Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840-1922)

"These sonnets are excerpted from the third edition of that remarkable volume, The Love Sonnets of Proteus. They have more of the Shakespearian ring than perhaps any sonnets of our time. That "Proteus" can at times touch a very high note indeed will be understood by any one who reads the sonorous and majestic sonnet on The Sublime. Structually, they cannot be considered satisfactory." (Sharp.)

From The Love Sonnets of Proteus (1880)

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On Her Vanity

What are these things thou lovest? Vanity.
To see men turn their heads when thou dost pass;
To be the signboard and the looking glass
Where every idler there may glut his eye;
To hear men speak thy name mysteriously,
Wagging their heads. Is it for this, alas,
That thou hast made a placard of a face
On which the tears of love were hardly dry?
What are these things thou lovest? The applause
Of prostitutes at wit which is not thine;
The sympathy of shop-boys who would weep
Their shilling's worth of woe in any cause,
At any tragedy.--Their tears and mine,
What difference? Oh truly tears are cheap!

As To His Choice of Her

If I had chosen thee, thou shouldst have been
A virgin proud, untamed, immaculate,
Chaste as the morning star, a saint, a queen,
Scarred by no wars, no violence of hate.
Thou shouldst have been of soul commensurate
With thy fair body, brave and virtuous
And kind and just; and, if of poor estate,
At least an honest woman for my house.
I would have had thee come of honoured blood
And honourable nurture. Thou shouldst bear
Sons to my pride and daughters to my heart,
And men should hold thee happy, wise, and good.
Lo, thou art none of this, but only fair,
Yet must I love thee, dear, and as thou art.

To One Who Would Make a Confession

Oh! leave the Past to bury its own dead.
The Past is naught to us, the Present all.
What need of last year's leaves to strew Love's bed?
What need of ghosts to grace a festival?
I would not, if I could, those days recall,
Those days not ours. For us the feast is spread,
The lamps are lit, and music plays withal.
Then let us love and leave the rest unsaid.
This island is our home. Around it roar
Great gulfs and oceans, channels, straits, and seas.
What matter in what wreck we reached the shore,
So we both reached it? We can mock at these.
Oh! leave the Past, if Past indeed there be.
I would not know it. I would know but thee.

An Exhortation

Why do we fret at the inconstancy
Of our frail hearts, which cannot always love?
Time rushes onward, and we mortals move
Like waifs upon a river, neither free
To halt or hurry. Sweet, if destiny
Throws us together for an hour, a day,
In the backwater of this quiet bay,
Let us rejoice. Before us lies the sea,
Where we must all be lost in spite of love.
We dare not stop to question. Happiness
Lies in our hand unsought, a treasure trove.
Time has short patience of man's vain distress;
And fate grows angry at too long delay,
And floods rise fast, and we are swept away.

Vanitas Vanitatis

Lame, impotent conclusion to youth's dreams
Vast as all heaven! See, what glory lies
Entangled here in these base stratagems,
What virtue done to death! O glorious sighs,
Sublime beseechings, high cajoleries,
Fond wraths, brave raptures, all that sometime was
Our daily bread of gods beneath the skies,
How are ye ended, in what utter loss!
Time was, time is, and time is yet to come,
Till even time itself shall have an end.
These were eternal--and behold, a tomb.
Come, let us laugh and eat and drink. God send
What all the world must need one day as we,
Speedy oblivion, rest for memory.

The Pride of Unbelief

When I complained that I had lost my hope
Of life eternal with eternal God;
When I refused to read my horoscope
In the unchanging stars, or claim abode
With powers and dominations--but, poor clod,
Clung to the earth and grovelled in my tears,
Because I soon must lie beneath the sod
And close the little number of my years,--
Then I was told that pride had barred the way,
And raised this foul rebellion! I, but yesterday,
Was God's own son in His own likeness bred.
And thrice strange pride! who thus am cast away
And go forth lost and disinherited.

On the Shortness of Time

If I could live without the thought of death,
Forgetful of Time's waste, the soul's decay,
I would not ask for other joy than breath,
With light and sound of birds and the sun's ray.
I could sit on untroubled day by day
Watching the grass grow, and the wild flowers range
From blue to yellow and from red to grey
In natural sequence as the seasons change.
I could afford to wait, but for the hurt
Of this dull tick of time which chides my ear.
But now I dare not sit with loins ungirt
And staff unlifted, for death stands too near.
I must be up and doing--ay, each minute.
The grave gives time for rest when we are in it.

The Sublime

To stand upon a windy pinnacle,
Beneath the infinite blue of the blue noon,
And underfoot a valley terrible
As that dim gulf, where sense and being swoon
When the soul parts; a giant valley strewn
With giant rocks; asleep, and vast, and still,
And far away. The torrent, which has hewn
His pathway through the entrails of the hill,
Now crawls along the bottom and anon
Lifts up his voice, a muffled tremulous roar,
Borne on the wind an instant, and then gone
Back to the caverns of the middle air;
A voice as of a nation overthrown
With beat of drums, when hosts have marched to war.

(Text of last five sonnets from Sonnets of This Century.)