It seems a year, and more, since last we met,
Since roseate spring repaid, in part, its debt
To thy bright eyes, and o'er the lowlands fair
Made daffodils so like thy golden hair
That I, poor wretch, have kiss'd them on my knees!
Forget-Me-Nots peep out beneath the trees
So like thine eyes that I have question'd them,
And thought thee near, though viewless on the breeze.
It seems a year; and yet, when all is told,
'Tis but a week since I was re-enroll'd
Among thy friends. How fairy-like the scene!
How gay with lamps! How fraught with tender sheen
Of life and languor! I was thine alone:--
Alert for thee,--intent to catch the tone
Of thy sweet voice,--and proud to be alive
To call to heart a peace for ever flown.
Had I not vext thee, as a monk in prayer
May vex a saint by musing, unaware,
On evil things? A saint is hard to move,
And quick to chide, and slow,--as I can prove,--
To do what's just; and yet, in thy despite,
We met again, we too, at dead of night;
And I was hopeful in my love of thee,
And thou superb, and matchless, in the light.
I felt distraught from gazing over-much
At thy great beauty; and I fear'd to touch
The dainty hand which Envy's self hath praised.
I fear'd to greet thee; and my soul was dazed
And self-convicted in its new design;
For I was mad to hope to call thee mine,
Aye! mad as he who claims a Virgin's love
Because his lips have praised her at a shrine.
I saw thee there in all the proud array
Of thy young charms,--as if a summer's day
Had leapt to life and made itself a queen,--
As if the sylphs, remembering what had been,
Had mission'd thee, from out the world's romance,
To stir my pulse, and thrill me with a glance:
And once again, allow'd, though undesired,
I did become thy partner in the dance.
I bow'd to thee. I drew thee to my side,
As one may seize a wrestler in his pride
To try conclusions,--and I felt the rush
Of my heart's blood suffuse me in a blush
That told its tale. But what my tongue would tell
Was spent in sighs, as o'er my spirit fell
The silvery cadence of thy lips' assent;
And every look o'er-ruled me like a spell.
O devil's joy of dancing, when a tune
Speeds us to Heaven, and night is at the noon
Of all its frolic, all its wild desire!
O thrall of rapt illusions when we tire
Of coy reserve, and all the moments pass
As pass the visions in a magic glass,
And every step is shod with ecstacy,
And every smile is fleck'd with some Alas!
Was it a moment or a merry span
Of years uncounted when convulsion ran
Right through the veins of me, to make me blest,
And yet accurst, in that revolving quest
Known as a waltz,--if waltz indeed it were
And not a fluttering dream of gauze and vair
And languorous eyes? I scarce can muse thereon
Without a pang too sweet for me to bear!
By right of music, for a fleeting term,
Mine arms enwound thee and I held thee firm
There on my breast,--so near, yet so remote,
So close about me that I seem'd to float
In sunlit rapture,--touch'd I know not how
By some suggestion of a deeper vow
Than men are 'ware of when, on Glory's track,
They kneel to angels with uplifted brow.
And lo! abash'd, I do recall to mind
All that is past:--the yearning undefined,--
The baulk'd confession that was like a sob--
The sound of singing and the gurgling throb
Of lute and viol,--meant for many things
But most for misery; and a something clings
Close to my heart that is not wantonness,
Though, wanton-like, it warms me while it stings.
The night returns,--that night of all the nights!
And I am dower'd anew with such delights
As memory feeds on; for I walk'd with thee
In moonlit gardens, and there flew to me
A flower-like moth, a pinion'd daffodil,
From Nature's hand; and, out beyond the hill,
There rose a star I joy'd to look upon
Because it seem'd the star of thy good will.
We sat beneath the trees, as well thou know'st,
Within an arbour which a summer's boast
Had made ambrosial; and we loiter'd there
Some little space, the while upon the air
Uprose the fragrance of uncounted flowers.
Ah me! how weird a tryste was that of ours!
And how the moon look'd down, so lurid-warm,
Athwart the stillness of the frondage-towers!
I seem'd to feel thy breath upon my cheek;
I vainly searched for words I long'd to speak,
But could not utter lest the sound thereof
Should scare away the elves that wait on love.
And when I spoke to thee 'twas of the spot
Where we were seated,--things that matter'd not,--
Uncared for things,--the weather,--the new laws!
And, sudden-loud, the wind assail'd the grot.
A little bird was warbling overhead
As if to twit me with the word unsaid
Which he, more daring, when the sun was high,
Trill'd to his mate! He knew the tender "why"
Of many a pleading, and he knew, meseems,
The very key-note to the lyric dreams
Of all true poets when, by love impell'd,
They search the secrets of the woods and streams.
'Tis sure that summer, when she rear'd the bower
And arched the roof and gave it all the dower
Of all its leaves, and all the crannies small
Where wrens look through,--'tis sure that, after all,
Summer was kind, and meant to make for me
A shriving-place,--a lighthouse on the sea
Of all that verdure,--that, beneath the stars,
I might receive one quickening glance from thee.
Oh! had I dared to whisper in thine ear
My heart-full wish, undaunted by the fear
Of some rebuke:--a flush of thy fair face,
A lifted hand to tell me that the place
Was fairy-fenced, and guarded as by flame,--
Oh! had I dared to court the word of blame
That's good for me, no doubt! at every turn,
My life to-day were chasten'd by the same.
But I was conscious of a sudden ban
Hurl'd from the zenith. I was like the man
Who scaled Olympus, with intent to bring
New fire therefrom, and dared not face the King
Of thought and thunder. I was full prepared
For thy displeasure,--for the past was bared
To mine on-looking; and, with faltering tongue,
I left my languorous meanings undeclared.
O lost Occasion! what a thing art thou:--
A three-fold key,--the when, the where, the how,--
The past, the present and the future tense,--
All thrown aside. For what? A witless sense
Of some compunction! When the hour is bold
Reason is shy, and rapture, seeming-cold,
Makes mute surrender of its dearest chance,
And all for fear of doubts that might be told.
But could we meet, oh! could we meet again
On some such night, unseen upon the plain,
I'd rob thee, Lady! of a tardy smile.
I would do this; and, for a breathing-while,
I would assert a sinner's right to pray,
A sinner's right to choose, as best he may,
His patron-saint; and I would kneel to thee,
And call thee mine, and dote on thee for aye!
And then in summer, when the hours are mad,
And all the flow'rets in the fields are glad,
And all the breezes, like demented things
Outspeed the birds with sunlight on their wings,
In summer, aye! in summer's gracious time,
I might perchance be pardon'd for the crime
Of my much love, and win thy benison
Ere yet the year has reached its golden prime!