A Lover's Litanies - Fourth Litany. Gratia Plena.

A poem by Eric Mackay


Oh, smile on me, thou syren of my soul!
That I may curb my thoughts to some control
And not offend thee, as in truth I do,
Morning, and noon and night, when I pursue
My vagrant fancies, unallow'd of thee,
But fraught with such consolement unto me
As may be felt in homeward-sailing ships
When wind and wave contend upon the sea.


Dower me with patience and imbue me still
With some reminder, when the night is chill,
Of thy dear presence, as, in winter-time,
The maiden moon, that tenderly doth climb
The lofty heavens, hath yet a beam to spare
For doleful wretches in their dungeon-lair;
E'en thus endow me in my chamber dim
With some reminder of thy face so fair!


Quit thou thy body while thou sleepest well
And visit mine at midnight, by the spell
That knows not shame. For in the House of Sleep
All things are pure; and in the silence deep
I'll wait for thee, and thou, contrition-wise,
Wilt seek my couch and this that on it lies,
This frame of mine that lives for thee alone
As palmers live for peace that never dies.


It were a goodly thing to spare a foe
And kill his hate. And I would e'en do so!
For I would kill the coyness of thy face.
I would enfold thee in my spurn'd embrace
And kiss the kiss that gladdens as with wine.
Yea, I would wrestle with those arms of thine,
And, like a victor, I would vanquish thee,
And, tyrant-like, I'd teach thee to be mine.


For, what is peace that we should cling thereto
If war be wisest? If the death we woo
Be fraught with fervor there's delight in death!
There is persuasion in the tempest's breath
Not known in calm; and raptures round us flow
When, like an arrow through the bended bow
Of two fond lips, the quivering dart of love
Brings down the kiss which saints shall not bestow.


The soldier dies for country and for kin;
He dies for fame that is so sweet to win;
And, part for duty, part for battle-doom,
He wends his way to where the myrtles bloom;
He gains a grave, perchance a recompense
Beyond his seeking, and a restful sense
Of soul-completion, far from any strife,
And far from memory of his land's defence.


Be this my meed,--to die for love of thee,
As when the sun goes down upon the sea
And finds no mate in all the realms of earth.
I, too, have look'd on Nature in its worth
And found no resting-place in all the spheres,
And no relief beyond my sonnet-tears,--
The soul-fed shudderings of my lonely harp
That knows the gamut now of all my fears.


I wear thy colours till the day I die:
A glove, a ribbon, and a rose thereby,
All join'd in one. I revel in these things;
For, once an angel, unarray'd in wings,
Came to my side, and beam'd on me, and said:
"I love thee, friend!" and then, with lifted head,
Gave me a rose on which the dew had fallen;
And, like the flower, she blush'd a virgin-red.


I found the glove down yonder in the dale.
I knew 'twas thine; its color, creamy-pale,
Fill'd me with joy. "A prize!" I cried aloud,
And snatch'd it up, as zealous then, and proud,
As one who wins a knighthood in his youth;
And I was moved thereat, in very sooth,
And kiss'd it oft, and call'd on kindly Heaven
To be the sponsor of mine amorous truth.


I Earn'd the ribbon as we earn a smile
For service done. I help'd thee at the stile;
And so 'twas mine, my trophy, as of right.
Oh, never yet was ribbon half so bright!
It seem'd of sky-descent,--a strip of morn
Thrown on the sod,--a something summer-worn
To be my guerdon; and, enriched therewith,
I follow'd thee, thy suitor, through the corn.


I trod on air. I seem'd to hear the sound
Of fifes and trumpets and the quick rebound
Of bells unseen,--the storming of a tower
By imps audacious, and the sovereign power
Of some arch-fairy, thine acquaintance sure
In days gone by; for, all the land was pure,
As if new-blest,--the land and all the sea
And all the welkin where the stars endure.


We journey'd on through fields that were a-glow
With cowslip buds and daisies white as snow;
And, hand in hand, we stood beside a shrine
At which a bard whom lovers deem divine,
Laid down his life; and, as we gazed at this,
There seem'd to issue from the wood's abyss
A sound of trills, as if, in its wild way,
A nightingale were pondering on a kiss.


A lane was reached that led I know not where,
Unless to Heaven,--for Heaven was surely there
And thou so near it! And within a nook
A-down whose covertness a noisy brook
Did talk of peace, I learnt of thee my fate;
The word of pity that was kin to hate,--
The voice of reason that was reason's foe
Because it spurn'd the love that was so great!


But I must pause. I must, from day to day,
Keep back my tears, and seek a surer way
Than Memory's track. I must, with lifted eyes,
Re-shape my life, and heed the battle-cries
Of prompt ambition, and be braced at call
To do such deeds as haply may befall,
If, freed of thee, and charter'd to myself,
I may undo the bonds that now enthrall.


Shall I do this? I shall; and thou shalt see
Signs of rebellion. I will turn to thee
And claim obedience. I will make it plain
How many a link may go to form a chain,
And each a circlet, each a ring to wear.
I will extract the sting from my despair
And toy therewith, as with a charm├Ęd snake,
That, Lamia-like, uprears itself in air.


Or is my boast a vain, an empty one,
And shall I rue it ere the day is done?
Will hope revive betimes? Or must I stand
For evermore outside the fairyland
Of thy good will? Alas! my place is here,
To muse and moan and sigh and shed my tear,
My paltry tear for one who loves me not,
And would not mourn for me on my death-bier.


Oh, get thee hence, thou harbinger of light!
That, like a dream, dost come to me at night
To haunt my sleep, and rob me of content,
So true-untrue, so deaf to my lament,
I must forego the pride I felt therein.
Aye, get thee hence! And I will crush the sin,
If sin it be, that prompts me, night and day,
To seek in thee the bliss I cannot win.


Or, if thou needs must haunt me after dark,
Come when I wake. The oriole and the lark
Are friends of thine; and oft, I know, the thrush
Has trill'd of thee at morn and even-blush.
And flowers have made confessions unto me
At which I marvel; for they rail at thee
And call thee heartless in thy seemlihood,
Though queen-elect of all the flowers that be.


Nay, heed me not! I rave; I am possess'd
By utmost longing. I am sore oppress'd
By thoughts of woe; and in my heart I feel
A something keener than the touch of steel,
As if, to-day, a danger unforeseen
Had track'd thy path,--as if my prayers had been
Misjudged in Heaven, or drown'd in demon-shouts
Beyond the boundaries of the coasts terrene.


But this is clear; this much at least is true:
I am thine own! I doat upon the blue
Of thy kind eyes, well knowing that in these
Are proofs of God; and down upon my knees
I fall subservient, as a man in shame
May own a fault; albeit, as with a flame,
I burn all day, abash'd and unforgiven,
And all unfit to touch the hand I claim!

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