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When to his class the surgeon's skilful blade
Reveals the mysteries of the inner man,
So lost is science, brooding o'er the plan,
He does not feel disgusted or afraid.
Thus my poor heart is on the table laid;
Its youthful lesions you may count and scan;
Say how disease began, how far it ran,
And on what moral tissues branched and preyed
Dear Sonnets, records of my complex case,
Grudge not to man your privacy of pain,
That he may shun the poison in your vein.
O holy Love, God's agent, if man's face
Turn from thee, wise at my presumed disgrace,
I would not give my loss for all his gain.

July 9, 1877*

*The sonnet here numbered I was originally on page 50 of the manuscript. Its date indicates that it was composed at least twenty years after the inception of the Sequence. But a note in Boker's hand, "make this the first sonnet in the Book," indicates the reason why it was put in first place and a later sonnet inserted on page 50.


To say I love thee, is but uttering
A worn-out phrase. The opal-breasted dove
Coos the same story to his feathered love,
The hills, the meadows, and the forests ring
With various changes on the self-same string.
In vain my fancy labors to improve
That common utterance; for the heart will rove
From the more complex to the simpler thing.
A homely creature is the human heart;
And better pleased with such poor crumbs as fall
From straitened Nature, than the gilded pall
That bears the feast of ostentatious Art.
So let me circle backward to my start:
I can but say, I love thee, after all.


As a lorn sailor clinging to the wreck,
On which he starved through many a doleful day,
Sees o'er the waves, as evening turns to grey,
The far horizon bear one glittering speck,
Hope fires his heart; with eager, outstretched neck,
He scans the sail; she bears across his way;
A stone-cast off he marks her trim array,
Hears merry laughter pealing from her deck.
His brandished arms, his tears, his desperate cry
Are vain, unmarked. As with a blow, his flame
Of hope is quenched; the sail has passed him by.
So, nigh my darkly drifting heart, you came
In all your beauty. Was I mad, that I
Hoped to be marked? I grieve, I cannot blame.


One hope survives; but that, like the sole sun,
Covers my prospect with its fertile light
I envy none his many stars of night--
The various aims towards which his fancies run.
My lonely hope all nature lives upon.
The grasses glitter, and the flowers are bright,
Earth's changing pageant is a gorgeous sight,
Her many contrasts harmonize in one,
Because the bounties that I trust in, pour,
With God's full strength, unstinted as the fall
Of springtide showers, on me, on you, on all.
This is a hope whose daring wings out-soar
Fate's swiftest shaft, o'erleap Time's crumbling wall;
It is the hope of love: I ask no more.


My heart is sad today; I know not why.
Is it the dismal falling of the rain--
The wail of wretched winds,--the clouds that stain
The ashen circuit of the sunless sky?
My thoughts are drooping; Sorrow shuts her eye
Against relief, and hugs her moody pain;
A low dull woe creeps through my stagnant brain.
This morn I passed my lady's window by,
And she looked coldly on me.--Coldly? Nay,
Not coldly, but not warmly; for there beamed
No sudden light upon me; and she dreamed
Immovably of something far away.
Her look was but half mine--or I misdeemed,--
I know not why, but I am sad today.


Lone echoes from the dim cloud-covered shore
Of Death are booming in my throbbing brain.
I hear the rustle of my funeral train--
The wail of woe, the full, heart-staggering roar
Of the great bells. I hear the organ pour
Its sounding phrases in amidst the strain
Of the sad choir. I hear the priest complain
In measured rhetoric, and my loss deplore.
Now the last service murmurs in my ear,
Grief grows tumultuous--the sharp shameless cry
Of piercing anguish shivers to the sky.
As the piled earth grows o'er me, do I hear
Her sob, her moan?--Was that her dropping tear?
Who shrieked and fainted, falling where I lie?


I am Love's thrall and vassal. Though I wear
Chains of linked roses, and am daily fed
On scented sweets, and with my myrtled head
Am gently led into the sunny air,
Treading on garlands; though the haughty blare
Of brazen trumpets clamors to my tread
And from my shoulders flaunts the Tyrian red,
And shouting people wonder as they stare;
I am not so deluded by the show
As not to hang my sullen, captive face
While, like a moving trophy, on I go:
And all my pomp but makes my state more base,
My pride more shameful; for full well I know
That 'tis Love's triumph, not my own, I grace.


O weary watches of the dismal night!
O lone, lone soul that staggers through the dark,
Sullen and moody, like a night-bound bark,
That feels opposing surges roughly smite
Her groaning prow, and hiss behind her flight;--
Where lies thy haven? Towards what scopeless mark
Dost thou direct thy desperate course? A spark
Gleams through the darkness; and the helmsman's sight
Broods o'er the trembling needle, which is shown
Within its circuit, and by that he steers.
So I, through doubt, dismay, rebuffs, and sneers,
Have fixed my eyes upon my heart alone,--
Yea, seen it clearly, spite of blinding tears,
In my love's light: by that my course is known.


And does she love me now as yesterday?
Is love divine indeed, and scorns to wear
The mortal mantle which all else that's fair
Wears here on earth--the livery of decay?
Has use not fretted passion's palm away
In some weak spot? Some tender and most rare
Leaf of the morning withered in the air
Of this hot day? Has not some wandering ray
Fallen on my imperfections, and let slip
A vexing doubt against unworthy me?
Does not my weakness halt, my courage trip?
Shall she not come to loathe me utterly?
Time lays his solemn finger on my lip,
And says austerely, "Wait, and thou shall see."


A shame arose betwixt my Love and me.
I am not worthy to be called her own.
A thousand jeers of self-contempt have blown
My baseness in my face. I weep to see
My love lie lifeless, and my manhood flee
To vain excuses. From my shattered throne,
With crownless brows I totter, like a drone,
Too mean to keep his high regality;
And at thy feet, as at an altar, fall,
Praying for mercy, and such grace as shines
Within thy tender eyes, where ruth confines
Thy just displeasure. Pity me for all.
My very shame but puts me more in thrall.
Thy crest-fallen spaniel licks thy hand, and whines.


If I should perish e'er I pen this line,
And take my place with the forgotten dead,
I know my Love would bow her starry head,
And through her fingers strain the bitter brine:
But would her grief become a torch to shine
Before her eyes, and light the way I led?
Would my lone grave a solemn radiance shed,
And thither only all her hopes incline?
Should I poised high on heaven's far outer wall,
Watching through lonely days, impatiently,
My Love's appearance, her pale features see
Hunting for mine, with anxious eyes, midst all
The thronging souls? And would she rush and fall
Here on my heart, with "Love, I seek for thee"?


Why sing forever in this mournful way,
Vexing the future for my hidden lot?
Are today's joys unvalued and forgot,
While the red print of kindling kisses stay
Yet on my lips, and through my pulses play
The uncooled currents which our contact shot
Through every vein? O pardon! I am not
Dull nor ungrateful to this blissful day.
I clasp its bounties in a close embrace.
But still my dark prophetic soul will gaze
With searching eyes upon the coming days,
And though I hold the present's gift a grace
Above my due, my anxious hand I raise
To tear the visor from the future's face.


Perhaps in mercy is the future masked.
For who so hardy, if his fate were read,
As to abide its coming? Ah, instead
Of cloudy hopes in which my heart has basked--
Dim lights, bright shadows, airy fancies, tasked
By schooling reason--I might lie half dead,
Groaning beneath a ruthless vision spread
By that hard knowledge I so rashly asked.
For if I saw my love's disastrous end
Now laid before my horror-stricken eyes--
That whole fair web of close inwoven ties
Torn and disjoined--I would no more contend
With fate, but fly it as the coward flies,
And at one blow, both love and being rend.


O Love, I leave thee all that I hold dear,
Thy precious self, in faithful ward to keep.
I need not tell thee that my eyes would weep
At any less; for, see, this heavy tear
At a mere parting, and the doleful cheer--
The sighs, the broken words, the murmurs deep--
With which I yield my treasure. Do not sleep
Upon thy watch. Press mind, and eye, and ear
Into my service. Let no bribe out-sum
Thy priceless faith, no sudden peril prove
Thy courage wanting. Fix thy soul above
Time and time's changes. Let this greeting come
Halfway to meet me, as I hasten home--
"Behold your treasure, as you left it, Love!"


Where is my merit? By what special grace
Am I so blessed above all other men?
I have some fancy, and the art to pen
A halting sonnet to thy perfect face.
But what of that? The thrush or twittering wren
Makes sweeter music from his resting-place.
No outward beauty in my life I trace,
No thought nor deed heroical; and when
My eyes turn inward, I am stricken blind
At the abyss of weakness, folly, sin,
That like the miner's shaft, sinks far within
My darkened nature. Nowhere can I find
Cause for thy love. Rest, rest, my troubled mind!
Where reason stops, let soaring faith begin.


All the world's malice, all the spite of fate,
Cannot undo the rapture of the past.
I, like a victor, hold these glories fast;
And here defy the envious powers that wait
Upon the crumbling fortunes of our state
To snatch this myrtle chaplet, or to blast
Its smallest leaf. Thus to the wind I cast
The poet's laurel, and before their date
Summon the direst terrors of my doom:
For with this myrtle symbol of my love,
I reign exultant, and am fixed above
The petty fates that other joys consume.
As on a flowery path through life I'll move;
As through an arch of triumph, pass the tomb.



Too full of rapture was this sunny day!
My senses ache from that through which they passed:
Immortal joys were prodigally cast
Upon a mortal nature. In dismay
I felt my spirit cower, my trembling clay
At the divine effulgence shrank aghast.
My heart now paused, now shuddered; and the vast
Dim clouds of death seemed rising in my way.
O Heaven, I whispered, if my soul must dare
These awful joys, take hence this shivering clod,
Release my essence from the dress I wear
And lay my earth beneath its primal sod!
For heavenly bliss is more than man can bear,
And I must die, or here become a god.


O heart, be not bewildered with delight!
Calm the wild senses, still the dizzy brain,
Abate the fire that burns in every vein
Of my roused nature; lest my dazzled sight
Shrink into blindness with excess too bright
For mortal vision! Let me catch again
From mirrored memory, the wondrous train
Of joys that passed before my eyes tonight.
Let me recall the smile, the murmured tone
That brought me to her, and the separate bliss
That fell from every word;--the hair out-blown--
The starry eyes that glimmered under this,
And poured celestial blessing on my own--
The lingering hand--alas! the parting kiss!

June 18, 1857


Why should I love? Why lay my heart before
One who may glance with merriment or scorn
Upon my offering? I have overborne
By my own impulse, and I rashly pour
Down at thy feet the homage of my store
Daring the worst. O Lady, shall I mourn
My unasked gift, and, e'er the day has worn
Her evening livery, my vain waste deplore?
Beauty like thine draws praise from every tongue,
Perchance thou'rt weary of thy own renown;
Too rich in love to smile, or even frown
Upon my poor addition. Hast thou hung,
Among thy trophies, that which I have flung
Beside my heart--a poet's budding crown?

*This sonnet in the MS is crossed out, as though Boker had intended to omit it.


O sacred head that felt her queenly hand!
O regal brow, round which her arms have wound
A prouder circle than was ever bound
On royal temples! O blest features, fanned
By her sweet breath, and warmed by glances bland
As dawn's first look! O lips, whose narrow round
Has held more bliss than mortals ever found
In the wide bounds of Eden--lips that warmed
As the soft pressure of her kisses smote
A joy too strong for nature through my frame,
And a deep sense of conscious guilt and shame
At my unworthiness! Ah! shall I dote
On my imperfect self, and proudly float,
Borne by her glories, far above my fame?


Sometimes I fear thou'lt poise my muse's praise,
Against my spoken words, and sharply cry
"This man breathes lightning through his poetry,
Yet smoulders dully when aside he lays
His singing laurel, and in common ways
By loving actions, such as eyes may see,
Essays to make his passion plain to me.
These are but art's emotions--fiery rays
Struck from the poet's brain. His torpid heart
Sleeps on securely and was never wrung,
For all the frenzied measures which he sung."
Ah, Love, misjudge not. Only through my art
Can I speak plainly. Utterance would depart,
If that were silent: 'tis my only tongue.


Some hearts prevail by action; some have skill,
With tone, phrase, look and gesture to subdue
The wondering listeners, and their faith unmew
Within the compass of a single will.
Each has his own expression. I show ill,
And stumble sadly, when I strive to do;
And though my soul be riven through and through
With joy or sorrow, I must yet be still,
Unless a little from the crowd I steal
To muse alone, until my fancies pressed
Into song's rounded shape. I deeply feel
That lays like mine hide more than they reveal:
But take them, Love,--poor offerings, though my best.


I have thy love, and were I drunk with joy
That were enough. I'd revel out my day,
Thoughtless of heartaches; and I'd madly say,
Thus, let the present whirl its gilded toy.
I'll drain new draughts before the old ones cloy.
Why should the future its chill finger lay
Upon my heart, and fright my mirth away
With boding whispers? But my mind is coy
To passion's outcry. My cold reason never
Forgets the changes of this wayward earth;
Hath seen tears dripping from the eyes of mirth,
Hath seen the ebbing of a swollen river,
Hath seen death closing on the hour of birth:
So thou may'st change whom I would keep forever.



Farewell once more,--and yet again farewell!
I cannot quit thee. On thy lips I press
A parting kiss. I cease from my caress;
Slowly I loose thy waist; the troubled swell
Of thy fair bosom, with the sighs that tell
Thy own emotion, falls from me. I bless
Thy downcast head; upon each lustrous tress
Rest my poor hands, as if some sacred spell
Were in my benediction. Then I try
A sudden parting. Ah! how whirls my brain!
How pang crowds pang; how pain leaps over pain!
My purpose falters; o'er my senses fly
Oblivious clouds; and then--I know not why--
Lo! I am hanging on thy lips again!

July 2, 1857

*This sonnet appears twice; once here, and earlier, in an inferior version, number sixteen. The second, better version is given. The date is that which appears on the MS. of the second version.


The leaden eyelids of wan twilight close
Upon the sun; and now the misty dew
Trails its wet skirts across the glades, and through
The tangled grasses of the meadow goes,
Shaking a drop in every open rose,
In every lily's cup; Yon dreary yew
Alone looks darker for the tears that strew
Its dusky leaves, and deeper shadow throws,
And closer gathers; as if it would sit
As one who, mourning, wraps his mantle tight,
And huddles nearer to the dismal sight
Of some lost love; so yonder tree seems knit
Fast to the grave beneath; my heart takes flight,
To that lone yew, and cowers under it.



When we two parted, on a summer day,
With lingering hands, with sobs, with swimming eyes,
With broken phrases, half made up of sighs--
The while before us in a vision lay
The dreary shadows of the lonesome way
That we must tread, ere, under happier skies,
The fate that sported with our sacred ties
Might choose to smile on us, her helpless prey;--
Dost thou remember, then, the last close kiss
That joined our burning lips, my gentle dove--
A kiss whose frenzied hold would not remove?
The crowning sorrow, the sharp grievous bliss
Of desperate fear? And how we clung to this,
This woeful joy, this long, long kiss of love?

March 5, 1861


My darling, now the slumber of the night
Lies on thy eyelids, and thy guiltless heart
Rocks, like an empty pinnace moored apart
From the rough storms through which it took its flight
To this calm haven, where the billow's might
Dies in the swimming lily, and no start
From life's rude outer sea breaks in to dart
Its mortal anguish on thy sealed sight.
To me, deep freighted with my love and grief,
Who labor tempest-tost, no joy there seems
Whose tender touch can equal the relief
Of healing sleep, that closes out the beams
Of the red sun with rest,--not light nor brief,
But stony, death-like sleep, too deep for dreams.

March 18, 1861


In the deep cloister of the night, a nun,
My gentle Love, thou walk'st; and from thy soul
All traces of our earthly passions roll
In that serene devotion, which begun
When the bright west was painted by the sun,
And deepened more and more, as round the pole
Wheeled all the gathered stars,--and softly stole
Yon thin, pale crescent through the vapors dun.
No thought perplexes now thy quiet breast,
Not the sweet trouble of thy love for me;
Or if, perchance, that breaks thy sacred rest,
Down through thy spirit sinks it tranquilly,
A wavering light, half-hidden, half confessed,
Like a pearl sinking through a lucid sea.

March 18, 1861


As Cleopatra's pearl dissolved in wine,
Made her rich draught the boast of olden days,--
The shame and wonder of our meaner ways,
Who grudge the chalice to the very shrine;
So when thy love in this poor heart of mine
Dissolves its wealth, within my nature plays
A richer spirit, and my drooping bays
Sprout like the prophet's rod, and somewhat shine.
Like the Egyptian's draught, I trust to hold
My storied place amongst the men to be;
Not all alone, securely joined to thee,
In some dim fragment of a legend old:
Not for mere me the history shall be told,
But, precious pearl, for what was lost in me.

March 19, 1861


When all the labors of the day are past,
And on the world-exposed and fretted edge
Of my sad soul, like doves upon the ledge
Of yonder roof, my cares, with wings closed fast,
Doze into night; and from the future cast
Of my dark life I ask no cheering pledge,
No growing plume, hope's broken wing to fledge;
Content, if that dear hour will only last;
'Twere meet, that in this respite of the heart,
Some heavenward look, some thankful thought were given
To the great hand, that out of discord even,
Shapes my brief rest. But stubborn in the part
We ingrates play, the thoughts, that upward start,
Stoop to thy feet, and miss the way to heaven.

April 6, 1861


"And miss the way to heaven!" My closing word
Is a reproachful echo in my ear;
And filled with trouble and an anxious fear
Lest in thy faultless presence should be heard
My shameful figure of the stooping bird--
Through my repentance, let the truth shine clear.
Can I miss that to which I draw so near?
Rather before my prayerful breath had stirred
God's ready ear, my gratitude had gained
A surer answer by a shorter way
Than souls oft travel in this masking clay;
For ere the fervor of my spirit waned,
That heaven to which I only meant to pray,
Through thee, fair vision, was a heaven attained.

April 10, 1861


The waves of busy life that whirling go
Through thy long streets, O city of my birth,
With all their sounds of sorrow or of mirth
Move me no more than does the dreary flow
Of heavy Lethe, stealing thick and slow,
Before the eyes of some new ghost of earth,
Drowsy with recent death. I see no worth
In all the changes of the weary show.
I strain my eyes; I cannot catch her face;
I stretch my arms; all empty they remain;
I bend my ear, O light as summer rain
Was that dim step now silent; and the place
Grows a strange desert: so I pray for grace,
And falling prone, I try to die again.

May 5, 1861

*This sonnet, in the MS., is crossed out and the same thought is expressed in the next sonnet, number XXXIII.


As some new ghost, that wanders to and fro
By dreary Lethe, turns his vacant eyes,
Drowsy with recent death, to those dull skies,
And barren lands, and that black river's flow;
And finds, poor ghost, how strange and stranger grow
The wretched scene; till, stung with wild surprise,
His earthly memory lifts its piteous cries
For what it loved, but never more shall know.
Now thou art gone, so seems this empty place,
A darkness settles down o'er land and main,
A strangeness haunts the chambers of my brain;
Gone is the splendor of thy radiant face,
No prayer can summon back its tender grace;
So I lie down, and strive to die again.

June 6, 1861


My length in earth would now contain me all,
All my ambitions, all my loves and hates--
Those high resolves that grappled with the Fates,
And aimed to lord it o'er this dusty ball.
For, ah! My Love, the stern, imperious call
That sundered us, a little antedates--
A little only--the great change that waits
Upon the tolling bell and sable pall.
And thou, my soul, with such untimely haste
Divorced from this thy substance, whither now
Sad shadow, dim reflection, wanderest thou?
In what dark bound of death, what Stygian waste,
Alone, a stranger, is thy fortune placed,
Pale essence, with wild eyes and troubled brow?

June 8, 1861


I know, O Lord, the summer fields are green,
And the rich splendor of the summer air
Is full of perfume; for the breezes bear,
Sometimes, a hint of wonders all unseen
In this hot city. Far away between
The marshalled walls, beyond the oily glare
Of yon slow stream, my fancy is aware
Of all the pomps that deck the season's queen.
And though for these in vain my senses pine,
Loading with sighs my dull and weary hours--
With sighs that sap my manhood of its powers--
Yet most I languish for that vale divine
Where oft I see thee, Love, in dreams of mine,
A mortal Flora, walking through the flowers.

July 23, 1861


If dreaming of thee be a waste of time,
My endless sin I can but frankly own;
For ere the foreward primroses had blown,
Or woodbine had begun to bud and climb,
While the scarred land was pinched with frosty rime,
And laggard spring but here and there had shown
Her quickening touch, within my heart had grown
The ripened fruitage of this gentle crime.
Through summer and through autumn rolled the year,
The rose burst out and fell before my eye;
Another spring, another summer die,
And yet my thralldom only doth appear
Deeper and deeper on my heart to lie;
And all my life will pass in dreams, I fear.

July 28, 1861


Time masks, but cannot bound my love for thee;
All the year's changes, the bud, bloom, and fall
Of the bright flowers, the tides that slowly crawl
Upward and downward through the restless sea
The circling planets and the galaxy
Of stationed stars that gird this earthly ball,
The column, pyramid, and granite wall,
On which our race has traced its history;
All these seem transient things that pass away
Before the presence of my sacred love;
Whose Sphinx-like features neither change nor move,
Whose lips are curled in scorn of time's decay,
Whose solemn eyes are fixed on God's above,
Waiting the dawning of His endless day.

July 29, 1861


The swell and glitter of this stately stave
Are tinsel trappings of but little worth;
So poor they sometimes move my bitter mirth
When to the common eye they look most brave.
In vain around thy vital charms I wave
My peacock plumes; or with the flowers of earth
Deck thy young brow; or in my generous dearth
Hang crowns of laurel on thy very grave.
Oh! barren Art! Oh! fancy, bankrupt quite!
In what sad colors is that pomp arrayed
Which starts and trembles at the coming night!
What have I done, for all I have essayed,
But made a little ring of flickering light
That, in a moment, passes into shade?

August 2, 1861


Sometimes when loitering by the bitter shore
Where brood the shadows of the things to be,
The vast, dim circle of eternity
Falls round my soul and clasps me more and more.
The world and its illusions sink before
That dreadful vision; and I almost see,
Beyond death's secret to the destiny
That disembodied spirits have in store.
What mortal's soul could stray from life so far,
And back return with an unaltered brain,
And shake its sorrow from its wings like rain;
Were not thy face its lure and guiding star,
The central point round which its motions are,
Its rest of comfort, when all else is vain?

August 2, 1861


Beneath the stars and yonder waning moon,
Over the brooks that sparkle to the main,
Through the plumed phalanx of the yellow grain
Across the scented fields of teeming June;
On summer days, at morn, at eve, at noon,
And when the tangled streams of wintry rain
Slanted themselves athwart the roaring plain,
My patient heart has sung the self-same tune.
Like a poor bird, with but a single note,
Whose frequent songs, though same and tiresome, prove
His constant nature cannot change his throat
To suit our pleasure; so, a homely dove,
Whether I nestle close, or upward float,
I can but cry to thee, I love, I love!

September 26, 1861


To say my Love is beautiful, to praise
The penciled arches of her ivory brow,
Or those twin lights of intellect that glow
Through their long fringe with such a softened blaze;
Or the sweet moisture of that dewy haze
On her rich lips; or, bolder yet, to show
The lithe curves rounding her cool limbs; and go
Through all the graces of her pretty ways:--
To do but this were only to perform
Stale homage to her beauty. Any eye
May wonder at her brow, her lip, her arm;
But as I gaze, my pausing heart grows warm
With a strange heat, whose secret sources lie
Rather in me than in her matchless form.

October 4, 1861


If she should give me all I ask of her,
The virgin treasures of her modest love;
If lip to lip in eager frenzy clove,
And limb with limb should palpitate and stir
In that wild struggle whose delights confer
A rapture which the jealous gods above
Envy and long for as they coldly move
Through votive fumes of spice and burning myrrh;
Yea, were her beauty thus securely mine,
Forever waiting at my beck and call,
I lord and master of her all in all;
Yet at that weakness I would fret and pine
Which makes exhausted nature trip and fall
Just at the point where it becomes divine.

October 5, 1861


The beams of morning flicker round my face;
I start and waken, and before me lies
The rising sun just climbing up the skies,
Like a young king who mounts his regal place.
Despotic light! What fancies you erase
From the inverted vision of my eyes!
A moment since you shattered all the ties
That bound two lovers in a close embrace!
Or did I waken with such sudden light,
As parting angels leave, in evidence
Of their real nature, ere my Love took flight?
Or was it that my own supreme delight
Became too great for the rare, subtle sense
That paints its airy pictures on the night?

October 5, 1861


I cannot tell what cause dissolved my dream,
As it has done a thousand dreams ere now--
Dreams of thy tender eyes and pitying brow;
Full of that sorrow which doth more than seem
The fatal issue of our faithful vow,
When daylight strikes its disenchanting beam
Into our quailing eyes, and we esteem
At its true worth the fate to which we bow.
But this I know, that day brings no relief
From the sweet torture of my love to me,
Nor moves the pulses of my heavy grief
To make sad time run on more merrily;
For I awake from dreams--alas, too brief!--
Only to face my countless thoughts of thee.

October 6, 1861


When I look back upon my early days,
In what a wilderness of love I spent
My flower of life, and how I seized and bent
Each proffered heart to suit my fickle ways;
How many tender buds were crushed, to raise
The piteous incense of their virgin scent
To the cruel nostrils and the cold intent
Of that bad idol, Self, set up for praise:
I can but shudder at the waste of sin
In which my wicked hours were sometime passed
And wonder that such bonds could hold me fast,
Who now abhor the paths I wandered in
With wanton Circe and her bestial kin;
I, safely, sheltered in thy heart at last.

October 6, 1861


Today the lady of my heart was born
Into this checkered world of joy and pain;
And if my eyes are cloudy, and will rain
A few sad drops to mar her shining morn,
'Tis not because my life, else quite forlorn,
Is dark and sullen to the inmost grain,
And churl-like holds its chiefest blessing vain,
And treats her beauty with ungrateful scorn.
Oh! no; I prize my fortune at its height;
I kiss the easy fetters of my thrall;
Over and over, in the view of all.
But, ah! beshrew me, in her purer sight,
Do I not seem a shadow of the night,
Presaging ruin wheresoe'er I fall?


Hail! dearest day of all the storied year!
Belated songsters of the withering wood,
And hardy flowers, whose vigor has withstood
The first light frosts of Autumn, far and near
Display themselves, to make such sober cheer
As the late season, and the darkened mood
Of these brief days permit their warming blood.
And, lo! from hill and vale and glassy mere,
The breathing altars of the earth aspire
In smoky incense to this balmy morn;
Summer again appears in new attire,
Soft breezes dance the silken-tasseled corn,
The serried trees have set themselves on fire,
To celebrate the day my Love was born.


Oh! I have touched the blazing crown of bliss,
Reached the last summit, where to breathe and stand,
But somewhat upright, tasks the whole command
Of my wild heart, still reeling with thy kiss
That even through shadows of a world like this,
Makes summer flame across the wintry land,
Birds sing, leaves sprout, bewildered flowers expand,
And laughter bubbles from the shades of Dis.
Yes, I have charter under Jove's own seal,
To play the madman, crazed with mere delight;
For my ecstatic days before me wheel,
Like linked Bacchantes; and my darkest night
Glows in the splendor of the bliss I feel
Till sorrow smiles, and wrinkled care looks bright.

November 2, 1861


Erewhile I lived in shows and hollow masks,
I played with falsehood which I counted truth,
I spent the freshness of my lusty youth
In giant labors over paltry tasks.
If conscience turns upon my life and asks
From the wan spectre, with a look of ruth,
"Where are thy treasures?" I but point, in sooth,
To withered wreaths, stale feasts, and empty flasks.
But most it stings me, offering things like these,
As the best relics of my sorry part,
In fair exchange, upon love's open mart,
For youth like thine; though on my bended knees,
In abject shame, the gentle censor sees
My jaded body and my bankrupt heart.

November 4, 1861


This is the perfect crown of all things here!
So proud am I, in my own self-esteem,
I touch myself with reverence, and seem
A something set apart from all things near.
I shrink from contact with a sacred fear;
Lest the pollution of the common stream
Should somewhat tarnish what you choose to deem
Of so much value, so supremely dear.
If I am churlish then, and chary grown
To the world's handling, and recoil so wide
From kindly looks with so austere a pride,
Oh! do not you, whose gracious breath has blown
This bubble in my spirit, stand aside,
Distrusting that which proves me all your own.

November 11, 1861