My lord was pale with inward strife,
And Nell was pale with pride;
My lord gazed long on pale Maude Clare
Or ever he kissed the bride.
’Lo, I have brought my gift, my lord,
Have brought my gift,’ she said:
’To bless the hearth, to bless the board,
To bless the marriage-bed. 20
’Here’s my half of the golden chain
You wore about your neck,
That day we waded ankle-deep
For lilies in the beck:
’Here’s my half of the faded leaves
We plucked from budding bough,
With feet amongst the lily leaves,—
The lilies are budding now.’
He strove to match her scorn with scorn,
He faltered in his place: 30
‘Lady,’ he said,—’Maude Clare,’ he said,—
’Maude Clare:’—and hid his face.
She turn’d to Nell: ’My Lady Nell,
I have a gift for you;
Though, were it fruit, the bloom were gone,
Or, were it flowers, the dew.
’Take my share of a fickle heart,
Mine of a paltry love:
Take it or leave it as you will,
I wash my hands thereof.’ 40
‘And what you leave,’ said Nell, ’I’ll
And what you spurn, I’ll wear;
For he’s my lord for better and worse,
And him I love, Maude Clare.
’Yea, though you’re taller by the head,
More wise, and much more fair;
I’ll love him till he loves me best,
Me best of all, Maude Clare.’
Come to me in the silence of the night;
Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
As sunlight on a stream;
Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.
Oh dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,
Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brimfull of love abide and meet;
Where thirsting longing eyes 10
Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.
Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
My very life again though cold in death:
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
Speak low, lean low,
As long ago, my love, how long ago!
I tell my secret? No indeed, not I:
Perhaps some day, who knows?
But not to-day; it froze, and blows, and snows,
And you’re too curious: fie!
You want to hear it? well:
Only, my secret’s mine, and I won’t tell.