picture of amy levy

Amy Levy (1861-1889)

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London Poets (In Memoriam)

They trod the streets and squares where now I tread,
With weary hearts, a little while ago;
When, thin and grey, the melancholy snow
Clung to the leafless branches overhead;
Or when the smoke-veiled sky grew stormy-red
In autumn; with a re-arisen woe
Wrestled, what time the passionate spring winds blow;
And paced scorched stones in summer:--they are dead.
The sorrow of their souls to them did seem
As real as mine to me, as permanent.
To-day, it is the shadow of a dream,
The half-forgotten breath of breezes spent.
So shall another soothe his woe supreme--
"No more he comes, who this way came and went."

The Two Terrors

Two terrors fright my soul by night and day:
The first is Life, and with her come the years ;
A weary, winding train of maidens they,
With forward-fronting eyes, too sad for tears;
Upon whose kindred faces, blank and grey,
The shadow of a kindred woe appears.
Death is the second terror; who shall say
What form beneath the shrouding mantle nears?
Which way she turn, my soul finds no relief,
My smitten soul may not be comforted ;
Alternately she swings from grief to grief,
And, poised between them, sways from dread to dread.
For there she dreads because she knows ; and here,
Because she knows not, only faints with fear.


Back to the mystic shore beyond the main
The mystic craft has sped, and left no trace.
Ah, nevermore may she behold his face,
Nor touch his hand, nor hear his voice again!
With hidden front she crouches; all in vain
The proffered balm. A vessel nears the place ;
They bring her young, lost brother; see her strain
The new-found nurseling in a close embrace.
God, we have lost Thee with much questioning.
In vain we seek Thy trace by sea and land,
And in Thine empty fanes where no men sing.
What shall we do through all the weary days ?
Thus wail we and lament. Our eyes we raise,
And, lo, our Brother with an outstretched hand!

On the Wye in May

Now is the perfect moment of the year.
Half naked branches, half a mist of green,
Vivid and delicate the slopes appear ;
The cool, soft air is neither fierce nor keen,
And in the temperate sun we feel no fear ;
Of all the hours which shall be and have been,
It is the briefest as it is most dear,
It is the dearest as the shortest seen.
O it was best, belovéd, at the first.--
Our hands met gently, and our meeting sight
Was steady; on our senses scarce had burst
The faint, fresh fragrance of the new delight. . . .
I seek that clime, unknown, without a name,
Where first and best and last shall be the same.


Most wonderful and strange it seems, that I
Who but a little time ago was tost
High on the waves of passion and of pain,
With aching heart and wildly throbbing brain,
Who peered into the darkness, deeming vain
All things there found if but One thing were lost,
Thus calm and still and silent here should lie,
Watching and waiting,--waiting passively.
The dark has faded, and before mine eyes
Have long, grey flats expanded, dim and bare ;
And through the changing guises all things wear
Inevitable Law I recognise :
Yet in my heart a hint of feeling lies
Which half a hope and half is a despair.