The Quarrel.

A poem by James Whitcomb Riley

They faced each other: Topaz-brown
And lambent burnt her eyes and shot
Sharp flame at his of amethyst. -
"I hate you! Go, and be forgot
As death forgets!" their glitter hissed
(So seemed it) in their hatred. Ho!
Dared any mortal front her so? -
Tempestuous eyebrows knitted down -
Tense nostril, mouth - no muscle slack, -
And black - the suffocating black -
The stifling blackness of her frown!

Ah! but the lifted face of her!
And the twitched lip and tilted head!
Yet he did neither wince nor stir, -
Only - his hands clenched; and, instead
Of words, he answered with a stare
That stammered not in aught it said,
As might his voice if trusted there.

And what - what spake his steady gaze? -
Was there a look that harshly fell
To scoff her? - or a syllable
Of anger? - or the bitter phrase
That myrrhs the honey of love's lips,
Or curdles blood as poison drips?
What made their breasts to heave and swell
As billows under bows of ships
In broken seas on stormy days?
We may not know - nor they indeed -
What mercy found them in their need.

A sudden sunlight smote the gloom;
And round about them swept a breeze,
With faint breaths as of clover-bloom;
A bird was heard, through drone of bees, -
Then, far and clear and eerily,
A child's voice from an orchard-tree -
Then laughter, sweet as the perfume
Of lilacs, could the hearing see.
And he - O Love! he fed thy name
On bruis├ęd kisses, while her dim
Deep eyes, with all their inner flame,
Like drowning gems were turned on him.

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