Theodore Wratislaw (1871-1933)

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Sonnet Macabre

I love you for the grief that lurks within
Your languid spirit, and because you wear
Corruption with a vague and childish air,
And with your beauty know the depths of sin;

Because shame cuts and holds you like a gin,
And virtue dies in you slain by despair,
Since evil has you tangled in its snare
And triumphs on the soul good cannot win.

I love you since you know remorse and tears,
And in your troubled loveliness appears
The spot of ancient crimes that writhe and hiss:

I love you for your hands that calm and bless,
The perfume of your sad and slow caress,
The avid poison of your subtle kiss.

White Lilies

Flowers rare and sweet I sent, whose delicate white
Should, grouping at her corsage, interlace
Their purity with her corrupted grace,
With the full throat and mouth of my delight.

Evil design! To see the pale flowers slight
The beauty of the worn and powdered face,
Mingling their costly virtue with the trace
Of ancient loves that live in time's despite.

How soon they died, poor blossoms! at her throat
Ere of the last valse died the last sad note
No more than love of her meant to endure,

For all the savour of her lips, the spice
Of her frail spirit steeped in cultured vice,
Gracefully bad and delicately impure!

Hothouse Flowers

I hate the flower of wood or common field.
I cannot love the primrose nor regret
The death of any shrinking violet,
Nor even the cultured garden's banal yield.

The silver lips of lilies virginal,
The full deep bosom of the enchanted rose
Please less than flowers glass-hid from frost and snows
For whom an alien heat makes festival.

I love those flowers reared by man's careful art,
Of heady scents and colors: strong of heart
Or weak that die beneath the touch of knife,

Some rich as sin and some as virtue pale,
And some as subtly infamous and frail
As she whose love still eats my soul and life.