A SEQUENCE ON PROFANE LOVE
GEORGE HENRY BOKER
I love you with each fibre of this frame,
Sentient and moral. I have sought that spot
Throughout my nature, where my love is not,
To give the blemish up to instant shame.
Ah! fruitless search! An all-pervading flame
Cleanses my being, whitens every blot
Upon a past that threatened once to rot
The brightest laurel of your poet's fame.
Blessed redemption! When I kneeled to you,
In the first passion of my contrite days,
I only dared this humble thing to sue:
That you would make me fit to sing your praise,
Untainted by my worship. So! You raise
My heart with this: "Yea, fit to love me, too!"
May 1, 1863
My Darling's temper is beyond compare,
Tender and gentle in its will to me;
Yielding so nimbly and so gracefully,
I find no cause for quarrel anywhere.
I am as easily ruffled as the sea,
That swells with passion at the viewless air;
And rage in storms of pitiless despair
At the least breath of passing jealousy.
Yet she so softly broods above my soul,
That all my days of tranquil sweetness glide
In one long golden and unbroken tide.
Despite my nature, her serene control
Subdues, without offense, my touchy pride;
Bows, and yet conquers; yields, but rules the whole.
May 12, 1863
Parted again! Shall partings never cease?
After the rapture of a few short days,
Above whose brightest hour there glooms and weighs
A sense of something that destroys our peace--
A growing thought, whose sure and sad increase
No tear prevents, no loving prayer delays--
A point of time, on which we fix our gaze,
As the condemned who hope for no release;
After this clouded pleasure. must there come,
O God! at last the stern, unpitying knell
That says, as clearly as a tongue could tell,
Part, part! your love can have no common home;
No place is built where such as ye may dwell;
Part! and in parting, bow and kiss your doom!"
May 15, 1863
Sad is it that a love as pure as thine,
Which to itself is so devoid of sin,
Should find no touch of charity within
The rigid souls that trade in things divine!
They mix their muddy water with God's wine,
And cry, "Drink this! The holy crystalline
Is stained, we grant, and somewhat pale and thin;
But drink! what mortal taste can draw the line?"
O bright, sweet nature, who hast ever stood
Just as God dropped thee from His shaping hand,
Shall such defilement enter in thy blood?
Guiltless or guilty? Who shall take a stand
'Twixt God and thee, and cry to all the land,
"Lo, the great sin! and, lo! the little good?"
May 16, 1863
If thou art sinful, there are thousands then
Who howl from pulpits, and make dreary night
Of texts as barefaced as the morning light,
Who more deserve the Angel's damning pen--
That tribe of bitter and self-righteous men
Who, in God's name, fill earth with wild affright,
Afflict our very virtues with a blight,
Till heaven's great dome becomes a murky den.
No man can say he ever looked on thee,
And from thy presence went not happier far,
Thanking kind Heaven that such as thee there are.
The hidden goodness others boast, we see
Revealed in thee to common sight, as we
See God's own radiance in a tranquil star.
May 16, 1863
King Midas, walking through his realm of old,
Moved not more grandly than did we today
Across the buttercups that paved our way,
And made our path a stretch of shining gold.
The flocks of care slept soundly in their fold,
No mist of sadness on our spirits lay,
A thousand joys before us ran at play
And in the flowers with baby laughter rolled.
Strange heart of man! but yesterday I said,
"My lips on earth will never smile again;
Henceforth I wander in perpetual shade."
Today you led me down yon golden glade--
The common product of the sun and rain--
And see, Beloved, how love has been repaid!
May 17, 1863
Now I have won my lady's priceless heart--
Hold full possession with a sway as wide
As the moon's rule above the flowing tide--
Why, as she came, may she not so depart?
Surely the tinkling of my lute, this art,
Profaned by every fool whose love has sighed
In crippled rhymes, her love will not abide
If sober reason from its slumber start.
What more have I? Alas! I see no charm
In these dim eyes, bent brows and grizzled hair
Which brazen flattery could belie for fair.
In thy own truth my nakedness must arm,
As love's defense against beleaguering harm,
Trusting to that, which guards me everywhere.
May 26, 1863
Yes, everywhere some precious flower of God
Blooms in the lowest valley of our care.
There is no squalid hut, no prison lair
Nigh which it shines not from the mouldy sod:
Or when sleep makes the aching forehead nod,
It blows in dreams; and we, awakening, bear,
For the sweet vision of a thing so fair;
The cruellest wounds of the chastising rod.
Else life were hell. We soothe our present grief
With hopes that, like the fireflies, disappear
Ere we can whisper, "Lo! the light is here!"
But over all there bends, for our relief.
This heavenly flower: O call it "Love," in brief;
It bears no name, unless that name be clear.
June 11, 1868
More than mere instinct, straight against the scope
Of reason's counsel is the desperate hold
We lay on life, however dark and cold
Its cheerless prospect to the eye of hope.
One can but marvel at the slaves who grope
Their way through life, with miseries untold
Stinging them daily--wretches who might fold
Their griefs in death beneath some grassy slope.
Deep in the soul a latent trust must bide,
To keep us clinging to life's worthless prize,
While all its charms are shipwrecked at our side;
A faith in something hidden from the eyes
Of creeds and dogmas, as my love descries
Light in itself, and makes that light its guide.
June 12, 1863
For many days my heart has stood unchanged;
No passing act within love's chronicle
Has made my steady pulses ebb or swell,
Or any way my settled calm deranged.
What happy fortune has so far estranged
Care and pale fear, that one time seemed to dwell
As guests or neighbors of the narrow cell
Where I for husks my golden birthright changed?
What portent threatens in these halcyon skies,
Of cloudy tempest and impending gloom.
If common forecast of such days be wise?
The near tomorrow, as a hungry tomb,
May yawn to tell of that unbending doom
Which hides all beauty from our mortal eyes.
June 24, 1863
A vision of my lady came to me
In the last watches of departing night;
Rising with Phospher, she presaged the light
From which sleep's shadowing fancies turn and flee.
I strove to speak, for I could plainly see
She paused before me in the act of flight,
Measuring her visit by my rapid sight,
Fulfilling still our mournful destiny.
Even in my dreams must this sad fate pursue,
And night repeat the story of the day,
Hurrying the image of my Love away?
Lest I, o'er-raptured with the blissful view,
Should half forget what fate enslaves us two,
And in my folly whisper, "Stay, oh, stay!"
December 29, 1863
Gone, gone! The rayless window sheds no light
Upon my upturned eyes; the graceful girl
Whose distant presence made my senses whirl,
Is but a memory of the empty night.
Tears, bitter tears! O where, thou creature bright,
Life of my heart, my pure, transcendent pearl,
Has darkness caught thee in its giddy swirl,
And drowned thy beauties to thy lover's sight?
Gone, gone! And I so desolate! O bell,
Chiming for vespers, but in every tone
Echoing my anguish with thy airy groan;
Why mock my heart with thy accordant groan?
Why make Heaven's dismal hollow ache and swell
With that one doleful sentence--gone, gone, gone?
January 28, 1864
Whither, thou glory of thy gentle race,
My heart's content, within whose warmth I lie,
As lies the flower beneath day's golden eye,
Whither is fled the splendor of thy face?
In vain thy so familiar haunts I trace;
Unmarked the city's myriads pass me by;
I hear no echo of thy tender sigh,
I see no glimmer of thy saintly grace.
Dark as the vision of the cloudy throng
In Dante's whirl of Hell the passers seem,
Lost in the sorrows of their selfish dream.
Ah, nowhere shines that look, so fond and long,
Which made my day, and with its earliest beam,
Roused, like the lark's, my heart's exulting song.
January 29, 1864
Of all the dreams I dreamed in bygone years,
But one remains, imprinted on my age,
And even that record, that emblazoned page
Is dimmed with dust and stained with scorching tears.
If my rash youth that scorned foreboding fears
Had half divined the thoughts which make me sage,
Now that the latest action holds the stage,
And the sad mimes approach their last careers;
Would I have found the courage to begin
This chronicle of love, or wasted breath,
Tinting pure pages with bewildering sin?
Ah, no! I would have stamped Love's myrtle wreath
Beneath my feet; rent every leaf herein,
And closed the volume as a book of death.
February 6, 1864
Oh spring, that hides the wrinkled earth in green,
And decorates the cracked and rugged bark
Of trees with lichens pale and mosses dark;
That makes the canker of decay unseen
Beneath the shadow of thy leafy screen;
Till from the hillside and the rolling park
Are razed the traces of Time's fatal mark,
And all things glitter with creation's sheen;--
Restoring Spring, hast thou no mask to spread
Above the wrinkles of this drooping brow?
No skill to hide these limbs that crook and bow,
No purple tints of youth to grace this head
Ashen with years and sorrows? Why should'st thou
So trim the scene in the poor actor's stead?
May 3, 1864
I shall not flatter that gross mass of sin,
Wicked myself, with this delusive thought,
That my dear lady's spotless heart is caught
In my plain toils, as in a fowler's gin.
I am her mirror; and she sees therein
A full reflection of her person, wrought
Within my mind, and thus is simply brought
To prize a grace which from herself I win.
I have no merit, save what she bestows;
No claim upon her, save the right I take
From her bestowal, that, by giving, grows.
I cannot tell you why the snowdrops wake,
The violet opens, or the pansy blows,
If love exists not for its own sweet sake.
May 6, 1864
Within the circle of my darling's charms
I stand as grimly as some ruin old,
Which creeping roses tenderly enfold
Within the cincture of their fragrant arms.
All my defacements, my defects and harms
Are so concealed, so cunningly enrolled
And overflowered, that whoso may behold
My glorious robe, asks not what shape it warms.
But ah! If ever stripping storms arise,
And rend these vernal splendors, which I wear
So proudly forward in the world's wide stare,
How shall I hide me from its blank surprise,
To find my naked nature in the glare
And cold, cruel wonder of its myriad eyes?
My dearest, trust me! I may err and fail
In many ways, through mere humanity,
And draw a tide of precious tears from thee,
And make thy heart with apprehension quail.
These are thy voyager cares. Our ship must sail
A hundred ways, to windward and to lee,
Before the harbor where we fain would be
Flashes its light, and answers to our hail.
But I am faithful as the stars above
By which I steer; nor does my purpose bend,
Nor my fixed vision from their guidance rove.
Of if these lights in stormy clouds have end,
Towards the same point my constant course shall tend,
Led by the trembling magnet of my love.
May 10, 1864
If history, that feeds upon the past,
Reserve some corner of respect for me,
Where for a while the gaping years may see