Vouchsafe, my Lady! by the passion-flower,
And by the glamour of a moonlit hour,
And by the cries and sighs of all the birds
That sing o'nights, to heed again the words
Of my poor pleading! For I swear to thee
My love is deeper than the bounding sea,
And more conclusive than a wedding-bell,
And freer-voiced than winds upon the lea.
[Footnote 1: This Litany was introduced in the Author's "Gladys the Singer," published by Messrs. Reeves & Turner, London, 1887.]
In all the world, from east unto the west,
There is no vantage-ground, and little rest,
And no content for me from dawn to dark,
From set of sun to song-time of the lark,
And yet, withal, there is no man alive
Who for a goodly cause to make it thrive,
Would do such deeds as I would gird me to
Could I but win the pearl for which I dive.
It is thy love which, downward in the deep
Of far-off visions, I behold in sleep,--
It is thy pearl of love which in the night
Doth tempt my soul to hopes I dare not write,--
It is this gem for which, had I a crown,
I'd barter peace and pomp, and ermined gown;
It is thy troth, thou paragon of maids!
For which I'd sell the joys of all renown.
I would attack a panther in its den
To do thee service as thy man of men,
Or front the Fates, or, like a ghoul, confer
With staring ghosts outside a sepulchre.
I would forego a limb to give thee life,
Or yield my soul itself in any strife,
In any coil of doubt, in any spot
When Death and Danger meet as man and wife.
It is my solace, all my nights and days,
To pray for thee and dote on thee always,
And evermore to count myself a king
Because I earn'd thy favour in the spring.
Oh, smile on me and call me to thy side,
And I will kneel to thee, as to a bride,
And yet adore thee as a saint in Heaven
By God ordained, by good men glorified!
I will acquaint thee with mine inmost thought
And teach thee all I know, though unbesought,
And make thee prouder of a poet's dream
Than wealthy men are proud of what they seem.
If thou have trust therein, if thou require
Service of me, or song, or penance dire,
I will obey thee as thy belted knight,
Or die to satisfy thy heart's desire.
Ah! thou hast that in store which none can give,
None but thyself, and I am fain to live
To watch the outcome of so fair a gift,--
To see the bright good morrow loom and lift,
And know that thou,--unpeer'd beneath the moon,--
Untamed of men,--untutor'd to the tune
Of lip with lip,--wilt cease thy coy disdain
And learn the languors of the loves of June.
All that I am, and all I hope to be,
Is thine till death; and though I die for thee
Each day I live; and though I throb and thrill
At thoughts that seem to burn me, and to chill,
In my dark hours, I revel in the same;
Yet I am free of hope, as thou of blame,
And all around me, wakeful and in sleep,
I weave a blessing for thy soul to claim.
Oh, by thy radiant hair and by the glow
Of thy full eyes,--and by thy breast of snow,--
And by the buds thereof that have the flush
Of infant roses when they strive to blush,--
And by thy voice, melodious as a bell
That rings for prayer in God's high citadel,--
By all these things, and more than I can urge,
I charge thee, Sweet! to let me out of hell!
Is it not Hell to live so far away
And not to touch thee,--not by night or day
To be partaker of one smile of thine,
Or one commingling of thy breath and mine,
Or one encounter of thine amorous mouth?
I dwell apart from thee, as north from south,
As east from western ways I dwell apart,
And taste the tears that quench not any drouth.
Why wouldst thou take the memory of a wrong
To be thy shadow all the summer long,
A thing to chide thee at the dead of night,
A thing to wake thee with the morning light
For self-upbraiding, while the wanton bird
Invests the welkin? Ah, by joy deferr'd,
By peace withheld from me,--do thou relent
And dower my life to-day with one love-word!
Wouldst thou, Cassandra-wise, oppress my soul
With more unrest, and Hebè-like, the bowl
Of festal comfort for a moment raise
To my poor lips, and then avert thy gaze?
Wouldst make me mad beyond the daily curse
Of thy displeasure, and in wrath disperse
That halcyon draught, that nectar of the mind,
Which is the theme I yearn to in my verse?
Oh, by thy pity when so slight a thing
As some small bird is wounded in the wing,
Avert thy scorn, and grant me, from afar,
At least the right to love thee as a star,--
The right to turn to thee, the right to bow
To thy pure name and evermore, as now,
To own thy thraldom and to sing thereon,
In proud allegiance to mine earliest vow.
It were abuse of power to frown again
When, all day long, I gloat upon the pain
Of pent-up hope, my joy and my distress,--
While the remembrance of a mute caress
Given to a rose,--a rose I pluck'd for thee,--
Seems as the withering of the world to me,
Because I am unlov'd of thee to-day
And undesired as sea-weeds in the sea.
I'll not believe that eyes so bright as thine
Were meant for malice in the summer-shine,
Or that a glance thereof, though changed to fire,
Could injure one whose spirit, like a lyre,
Has throbb'd to music of remember'd joys,--
The pride thereof, and all the tender poise
Of trust with trust,--the symphonies of grief
Made all mine own,--and Faith which never cloys.
How can it be that one so fair as thou
Should wear contention on a whiter brow
Than May-day Dian's in her hunting gear?
I'll not believe that eyes so holy-clear
And mouth so constant to its morning prayer
Could mock the mischief of a man's despair
And all the misery of a moment's hope
Seen far away, as mists are seen in air.
How can a woman's heart be made of stone
And she not know it? Mine is overthrown.
I have no heart to-day, no perfect one,
Only a thing that sighs at set of sun
And beats its cage, as if the thrall thereof
Were freedom's prison or the tomb of love;
As if, God help me! there were shame in truth
And no salvation left in realms above.
I once could laugh, I once was deem'd a man
Fit for the frenzies of the dead god Pan,
And now, by Heaven! the birds that sing so well
Move me to tears; and all the leafy dell,
And all the sun-down glories of the West,
And all the moorland which the moon has blest,
Make me a dreamer, aye! a coward, too,
In all the weird expanse of mine unrest.
It is my curse to see thee and to learn
That I must shun thee, though I blaze and burn
With all this longing, all this fierce delight
Fear-fraught and famish'd for a suitor's right;
A right conceded for a moment's space
And then withdrawn as, amorous face to face,
I dared to clasp thee and to urge a troth
Too sovereign-sweet for one of Adam's race.
I am a doom-entangled mirthless soul,
Without the power to rid me of the dole
Which, day by day, and nightly evermore
Corrodes my peace! Oh, smile, as once before,
At each wild thought and each discarded plea,
And let thy sentence, let thy suffrance be
That I be reckon'd till the day I die
The sad-eyed Singer of thy fame and thee!