A Lover's Litanies - Sixth Litany. Benedicta Tu.

A poem by Eric Mackay


I tell thee Sweet! there lives not on the earth
A love like mine in all the height and girth
And all the vast completion of the sphere.
I should be proud, to-day, to shed a tear
If I could weep. But tears are most denied
When most besought; and joys are sanctified
By joys' undoing in this world of ours
From dusk to dawn and dawn to eventide.


Wert thou a marble maid and I endow'd
With power to move thee from thy seeming shroud
Of frozen splendour,--all thy whiteness mine
And all the glamour, all the tender shine
Of thy glad eyes,--ah God! if this were so,
And I the loosener, in the summer-glow,
Of thy long tresses! I were licensed then
To gaze, unchidden, on thy limbs of snow.


I would prepare for thee a holy niche
In some new temple, and with draperies rich,
And flowers and lamps and incense of the best,
I would with something of mine own unrest
Imbue thy blood and prompt thee to be just.
I would endow thee with a fairer trust
Than mere contentment, and a dearer joy
Than mere revulsion from the sins of dust.


A band of boys, with psaltery and with lyre,
And Cyprian girls, the slaves of thy desire,
Would chant and pray and raise so wild a storm
Of golden notes around thy sculptured form
That saints would hear the chorus up in Heaven,
And intermingle with their holy steven
The sighs of earth, and long for other cares
Than those ordain'd them by the Lord's Eleven.


I would approach thee with a master's tread
And claim thy hand and have the service read
By youthful priests resplendent every one;
And in thy frame the blood of thee would run
As warm and sound as wine of Syracuse.
And all that day the birds would bear the news
In far directions, and the meadow-flowers
Would dream thereof, love-laden, in the dews.


Then, by magnetic force,--the greatest known
This side the tomb,--I would athwart the stone
Of thy white body, in a trice of time,
Call forth thy soul, and woo thee to the chime
Of tinkling bells, and make thee half afraid,
And half aggrieved, to find thyself array'd
In such enthralment, and in such attire,
In sight of one whose will should not be stay'd.


And, like Pygmalion, I would claim anon
A bride's submission; and my talk thereon
Would not perplex thee; for the sense of life
Would warm thy heart, and urge thee to the strife
Of lip with lip, and kiss with pulsing kiss,
Which gives the clue to all we know of bliss,
And all we know of heights we long to climb
Beyond the boundaries of the grave's abyss.


The dear old deeds chivàlrous once again
Would find fulfilment; and the curse of Cain
Which fell on woman, as on men it fell,
Would fly from us, as at a sorcerer's spell,
And leave us wiser than the sophists are
Who love not folly. Night should not debar,
Nor day dissuade us, from those ecstacies
That have Anacreon's fame for guiding-star.


Aye! thou wouldst kneel and seek in me apace
A transient shelter for thine amorous face
Which then I'd screen; and thou to me wouldst turn
With awe-struck eyes, and cling to me and yearn,
With sighs full tender and a touch of fear.
And, like a bird which knows that spring is near,
And, after spring, the summer of sweet days,
Thou wouldst attune thy love-notes in mine ear.


Or, fraught with feelings near akin to hate,
Thou wouldst denounce me; and, like one elate,
Thou wouldst entwine me in thine arms so white,
As soldier-nymphs, with rapt and raging sight,
Made war with spearsmen in the vales of song,
The vales of Sparta where, for right or wrong,
The gods were potent, and, for beauty's sake,
Upheld the tourneys of the fair and strong.


I would not seem too wilful in the heat
Of our encounter, or with sighs repeat
Too fierce a vow. I would throughout confess
Thy murderous mirth, thy conquering loveliness,
And then subdue thee! Tears would not avail
Nor prayer, nor praise; and, flush'd the while or pale,
Thou shouldst be mine, my hostage in the night,
Without the option of a moment's bail.


Thou shouldst be mine! My hopes, from first to last,
Would win their way; and, lithe and love-aghast,
And all unnerv'd, thou wouldst, as in a dream
Entreat my pardon! I would callous seem
To thine out-yearning. I would cast on thee
A questioning look, and then, upon my knee,
I would surrender to that face of thine
Which is the great world's wonder unto me.


O Heaven! could this be done, and I fulfil
One half my wish, and curb thee to my will,
I were a prompter and a prouder man
Than earth has known since light-foot lovers ran
For Atalanta, lov'd of men and boys.
I were a kaiser then, a king of joys,
And fit to play with high-begotten pomps
As children play with pebbles or with toys.


O Golden Hair! O Gladness of an Hour
Made flesh and blood! O beauteous Human Flower
Too sweet to pluck, and yet, though seeming-cold,
Ordain'd to love! I pray thee, as of old,
Be kind to me. I saw thee yesternight,
And for an instant I was urged to plight
My troth again; for in thy face I saw
What seem'd a smile evoked for my delight.


Re-grant thy favour! Take me by the hand
And lead me back again to thine own land,
The nook supreme, the sanctum in the glen
Where pixies walk,--unknown to peevish men
And shrew-like women whom no faith uplifts!
Show me the place where Nature keeps the gifts
She most approves, and where the song-birds dwell,
And I'll forego the land of little thrifts.


The moon is mother and the sun is sire
Of those young planets which, with infant fire,
Have late been found in regions too remote
For quicklier search; and these, in time, will dote
And whirl and wanton in the realms of space.
For there are comets in the nightly chase
Who see strange things untalk'd of by the bards;
And earth herself has found a trysting-place.


And so 'tis clear that sun and moon and stars
Are link'd by love! The marriage-feast of Mars
Was fixt long since. 'Tis Venus whom he weds.
'Tis she alone for whom he gaily treads
His path of splendour; and of Saturn's ring
He knows the symbol, and will have, in spring,
A night-betrothal, near the Southern Cross;
And all the stars will pause thereat and sing.


What wonder, then, what wonder if to-day
I, too, assert my right, in roundelay,
To talk of rings and posies and the vows
That wait on marriage? 'Tis the wild carouse
Of soul with soul athwart the sense of touch.
'Tis this uplifts us when, with fever-clutch,
The world would claim us; and our hopes revive
In spite of fears that daunt us over-much.


Lips may be coy; but eyes are quick, at times,
To note the throbbings that are hot as crimes,
And fond as flutterings of the wings of doves.
For he is blind indeed who, when he loves,
Doubts all he sees:--the flickering of a smile,
The Parthian glance, the nod that, for a while,
Outbids Elysium, and is half a jest,
And half a truth, to tempt us and beguile.


Thine eyes have told me things I dare not speak;
And I will trust the track they bid me seek,
Yea, though it lead me to the gates of death!
The wind is labouring:--it is out of breath;
Belike for scampering up the hill so fast
To say all's well with thee; and, down the blast,
I seem to hear the sounds of serenades
That swell from out the song-fields of the past.

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