I talk of sin in the usual fashion,
But God knows what is a sin to me—
We love more fiercely or love more faintly—
But I doubt if it matters how these things be.
The best and the worst of us all sink under—
What I held passion and thou held’st lust—
What name will it find in a few more seasons,
When we both dissolve in an equal dust?
If a God there be, and a God seems needed
To make the beauty of things like thee,
He doubtless also, some careless moment,
Mixed the forces that fashioned me.
Also He, for His own good reason—
Though I care little how these things are—
Gave me thee, in those few brief midnights,
And that one solace He never can mar.
Ah me, the stars of such varying heavens
Have watched me, under such alien skies,
Lay thy beauty naked before me
To soothe and solace my world-worn eyes.
For one good gift to me has been given—
A memory accurate, clear and keen,
That holds the vision, perfect for ever
In charm and glory, of things once seen.
So I hold thee there, and my fancy wanders
To each known beauty and blue-veined place,
I know how each separate eyelash trembles,
And every shadow that sweeps thy face.
And this is a joy of which none can rob me,
This is a pleasure that none can mar—
As sweet as thou wert, in that long past midnight,
Even as lovely my memories are.
Ah, unforgotten and only lover,
If ever I drift across thy thought,
As even a vision unloved, unlovely,
May cross the fancy, uncalled, unsought,
When the years that pass thee have shown, in passing,
That my love, in its strength at least, was rare—
Wilt thou not think—ah, hope of the hopeless—
E’en as thou wouldst not, thou wilt not—care!
Who says I wrong thee, my half-opened rose?
Little he knows of thee or me, or love.—
I am so tender of thy fragile youth,
Yea, in my hours of wildest ecstasy,
Keeping close-bitted each careering sense.
Only I give mine eyes unmeasured law
To feed them where they will, and their delight
Was curbed at first, until thy tender shame
Died in the bearing of thy first born joy.
I am not cruel, my half-opened rose,
Though in the sunshine of my own desire
I have uncurled thy petals to the light
And fed the tendrils of thy dawning sense
With delicate caresses, till they leave
Thee tremulous with the newness of thy joy,
Sharing thy lover’s fire with innocent flame.
Others will wrong thee, that I well foresee,
Being a man, knowing my fellow men,
And they who, knowing, would blame my love of thee
Contentedly will see thy beauty given,
When the world judges thou art ripe to wed,—
To the rough rites of marriage, to the pain
And grievous weariness of child-getting,—
This shall be right and licit in their eyes—
But it would break my heart, were I alive.