And what are you that, wanting you
I should be kept awake
As many nights as there are days
With weeping for your sake?
And what are you that, missing you,
As many days as crawl
I should be listening to the wind
And looking at the wall?
I know a man that’s a braver man
And twenty men as kind,
And what are you, that you should be
The one man in my mind?
Yet women’s ways are witless ways,
As any sage will tell,—
And what am I, that I should love
So wisely and so well?
Love, though for this you riddle me with darts,
And drag me at your chariot till I die,—
Oh, heavy prince! Oh, panderer of hearts!—
Yet hear me tell how in their throats they lie
Who shout you mighty: thick about my hair
Day in, day out, your ominous arrows purr
Who still am free, unto no querulous care
A fool, and in no temple worshiper!
I, that have bared me to your quiver’s fire,
Lifted my face into its puny rain,
Do wreathe you Impotent to Evoke Desire
As you are Powerless to Elicit Pain!
(Now will the god, for blasphemy so brave,
Punish me, surely, with the shaft I crave!)
I think I should have loved you presently,
And given in earnest words I flung in jest;
And lifted honest eyes for you to see,
And caught your hand against my cheek and breast;
And all my pretty follies flung aside
That won you to me, and beneath your gaze,
Naked of reticence and shorn of pride,
Spread like a chart my little wicked ways.
I, that had been to you, had you remained,
But one more waking from a recurrent dream,
Cherish no less the certain stakes I gained,
And walk your memory’s halls, austere, supreme,
A ghost in marble of a girl you knew
Who would have loved you in a day or two.
Oh, think not I am faithful to a vow!
Faithless am I save to love’s self alone.
Were you not lovely I would leave you now;
After the feet of beauty fly my own.
Were you not still my hunger’s rarest food,
And water ever to my wildest thirst,
I would desert you—think not but I would!—
And seek another as I sought you first.
But you are mobile as the veering air,
And all your charms more changeful than the tide,
Wherefore to be inconstant is no care:
I have but to continue at your side.
So wanton, light and false, my love, are you,
I am most faithless when I most am true.