SONNETS 251-313


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When with the courage lent me by thy smile,
I laid my hands upon thy sacred form,
Dared, passion-wild, thy scented mouth to warm
With cleaving kisses, unrepelled the while;
Was it thy patience or my venturous guile
Shook virtue's outworks with a fiery storm,
And made her guards the trembling ramparts swarm,
To meet a foe who came in friendly style?
I know not, Love; but since that trustful day
I grow more careful of myself, less stained
By worldly touch, as though that touch profaned.
I am all thine, more like thee; if thou'lt say
Those kisses brushed thy purest bloom away,
Say also this, that what thou lost, I gained.

February 21, 1871


I play the masquer to the world, I grant,
I flash the spangles of my art before
Its staring eyes; my witless jests I pour
Into its ears with many a strut and vaunt.
I would not have thee, for that reason, scant,
In thy esteem, my virtue's little store,
Nor deem me inly false, because I wore
A cap and bells, and uttered empty cant.
Alas! the burden of the face to me!
Alas! the aching heart, that rose and fell
Beneath my gauds, and shook my jester's bell!
The lie I planned, for thy security,
Lured men's mistrust from what 'twere mad to tell;
Falsehood to them was very truth to thee.

February 22, 1871


Falsehood to thee would be the blackest crime
My conscience frowns at; and 'twere falsehood sure
To thee, whose soul I rate as heavenly pure,
To risk my dove within the fowler's lime.
Such love as ours is censured by the time
As gross defcct, and cannot live secure
Before a world whose justice will endure
The harshest mockery of the marriage chime.
With heart unsullied and with upturned brow,
Beneath the mercy of our God we stand,
Bound by a love whose strength disdains a vow.
If man's decree be backed by God's command,
I reason darkly; let us therefore bow--
O, not in fear--thus trustful, hand in hand.

February 23, 1871


Yes, true to thee, if false to all beside;
That is my purpose, that the solemn creed
Whose rule suffices for the present deed,
And to the last shall be my trusted guide.
I hope no serpent to our bower will glide,
And with the law and us a discord breed;
Or make me choose 'twixt truth and thee; or need,
Through falsehood for thy safety to provide.
But should it happen, lo, the perjury
Knocks at my lips; and any truth, to dim
Thy fame, must first subdue that hydra grim.
Judged, doomed, and lost, I'd proudly turn with thee,
To quit our Eden, nor unsmiling see,
Behind, the flaming swords of seraphim.

February 24, 1871


If it be sin, as rigid men aver,
To love, as we have loved, above the law
That sanctions living, there's a grievous flaw
Within my soul that no remorse can stir.
Nor, sworn to judge, can I impute to her
That foul transgression which I never saw
Purple her cheeks--those wandering thoughts which thaw,
In their own heat, the senses prone to err.
Virgin at heart, her soft-descending kiss
Leaves on my brow a benediction light,
That makes me purer to my inward sight.
Each deed is sacrificial; ay, and this,
Love's utmost favor and consummate bliss,
Yielded by her, becomes a sacred rite.

February 25, 1871


Know you a soul so white and inly pure
That sin itself, committed by her hand,
Permitted by her brain, done by command
Of every lust, could not her loss assure?
Know you a soul whose nature could endure
That earthy stain, yet as yon cygnet stand--
Now fluttering from the muddy pool to land--
Self-cleansed, a snowy star above the mure?
With souls thus pure, the parents of our race
Might have transgressed before their witless fall,
Not knowing sin as sin, nor grace as grace.
Search for this soul that sin cannot enthrall;
Vain quest! then turn, and see her radiant face,
Here, in my Love, if she can sin at all.

February 26, 1871


They at the altar pledge their formal vow,
Then go, and straight forget that vow was made--
These common lovers, making marriage trade,
Who often wed sore heart to moody brow.
Not thus we married, for the temple now
Bends o'er us both, in which is daily said
Love's sacrament, and ever on thy head,
Glistens the chaplet of the orange bough.
Immortal bride, in every grateful prayer
My heart renews our holy marriage tie,
Vows at thy voice, thy touch, thy laugh, thy sigh;
And Hope, white-favored, through the sunny air
Points with a solemn smile to mansions fair,
As Heaven's abode for love that cannot die.

February 27, 1871


Sing of her beauty! Sing of that which grows
My daily wonder! Shall this lute essay
To paint the color of the changing ray
That makes her eye my source of joys and woes?
Or sculpture you a statue in repose,
Lithe as her shape; or give it grace to play
Her part in motion; or a voice to say
In words, what I half hear and half suppose?
Sing of her beauty! For that hair alone
The saint would doff an aureole; and that skin
Nude Venus envies, in the Parian stone.
Lo! I have sung her beauty, and the tone
Dies on the.string, as conscious of a sin;
Yet not a feature have portrayed, I own.

February 28, 1871


O, I am apt of others' charms to sing.
I had a mistress with a scarlet lip,
Shaped by Love's bow, where wandering bees might sip,
Nor know from pink or rose that odorous thing;
Her eyes were heavens of blue, through which the wing
Of Venus' silver dovelets flashed. To slip
Her net of crowded tresses was to dip
Wrist-deep in flossy gold, ring coiled on ring.
Her nostrils fluttered at the slightest swell
Of waking passion; and her cheeks would tell
Her thoughts in blushes ere a word found place.
Her rosy chin, the curve with which it fell
Into her ivory neck, the airy grace
That poised her head, made truth half miracle.

March 5, 1871


The pearly vales that circled round her breast
Were laced with azure veins; the roseate glow
Of the twin buds, that crowned the rising snow,
Looked in defiance from each haughty crest.
Her slender waist, full hips, deep flanks, comprest
At the round knees, swelled out again below
The dimpled joint, into a leg whose flow
In ankles fine and fairy feet had rest.
Grace moved her figure; 'twas a treasured prize
Of every sense to see her tread the ground;
And patient wonder followed her around.
She was a being such as might arise
But in the light of Raphael's dreaming eyes,
And to himself his boasted art confound.

March 6, 1871


She on the jealous gods' Olympian hill,
Unrecognized as mortal, might have taken
The nectar cup from Hebe's hand unshaken,
And lent her voice to Pan's melodious trill.
Her kiss was sweeter than the entering bill
Which Jove gave Leda; and wild memories waken--
Frenzied, unearthly, which no tongue hath spaken--
How of her full embrace I took my fill.
Men called her perfect; she was perfect, too,
Within my youthful eyes, till sager proved,
Another shape within their vision grew.
For now I say, by no mere fancy moved,
Sifting the false discreetly from the true,
She was a gipsy to my own Beloved!

March 7, 1871


The love of this dear woman is so sweet
To me, whose heart has been the spurn and cuff
Of wantons, that I cannot thank enough
My God and her, whose bounties in me meet.
O sweeter now is love to me, whose rough
And straitening locks the snows of winter beat,
Than when my tresses felt the amorous heat
Of breathing girls within them sigh and puff.
Love's gratitude is more than mere return;
Love's latest offering is his garnered store,
Given by a hand that henceforth gives no more.
Upon this shrine my life's whole treasures burn--
Past, present, future; when the flame is o'er,
My ashen heap can sleep but in an urn.

March 7, 1871


I will not have our holy love profaned
By that untruth which slanders as impure
The rites we keep, however far they lure
The twain by whom the sacred cup is drained.
Love is the faith; who swerves, should be arraigned;
Even if the sin be done in lines secure
Of legal contract, 'tis a crime as sure
Against the law which nature's self ordained.
But love once granted, all that follows thence--
The fervid kiss, the interlocked caress--
Is heavenly pure to love's most dainty sense.
May not the temple's priest and priestess press
The burning grapes of joy, without distress
To gods whose promptings chartered the offense?

March 8, 1871


Once as I slumbered, with my heart awake--
Love's lonely sentinel--my lady stood,
Fair in the glory of her womanhood,
Beside the bed made restless for her sake.
Awhile she paused in pity, as to slake
The burning eyes I plunged beneath her flood
Of gold-brown hair, sole veil to flesh and blood
That shone, like morn, through every rift and break.
Slowly I traveled with my longing glance
From budded bosom down to supple feet--
Delicious voyage, that lagged at each advance!
What more delight might then have been my chance,
Had not my heart a wild alarum beat--
Too faithful watcher, thus to end my trance!

March 16, 1871


The color of my lady's hair is brown;
A hot, rich brown, shot through with fiery gold;
That tint Etruscan artists chased of old
Into a clasp for Lydia's fluttering gown.
Dark in the shade, but blazing like a crown
Of ruddy light, through locks and curls untold,
When the sun strikes it and its manifold
Great tresses almost to her knees sweep down.
Sweet, sweet as amber is her hair to smell,
When winds awake its fragrance from repose--
Balm to the senses and the heart as well.
And I have lain where all that glory fell
Across my face; have kissed it, felt it close
My eyes in dreams I dare not try to tell.

March 17, 1871


My darling's brow is classic, low and wide,
A forehead Grecian Helen might have kissed,
In envious homage that her own just missed
Its perfect form--a brow I kiss in pride.
Across her rosy temple's pulsing side,
A thousand rosy veinlets branch and twist,
As though her heart by deputy kept tryst
With ghostly thoughts, half spirit, half descried.
Under this snowy dome, in council grave,
Meet the ideas that issue grace to me--
Long-suffering almoners of leniency!
And here, for judgment on the faults I have,
Countless as sands beside the roaring sea,
Sits the great soul, to whom my soul is slave.

March 17, 1871


Her eyes are of that pure and perfect grey
Which Pallas flashed upon the men of Greece,
While Hector shore their army as a fleece,
And mad Achilles by his galleys lay.
Deep-set and shy, they ever seem to play
With inner fancies; and a heart, at peace
With all creation, pulses its increase
Of joyful love through every tender ray.
These are the eyes whose planetary height
Rules o'er the horoscope I never tire
To cast myself, while fate foreruns delight;
Dreading alone that by their gentle fire,
My guilty self may be discerned aright,
Condemned, and driven from all my soul's desire.

March 18, 1871


Heaven shaped her ear in fashioning the shell,
A pearly circlet, lined with faintest pink;
So dainty thin, the light of heaven may wink
Through the fine curves of its translucent cell.
A Delphic pilgrim at the mystic well,
Resolved untimely of his fate to drink,
Not more devoutly o'er the awful brink
Poured prayers, than I to my sweet oracle.
By night and day, one plenteous act of grace
From my disposer for myself I claim--
No novel favor, nought of power or fame;
But only this, to keep my present place,
Unchanged and changeless in her breast; the same
Dear smile of welcome in her pensive face.

March 19, 1871


Her nose is not the rigid Phidian line,
From tip straight upward to the low-grown hair,
A line too perfect, too severe and rare
For features modeled not to be divine.
My love is mortal, and her brows' decline
Hollows a concave at the eyes; and fair
With rosy tints her nostrils; and the air
Moves, as she breathes, their channels light and fine.
Pleased with the balmy breath that glides below,
Land-breeze or sea-breeze from an isle of spice,
When times are calm, they gently fall and rise.
But happy I have seen them pant and glow
With stormy passion, vibrate to and fro,
Sigh an appeal I never needed twice.

March 19, 1871


Her mouth, that scarlet herald of her heart,
Pouts just a little, but enough to tell
That nature's self, who knew her purpose well,
Laid endless kisses on its topmost part.
These moulded lips were never shaped to dart
The serpent tongue of slander; never fell
From their bright dews that blistering rain of hell,
Which envy scatters through the lying mart.
Free of all sin, their function is to guide,
To sooth and lighten this confusing pain,
Which I call life, when absent from her side.
Yea, and incitements, when my spirits wane,
Have they to offer; words of cheer and pride,
Kisses like these, again and yet again!

March 19, 1871


Her face is perfect oval, one long sweep
From temple round to temple, taking in
A line uncut of cheek and little chin,
That dies beneath her hair in shadows deep.
The Holy Mother of the Chair doth keep
This wondrous line immortal, and to twin
That sacred form, was jealous nature's sin,
Heightening the charm to make her mimics weep.
Thus nature slyly in my darling's face
Outrivaled art; but so confused poor me,
By giving her religion's fairest grace,
That love and worship struggle endlessly,
To claim my duty, while I strive to trace
Whether Madonna or my Love I see.

March 20, 1871


A marvel to me is my lady's hand;
'Tis not that plump, thick-palmed and dimpled thing
With pointed ends and almond nails ye sing,
Ye other poets, in your phrases grand.
White, long and taper, pliant as a wand,
The pulsing currents coursing through it sting
Its nerves to action, rapid as the wing
With which the nest-bound ringdove spurns the land.
It feels in every fibre; almost talks,
To help her tongue by any thought oppressed,
Falling in balm upon the heart oppressed.
This hand hath influence; it entreats, it balks,
Directs, compels, or worships, as she walks,
With palms thus folded on her gentle breast.

March 20, 1871


Her prudish foot, seen rarely as a nun,
Is steep and narrow, flexible as steel,
Touching her pathway but at toe and heel,
Light, restless, eager at a hint to run.
No Arab beauty in her native sun
Tans such a foot; so joyous, quick to feel
The dancing spirit which her eyes reveal;
A thing she rather floats than treads upon.
This foot is vassal to her changing mood;
It lags with sorrow, twinkles o'er the green
To keep our trysting, flies to deeds of good.
What heavenly patience in its rest is seen!
What haughty pride, when like an angry queen
She sweeps, imperial in her womanhood!

March 20, 1871


Such of her beauties as the world may see,
Whose eyes escort her eagerly around,
Lackeying her way with homage too profound
For jealous me, O world, I give to thee!
But seek no more. If other charms there be
Hidden from view; reflect, 'tis holy ground
Your rashness treads; beware the goddess crowned,
And angel-guarded, in her purity
I would not tell the wonder of her breast,
Its warmth, its perfume, nor the mystic dew
Upon her mouth, nor give her limbs to view--
Those taper marvels, fawned on and caressed
By robes they animate to grace confessed--
No, not to save another world like you!

March 23, 1871


Thus gracious ever is my darling's mind;
Forgiving not alone the guilt which dyes
My features scarlet, when my history lies
Spread out before her with its shames combined;
But to my tedious talk her heart is kind--
That silly froth of sobs and prayers and sighs,
Which makes me foolish to my proper eyes--
When I, love-foundered, grope in phrases blind.
Small cheer her patience, in the end, can gain
From all my prattling platitudes, no more;
The same weak things repeated o'er and o'er.
How many times "I love thee" served my pain
For speech, is countless; yet those words again
Each time she hears more kindly than before.

March 24, 1871


A golden circle for my lady's hand,
Crowned with a ruby 'twixt the outspread wings
Of that eternal globe which brooding swings
Over the mystery or the eldest land.
Such is the ring, and thus my fancy planned
The fiery jewel, as a sign that brings
The fountain whence my glowing passion springs
Ever before her, when her eyes command.
O winged globe, be present in her mind
With the remembrance that the love we pledge
Not upon earth contented rest can find.
Soul-like, immortal, on the crumbling edge
Of time it stands, its venturous plumes to fledge
For flights as mystic as the viewless wind.

May 3, 1871


If any comfort lies within the zone
Of ruddy gold that round thy finger clings;
If from the ruby's steady radiance springs
A deeper thought than e'er was graved in stone;
If the far region, yet to be o'erflown
By orbing faith upon her deathless wings,
Makes grave thy heart, and gives to earthly things
The holy import of a life unknown;
Then not in vain the cunning artist wrought
Into the substance of this precious toy
The subtle meaning of my solemn thought;
And not in vain 'mid days that would destroy
All faith, thou standest, as a priestess caught
In heavenly visions with a face of joy

May 4, 1871


There blew a breeze across the flowers, that said,
"Love is the sweetest thing which mortals know!"
And so I launched my shallop in the glow
Of scented morn that walked in gold and red.
There came a gale that muttered overhead,
"Love is an earnest thing!" I bent me low;
My face was stinging with the driving snow;
I knew not where my blinded vessel sped.
There rose a storm that hissed into my ear
Sobs out of heaven, and laughs of hellish mirth,
That made my shrinking spirit quail with fear;
While a sharp voice, that nowhere had its birth,
But filled all space, screamed suddenly and clear;
"Love is a wreck, like everything of earth!"

May 5, 1871


Again I touch thee, vexing instrument,
My hard and rarely-mastered Tuscan lute!
Though faulty poets of thy worth are mute,
We well know why; thy claims o'ertax their skill.
I pray thee, raise not up against my will
Thy rigid code, whose laws severe confute
Masters of mine; but bend my mind to suit
Thy winding ways, with love to guide me still!
For I would sing once more my lady's praise--
I so long silent, that a wonder grows
In her dear eyes to mark my altered ways.
Hark! Yonder blast predicts the winter snows,
And passes sentence on her trembling rose;
Renew with airy flowers her summer days!

October 13, 1871


Ah, lute, how well I know each tone of thee,
From shrillest treble unto solemn bass,
The power of every fret, the time and place
Where falls each finger tipped with melody!
Full well I know the sounds that come and flee,
The chords that swell, and part, and interlace,
Lending the whole one long united grace--
That regnant rhythm of thorough harmony.
Shell of my fancy, in my arms awake!
Exchange thy torpor for the vivid smart
Of sentient life! With joy and sorrow shake!
Throb with a soul which of herself is part!
Mimic her phrases! Feign, for pity's sake,
That thou art she now nestling o'er my heart!

October 14, 1871


Hark! in that tone I heard my lady sigh,
Sigh with the burden of some longing pain,
Some dim half-thought, that will not come again;
Less of a thought than of a feeling shy.
And now she murmurs; ah! I know not, I,
What thing she murmurs; why the lengthened strain
Seems only to complain, and yet complain,
Unless my absence grieved her widowed eye.
Yes, yes, I love thee! If to answer this
Awoke the challenge of that haughty string--
Love as a slave whose shackles are his bliss.
What more? I listen.--Fie! thou fickle thing--
How the light treble with thy laugh doth ring,
Rippling to silence in a fleeting kiss!

December 4, 1871


'Tis not in hollow wood and tinkling wire
To be the wonder I would have them be;
Contrive my spells however cunningly,
They fail supremely where they most aspire.
I cannot warm me at a painted fire,
Nor make my foolish lute seem like to thee,
Save as a type of that sad history
Whose ends are shapened by the Furies' ire.
So has it been, so to the bitter end
'Twill be to us, whose fancies must invent,
To guess from shadows what the substance meant;
To live on shows and seemings, and to bend
A slavish smile on ills that almost send
Love to the cloister of the penitent.

December 30, 1871


Fairest of all the fair ones I have seen,
Fairest of all, in feature not alone,
Nor form, nor grace, nor glance, nor voice's tone,
Nor all that makes thee of fair women queen.
Not one alone, nor all of these I mean,
When I so proudly crown my very own,
As peerless empress upon Nature's throne,
Outranking all that are or e'er have been.
It is the soul of her, the inner power,
Round which her beauty crystallized and grew
By its own law, that is her fairest dower.
She, though she be of womankind the flower,
Expresses yet a mystery hidden from view;
To know whose secret I abide God's hour.

June 23, 1877


Darling, I kiss thee from thy slender feet
Up to the curls around thy tender brow;
Each fervent kiss upon thee prints a vow,
To love thee only while my heart can beat.
No; longer, sweetest,; for if spirits meet
In life eternal, and can feel, as now
I feel thy presence, by the thrill and glow
Within my soul, ere hands or lips may greet;
Then surely I shall know thee, though thy face
Shine like an angel's with mysterious bliss,
As though God hid thee in his blinding grace.
Yea, I shall know thee, if reward like this
Leave where it falls a designating trace,
And thus, again, reclaim thee with a kiss.

June 23, 1877


How shall I sing of thee, thyself who art
A song of God's own making--perfect thought,
Pearl-pure, unmatched, which the great poet wrought
Into his epic, Nature yet apart?
For should I mimic what I know by heart,
Men would exclaim against me, as they ought,
For one who forged thy loveliness, and sought
To palm my counterfeit upon the mart.
Let me be silent; let thy beauty sing,
With the rapt look thy maker gave to thee,
His praise and thine in wordless harmony.
Thou poem compact, embodied, made a thing
Glorious as dawn, or sunset, or the ring
Of stars that circle o'er the tropic sea!

June 23, 1877


I touched the limit of supremest bliss,
Knew joy's whole secret on this golden day;
When in my arms my panting darling lay,
Daring my lips with lingering kiss on kiss.
Brand it upon my heart! Let me not miss
A single memory, not the faintest ray
Of that which made divine my burning clay,
And heaven a fancy to a world like this!
Nay, day of glory, bury in the past
Thy radiant head! lest in the coming night
Thou sting my exiled soul with thoughts too bright!
Or else, O wondrous vision, onward cast
Thyself into the future's dreadful vast,
And o'er and o'er renew today's delight.

June 24, 1877


When distance severs us, and we become
As parting voyagers of divided lives,
In whom no common interest survives,
A brief salute and long farewell our doom;
I wonder, Sweet, if use will not consume
Thy high ideal, and the life that thrives
On trifles will not garner to its hives
Even thy love, as bees make food from bloom.
O, I beseech thee, save that sacred thing
From earthly uses--from the huckstering rage
That wires the lightning to the shilling's ring!
Live by inspirings shut against this age
Of peddled matter! Hear the angels sing!
See God's own finger turn the ancient page!

June 27, 1877


O, I adjure thee, keep my words in mind,
Thou fragrant lily, thou too tempting flower,
Growing to grace in common sun and shower,
Close by the wayside for the world to find.
When I am absent, be thou deaf and blind
To earth's allurements, to the fatal power
Of greed and glitter, that usurps the hour,
With empty thought and emptier faith combined.
O be thy heart austere and chaste, a nun
Haunting a solemn temple, far above
All save the pure religion of thy love.
So shall thy days as golden circles run
In music to thy conscience; every move
Nearing the triumph that will make us one.

June 27, 1877


This was my lady's birthday, and yet I
At dawn heard not the cannon's brazen throat,
Nor saw the fluttering standards give the note
Due to her feast, my heart's solemnity.
Only the sun rose, and the fiery sky
Throbbed with the lark; and yet no cressets float
Their burning freight tonight; only her boat
The moon is steering through the stars on high.
Great Nature does thee reverence, Queen divine,
And I, thy poet, by thy love made strong,
Will do the rights that to thy state belong.
Yea, when today's renowns no longer shine,
Thy fame shall volley through this sounding line,
And blaze a beacon in this quenchless song.

June 28, 1877


O happy day! From morn till midnight tolled,
I passed the hours beneath my lady's eye;
And as the golden minutes fleeted by,
Life gained proportions vast and manifold.
Our souls became exalted; round us rolled
Airs winged by angels, and the stooping sky
Seemed more our home than this, where mortals lie
Hope-cheated, death-cursed, to God's promise cold.
As kindred souls, love-bound, just entering through
The gates of heaven, from joy to joy we paced,
Our timid wings unused, and interlaced.
At length a tempest caught us, o'er us blew
Flames and ecstatic instincts, and we flew,
We two as one, and dashed on God full-faced.

July 6, 1877


Sweet is my lady's body; damask rose,
Nor silver lily, nor pale asphodel,
No burning myrrh, no real or fabled smell,
Can match the scent that from her bosom blows.
And like her sister flowers, the warmer grows
The time of June or love, the clearer well
Those airy doors, till the senses swell
And pine with greed for that which they disclose.
Yet sweeter still that soft and dewy gush
Of misty fragrance, her ethereal breath,
Whose taste would lull the weariest pang of death.
Think of my favor! I who sometimes push
Her leave to license; draining all she hath,
In love's wild riot or in love's deep hush.

July 5, 1877


Beloved, thou cam 'st to me of late and said;
"Stay with me, Dearest! Stay another day!
Stay thou because I wish it. Prithee lay
To heart my prayer, even as I lay thy head!"
Duty, a phantom warrior, drew his blade,
And sternly motioned doubtful me away.
Thou saw'st thy foe, and turned the awful ray
Of pleading eyes upon the hateful shade.
What followed, think'st thou? Duty, like poor me,
Dropped hastily his weapon, tried to bend
His wits, as a time-server's, to thy end.
He laughed, cringed, fawned, a very fool was he;
His sword a whisking bauble. Well, and we?--
Ah! that was yesterday--you comprehend.

July 6, 1877


As from his wrist the eager falconer
Tosses his hawk upon the windy sky,
So from my lips this kiss I toss on high,
Through leagues of weary air to follow her.
Mount to the zenith, instinct with the spur
Of what I feel; and by thy love-led eye,
Discern thy gentle quarry; hover nigh;
Yet with no fears her virgin bosom stir.
When sleep enfolds her, then thou too mayst lay
Thy touch upon her. Let me tell thee where;
Thou canst not err to kiss from foot to hair.
But O, thou tender messenger, I pray,
So wake her fancy that a dream may play
About her heart to tell who sent thee there.

July 8, 1877


What hast thou done, my Darling, these two days?
Felt lost and lonesome, missed me from thy life?
Scorned self-content, with thy own self at strife,
Unable to incline to altered ways?
Loathed thou thy very merits? Is the praise
Men pay thy beauty, insult to thee, rife
With bold offense, as when a startled wife
Hears first the suit a daring stranger pays?
Oh thirst'st thou for our kisses? Are thy lips
Burning rose-red with greed to give and steal
Our long-day bliss, that not a moment skips?
Aches all thy body for me? Would'st thou seal
Love with libation till his altar drips?
Ah, then, in part, thou feelest what I feel.

July 9, 1877


My own Beloved, wilt thou prove true indeed,
Throughout the trials of the coming years,
Through dying hopes, mischances, shocks and fears,
To the requirements of love's simple creed?
Shall the mere sowing of this little seed,
Bear that bright flower whose virtue overpeers,
In tint and fragrance, all the bloom that cheers
Life's dusty garden--faith, truth's crown and meed?
O, I beseech thee, bear in thy pure hand
That lily spotless, whatsoe'er may be
Allotted us to vanquish or withstand!
Bear it unbroken to the gloomy sea
By death's dark pinions overspread and fanned,
For thy own sake, Beloved, if not for me!


I love thee, love thee! Let these words atone
For all the others--for my jealous rage,
My hot and hasty temper, and assuage
The wounds I make, which make myself to groan.
Alas! I share the mortal heritage
Whose doom enslaves us; betwixt curse and moan,
I beat my wings against a wall of stone,
Like to a wild thing in the fowler's cage.
And thou, dear heart, art hurt and half dismayed
By what I utter and by what I do,
Striking at random, blows which pierce thee too.
But though a demon hath my soul betrayed
And blind with fury, doth my course pursue,
I love thee, love thee! O, be not afraid!

February 9, 1881


O say thou lovest me; say it o'er again;
Ring all the changes on that blissful phrase;
Say it with lip, mouth, tongue; in all the ways
That utterance hath, in peace, in joy, in pain!
Say it in silence, when thy soft eyes rain
Welcome upon me; when before my praise,
Like a young lily, slowly downward sways
Thy gleaming face, afire through every vein.
Say it with clasping hand, with tears that pour
At hint of parting; with the widowed air
My briefest absence makes thy features wear.
O say thou lovest me; say it o'er and o'er;
Let word, look, act, the gracious tidings bear;
Now say thou lovest me, my Beloved, once more!

February 12, 1881


Tonight I saw my darling, bathed in light,
Sit as she slowly combed her splendid hair
Into one tress, through which the piercing glare
Shot dusky gold against surrounding night.
Her upturned brow was pearl-like, and that pair
Of glorious eyes, which rule me as by right,
Half closed beneath their lids, shone faintly bright,
Like dawn's first streak along the eastern air.
Her cheek was pale, I fancied;--ah! but why?
Had act of mine thus turned the rose to grey,
Blanched the fair brow, and closed the weary eye?
Oh! God, I knew not; but upon me lay
At once, like Cain's, His curse; and with a cry,
Bitter as guilt's, I fled in tears away.

May 13, 1881


My darling, O my darling, let me gaze
My whole heart's fill into thy splendid eyes;
Till from their depths the secret may arise
Which privily of me thy spirit says.
What thinkst thou of me in our severed ways,
When others greet thee, and no longer lies
Thy heart beneath my influence, which dies
Perchance, when thine my heart no longer sways?
How art thou then, Beloved? Dost thou pine
With the same sorrow that makes life to me
Shrink into naught at the mere thought of thee?
Poor is the feast, and tasteless is the wine,
And pleasure's show a weary mockery,
If to itself thy love resembles mine.

May 24, 1881


Darling, to say I love thee, is to say
What I have often said, with careless arm
Round Chloe's waist, in breath no wit too warm
For the hot ear that close against me lay.
Not thus I love thee, as a beast of prey
That slakes his craving, whether weal or harm
Betide his minion; then, with every charm
Sated and spent, turns wearily away.
That which thou givest, seems ever to invite
To pleasures new, and fresh, and manifold,
That recreate a youth in senses old.
So that love's dizziest and extremest flight
Draws me but nearer, strengthens passion's might,
Grows with its outlay, like the usurer's gold.

June 2, 1881


Mere love, the common commerce of the earth,
Is little in its uses; scarcely won,
Ere o'ercloyed taste is sickened and undone
By what it craved for at its eager birth.
So the gorged infant turns in heedless mirth,
Back from the bosom it has fed upon,
And plays with motes which flicker in the sun,
Scorning the breast that filled its selfish dearth.
Thus may the fawning heifer of the grove
Her horned lord an equal love impart,
Nor more degrade the majesty of love.
Ah! in a mummery of wretched art,
Of rites obscene, we erring mortals move,
And make a pagan of the blinded heart.

February 28, 1882


My lady's birthday rises golden fair,
And I arise to see the lord of light
Beaconing the land from every flaming height,
And hanging blazoned banners on the air.
Meet homage to her beauty! Everywhere
The world is blazing; sky, earth, water, bright
With celebration of the general rite,
Their due observance in the pageant bear.
I am a poet; far too poor to will,
As sovereigns might, a festival for thee,
Whose sights my subjects' wondering eyes should fill.
Poor as I am, yet mark my realm, and see
What pomps I spread for thee o'er plain and hill--
I who, through God, all nature hold in fee!

February 26, 1881. (sic)


I bend and kiss thee; 'tis a little thing;
Thousands have passed between us; and, God grant,
That nectarous sip our lips may never want;
Slight in itself, yet so much witnessing!
This is the birthday present which I bring--
Poor beggared I!--while other men may flaunt
Their gifts before me, openly may vaunt
Their love in flashing gem and golden ring.
Alas! the only gift I dare to make,
Or thou darest take, is in that little kiss,
Oh! secret love, so dread is slander's hiss!
And yet, bethink thee, for our dear love's sake,
The wealth of meaning gathered into this,
This kiss, which I bestow, and thou dost take!

February 26, 1881


Thy birthday opened with artillery;--
The flash and thunder of the breaking wave,
At early dawn, a greeting salvo gave,
While roared the outer crowded, jostling sea.
Glad heaven displayed its sunrise pageantry,
Each cloud the other trying to outbrave,
Till Phoebus through them drove his fiery nave,
In golden tnumph--all to honor thee!
O sea, we love thee! By thy moonlit side,
Mingling my halting whisper with thy tone,
I spoke the words that made her heart my own;
And ever since, the murmuring of thy tide,
Uplifting to the moon its silver zone,
Brings back the night whose memory is our pride.

By the Sea, February 26, 1882


In lingering winter was my darling born,
To make amends by Nature for her dearth
And cutting winds, that over buried earth,
Blew darkness in the face of surly morn.
Then stole she gently on a world forlorn,
Like summer straying with her light and mirth,
Her balmy breath, her bright and fragrant birth
Of flowers, into a valley tempest-torn.
Yea, and to me, who like the blackened land,
Lay cold and still, her blessed presence came,
When I had deemed my life a burnt-out brand;
When sense and heart were quenched, and God's own flame
Died in my soul, she took my hopeless hand,
And led me forward in Love's holy name.

February 26, 1883


Thy birthday ends a year of grief and pain,
Of hope deferred, that maketh sick the heart,
Of dreary days, but marked by pain and smart,
Haunting the bed whereon thy form has lain.
And I, poor watcher of thy anguish--fain,
If prayer were answered, to endure thy part--
Stood helpless by, betwixt thee and Death's dart,
Pouring my supplicating tears like rain.
Dark days were those, my darling; but I knew,
Even while I trembled, that the mighty law
Of love, Christ-founded, was without a flaw;
That high within the calm, immortal blue,
The God-born Lover through His glory saw
Our faithful hearts, and to his pledge was true.

February 26, 1884


These blows of fate that shake our troubled life,
This long, long sorrow o'er our parted fate,
Like foes assailing us with armed hate,
But drive us closer, to resist the strife.
The briefer joys, that make a moment rife
With dreams ecstatic of the blissful state
Which might be ours, if hand with hand could mate,
Lure us to murmur faintly, "Husband!"--"Wife!"
I thank thee, Heaven, that not by night nor day,
In calm nor storm, in happiness nor woe,
Can earthly chance our wakeful love betray!
Serene and strong, he wends his homeward way,
Through life and death, to where the splendors glow
Which he, God's herald, promised to our clay.

February 26, 1884


Love sat at ease upon Time's bony knee;
Pulled his grey beard; paddled his finger-tips
Among his wrinkles; smote his bloodIess lips;
With rosy palms, forbade his eyes to see;
O'erturned his fatal hour-glass; wantonly
Pulled his scythe-edge against that dart which rips
The heart of adamant; cast gibes and quips
Straight in his teeth, out-mocking mockery.
What said the phantom? Nought; he only smiled
To be thus toyed with; held his wasting breath,
Lest he might do some damage to the child;
Till Love, grown weary of that pastime, saith,
"This is too tame; my heart with joy is wild;
Come, Father, come! Let us go play with Death!"

February 9, 1885


The years repeat themselves; and now, once more,
The day that gave my darling birth is here;
How swift, alas! in what a mad career
The rushing sands of happy days outpour!
Stay, Time, a little! Let not life be o'er
Ere we can taste its fulness--life so dear,
So sweet to both!--from whom thou'st stolen a year,
Who grudged thee every moment of thy score.
Let this console us; though we plead in vain
To stolid Time, that as his days go by,
Love draws us closer, makes more clear our sky;
Assures a future so secure and plain,
That our exulting hearts, as one, may cry,
Time, do thy worst! thy loss has been our gain.

February 26, 1885


I mark not seasons by the calendar;
My lady's birthdays measure time to me;
In spite of Julius or of Gregory,
My year begins and ends itself in her.
Surely in this my reckoning cannot err;
Nature's new year the opening spring must be;
For so says every herb and flower and tree
That breaks from slumber, and begins to stir.
So said my lady, when her wondrous birth
Forestalled the springtime by her sovereign grace,
And bloomed a rose in winter's hoary face.
Since then I hold no calendar of worth
Save Love's; too long Emperor's and Pope's had place
Among the other errors of our earth.

February 26, 1885


Like to a flock of birds, the flying days
Whirr in my ears, and leave no trace behind,
More than the swallow's through the cloven wind,
That shows not whence nor where her course she lays.
Between two mysteries, the narrow ways,
In which our fleeting moments are confined,
Lie through a night no vision can unbind,
No foot retrace, nor know to what it strays.
O God of love, I feel so weak and lone
Between these gulfs of darkness; reach thy hand,
And strike a fire within this heart of stone!
Give me an inner light that, like a brand,
May burn before me! Let thy dread command
Make plain the future; for the past is gone!

May 6, 1885


Another year has passed us, while the earth
Grew green and grey again beneath our eyes,
And now once more, the snowy mantle lies
Across her breast, to celebrate thy birth.
Dearest, with solemn joy, not noisy mirth,
I hail again thy natal sun arise,
And my thanksgiving to the generous skies,
I wing upon this song of little worth.
God's one great blessing to my weary lot!
Ah, what had been this train of sombre days--
This sorry remnant of a dying blaze--
Had gracious Heaven, by any chance, forgot
To make this day my day of boundless praise,
If I were here alone, and thou wert not?

February 26, 1887


By thy own truth, Beloved, I am true!
I swear by that in which I most believe;
Explore thy heart; if there thou canst perceive
A taint of weakness, that far charge me too.
I knew at starting--ah! too well I knew,
And trembled at the knowledge--on that eve
When my first kisses made thy bosom heave,
That staid reflection might thy faith undo.
I must admit, it seems a strange abuse
That one like me is privileged to bear
Love's sacred essence with thee, share for share.
Olympian nectar, in a peasant's cruse,
Would make clay holy by its holy use,
A common stock with sculptured gold compare.

February 26, 1887