and land to thee—or Christ—till morning light.
Peace! Why these fears?
Life is too short for mean anxieties:
Soul! thou must work, though blindfold.
I must turn robber.—I have begged of late
So soft, I fear to ask.—Give me thy purse.