V. SPONSA DEI.
What is this Maiden fair,
The laughing of whose eye
Is in man’s heart renew’d virginity;
Who yet sick longing breeds
For marriage which exceeds
The inventive guess of Love to satisfy
With hope of utter binding, and of loosing endless dear despair?
What gleams about her shine,
More transient than delight and more divine!
If she does something but a little sweet,
As gaze towards the glass to set her hair,
See how his soul falls humbled at her feet!
Her gentle step, to go or come,
Gains her more merit than a martyrdom;
And, if she dance, it doth such grace confer
As opes the heaven of heavens to more than her,
And makes a rival of her worshipper.
To die unknown for her were little cost!
So is she without guile,
Her mere refused smile
Makes up the sum of that which may be lost!
Who is this Fair
Whom each hath seen,
The darkest once in this bewailed dell,
Be he not destin’d for the glooms of hell?
Whom each hath seen
And known, with sharp remorse and sweet, as Queen
And tear-glad Mistress of his hopes of bliss,
Too fair for man to kiss?
Who is this only happy She,
Whom, by a frantic flight of courtesy,
Born of despair
Of better lodging for his Spirit fair,
He adores as Margaret, Maude, or Cecily?
And what this sigh,
That each one heaves for Earth’s last lowlihead
And the Heaven high
Ineffably lock’d in dateless bridal-bed?
Are all, then, mad, or is it prophecy?
‘Sons now we are of God,’ as we have heard,
‘But what we shall be hath not yet appear’d.’
O, Heart, remember thee,
That Man is none,
What if this Lady be thy Soul, and He
Who claims to enjoy her sacred beauty be,
Not thou, but God; and thy sick fire
A female vanity,
Such as a Bride, viewing her mirror’d charms,
Feels when she sighs, ‘All these are for his arms!’
A reflex heat
Flash’d on thy cheek from His immense desire,
Which waits to crown, beyond thy brain’s conceit,
Thy nameless, secret, hopeless longing sweet,
Not by-and-by, but now,
Unless deny Him thou!
The ‘Infinite.’ Word horrible!
With life, and the braced mood
Of power and joy and love;
Forbidden, by wise heathen ev’n, to be
Spoken of Deity,
Whose Name, on popular altars, was ‘The Unknown,’
Because, or ere It was reveal’d as One
Confined in Three,
The people fear’d that it might prove
The blazon which the devils desired to gain;
And God, for their confusion, laugh’d consent;
Yet did so far relent,
That they might seek relief, and not in vain,
In dashing of themselves against the shores of pain.
Nor bides alone in hell
The bond-disdaining spirit boiling to rebel.
But for compulsion of strong grace,