“I flash back phantoms of the night
That sometimes flit by me,
I echo roses red and white —
The loveliest blooms that be —
But now I never hold to sight
So sweet a flower as she.”
They parted—a pallid, trembling I pair,
And rushing down the lane
He left her lonely near me there;
—I asked her of their pain.
“It is for ever,” at length she said,
“His friends have schemed it so,
That the long-purposed day to wed
Never shall we two know.”
“In such a cruel case,” said I,
“Love will contrive a course?”
“—Well, no . . . A thing may underlie,
Which robs that of its force;
“A thing I could not tell him of,
Though all the year I have tried;
This: never could I have given him love,
Even had I been his bride.
“So, when his kinsfolk stop the way
Point-blank, there could not be
A happening in the world to-day
More opportune for me!
“Yet hear—no doubt to your surprise
I am sorry, for his sake,
That I have escaped the sacrifice
I was prepared to make!”
’Twas to greet the new rector I called I here,
But in the arm-chair I see
My old friend, for long years installed here,
Who palely nods to me.
The new man explains what he’s planning
In a smart and cheerful tone,
And I listen, the while that I’m scanning
The figure behind his own.
The newcomer urges things on me;
I return a vague smile thereto,
The olden face gazing upon me
Just as it used to do!
And on leaving I scarcely remember
Which neighbour to-day I have seen,
The one carried out in September,
Or him who but entered yestreen.
“[Greek text which cannot be reproduced]”
“A woman for whom great gods might strive!”
I said, and kissed her there:
And then I thought of the other five,
And of how charms outwear.
I thought of the first with her eating eyes,
And I thought of the second with hers, green-gray,
And I thought of the third, experienced, wise,
And I thought of the fourth who sang all day.
And I thought of the fifth, whom I’d called
And I thought of them all, tear-fraught;
And that each had shown her a passable maid,
Yet not of the favour sought.
So I traced these words on the bark of a beech,
Just at the falling of the mast:
“After scanning five; yes, each and each,
I’ve found the woman desired—at last!”
“—I feel a strange benumbing spell,
As one ill-wished!” said she.
And soon it seemed that something fell
Was starving her love for me.