You often ask me, love, how much I love you,
Bidding my fancy find
An answer to your mind;
I say: "Past count, as there are stars above you."
You shake your head and say,
"Many and bright are they,
But that is not enough."
Again I try:
"If all the leaves on all the trees
Were counted over,
And all the waves on all the seas,
More times your lover,
Yea! more than twice ten thousand times am I."
"'Tis not enough," again you make reply.
"How many blades of grass," one day I said,
"Are there from here to China? how many bees
Have gathered honey through the centuries?
Tell me how many roses have bloomed red
Since the first rose till this rose in your hair?
How many butterflies are born each year?
How many raindrops are there in a shower?
How many kisses, darling, in an hour?"
Thereat you smiled, and shook your golden head;
"Ah! not enough!" you said.
Then said I: "Dear, it is not in my power
To tell how much, how many ways, my love;
Unnumbered are its ways even as all these,
Nor any depth so deep, nor height above,
May match therewith of any stars or seas."
"I would hear more," you smiled . . .
"Then, love," I said,
"This will I do: unbind me all this gold
Too heavy for your head,
And, one by one, I'll count each shining thread,
And when the tale of all its wealth is told . . ."
"As much as that!" you said -
"Then the full sum of all my love I'll speak,
To the last unit tell the thing you ask . . ."
Thereat the gold, in gleaming torrents shed,
Fell loose adown each cheek,
Hiding you from me; I began my task.
"'Twill last our lives," you said.