A Lover's Litanies - Third Litany. Ad Te Clamavi.

A poem by Eric Mackay


Again, O Love! again I make lament,
And, Arab-like, I pitch my summer-tent
Outside the gateways of the Lord of Song.
I weep and wait, contented all day long
To be the proud possessor of a grief.
It comforts me. It gives me more relief
Than pleasures give; and, spirit-like in air,
It re-invokes the peace that was so brief.


It speaks of thee. It keeps me from the lake
Which else might tempt me; and for thy sweet sake
I shun all evil. I am calmer now
Than when I wooed thee, calmer than the vow
Which made me thine, and yet so fond withal
I start and tremble at the wind's footfall.
Is it the wind? Or is it mine own past
Come back to life to lure me to its thrall?


I long to rise and seek thee where thou art
And draw thee amorous to my wakeful heart
That beats for thee alone, in vague unrest.
I long to front thee when thou'rt lily-dress'd
In white attire,--e'en like the flowers of old
That Jesus praised; and, though the thought be bold,
I'm fain to kiss thee, Sweetheart! through thy hair
And hide my face awhile in all that gold.


I will not say what more might then be done,
And how, by moonlight or beneath the sun,
We might be happy. In a reckless mood
I've talk'd of this; and dreams and many a brood
Of tongue-tied fancies have my soul beset.
I will not hint at fealty or the fret
Of lips untrue, or anger thee therein,
Or call to mind one word thou wouldst forget.


I should withhold my raptures were I wise,
I should not vex thee with my many sighs,
Or claim one tear from thee, though 'tis my due.
I should be silent. I should cease to sue!
Sorrow should teach me what I fail'd to learn
In days gone by; and cross'd at every turn
By some new doubt, new-born of my desires,
I should suppress the pangs with which I burn.


I am an outcast from the land of love
And thou the Queen thereof, as white as dove
New-sped from Heaven, and fine and fair to see
As coy Queen Mab when, out upon the lea,
She met her master and was lov'd of him.
Thou art allied to long-hair'd cherubim,
And I a something undesired of these,
With woesome lips and eyes for ever dim.


I was ordain'd thy minstrel, but alas!
I dare not greet thee when I see thee pass;
I scarce, indeed, may hope at any time,
To work my will, or triumph in a rhyme
To do thee honour; no, nor make amends
For unsought fervor, in the tangled ends
Of my despair. How sad, how dark to me
All things have grown since thou and I were friends!


It is the fault of thy despotic glance,
It is the memory of a day's romance
When, true to thee, though taunted for my truth,
I dared to solemnise the joys of youth
In one wild chant. It is thy fault, I say!
Thy piteous fault that, on the verge of May,
I lost the right to live, as heretofore,
Untouched by doubt from day to brightening day.


O Summer's Pride! I loved thee from the first,
And, like a martyr, I was blest and curst,
And saved and slain, and crown'd and made anew,
A grief-glad man, with yearnings not a few,
But no just hope to win so fair a troth.
I should have known how one may weep for both
When lovers part, poor souls! beneath the moon,
And how Remembrance may outlive an oath.


The nymphs, I think, were like thee in the glade
Of that Greek valley where the wine was made
For feasts of Bacchus; for I dream at night
Of those creations, kind and calm and bright;
And in my thought, unhallow'd though it be,
The sun-born Muses turn their gaze on me,
And seem to know me as a friend of theirs,
Though all unfit to serve them on my knee.


They lived and sang. They died as visions die,
Supreme, eternal, offshoots of the sky,
Made and re-made, undraped and draped afresh,
To glad the earth like phantoms made of flesh,
And yet as mistlike as delusions are!
They stood beside Achilles in his car;
They knew the gods and all their joysome deeds,
And all the chants that sprang from star to star.


The myths of Greece, the maidens of the grove,
The dear dead fancies of the days of Jove,
Why were they bann'd? Oh, why in Reason's name,
Were they abolished? They were good to claim,
And good to dream of, and to crown with bays,
Far-seen of men, far-shining in the haze
Of withering doubts. They were the world's elect,
As thou art mine, to bow to and to praise.


Night after night I see thee, in my dreams,
As fair as Daphne, with the morning beams
Of thy bright locks about thee like a cloak,--
Fair as the young Aurora when she woke
At Phæthon's call, athwart the mountain-heights.
I see thee radiant in the summer nights,
And, bosom-pack'd with frenzies unrepress'd,
I thrill to thee in Slumber's soft delights.


I see thee pout. I see thee in disdain
Look out, reluctant, through the falling rain
Of thy long hair. I feel thee close at hand.
I note thy breathing as I loose the band
That binds thy waist, and then to waking life
I backward start! Despair is Sorrow's wife;
And I am Sorrow, and Despair's mine own,
To lure me on to madness or to strife.


My sex offends thee, or the thought of this;
For I did fright thee when I fleck'd a kiss
With too much heat. I should have bow'd to thee,
And left unsaid the word, deception-free,
Which, like a flash, illumed the love within,
My wilfulness was much to blame therein;
But thou wilt shrive me, Sweet! of mine offence
If passion-pangs be deem'd so dark a sin.


Oh, give me back my soul that with the same
I may achieve a deed of poet-fame,
Or die belauded on the battle-field!
There's much to seek. My hand is strong to wield
Weapon or pen. If thou consent thereto
Deeds may be done. If not, thine eyes are blue
And Heaven is there,--a two-fold tender shrine
Whose wrath I fear, whose judgment still I rue!


I am but half myself. The life in me
Is nigh crush'd out; and, though I seem to see
Glory, and grace, and joy, as in the past,
They are but shadows on the cozening blast,
And dreams of devils and distorted things,
And snakes coiled up that look like wedding rings,
And faded flowers that once were fit for wreaths
In bygone summers and in perish'd springs.


There is a curse in every garden place,
And when, at night, the lily's holy face
Looks up to God, it seems to chide me there.
The very sun with all his golden hair
Is ill at ease, and birth and death of day
Bring no relief; and darkly on my way
My memory comes,--the ghost of my Delight,--
To fret and fume at woes it cannot slay.


Oh, bid me smile again, as in the time
When all the breezes seem'd to make a chime,
And all the birds on all the woodland slopes
Had trills for me, and seem'd to guess the hopes
That warm'd my heart. O thou whom I adore!
How proud were I,--though wounded bitter-sore
By shafts of doubt,--if, in default of love
I could but win thy friendship as of yore.


Then were I blest indeed, and crown'd of fate
As kings are crowned, as bards in their estate
Are rapture-fraught, re-risen above the dust.
Then were I torture-proof, and on the crust
Of one kind word, though as a pittance thrown,
I'd live for weeks! My tears I would disown
And pray, contented with my discontent,
As hermits pray when storms are overblown.

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