Of my Lady.
- ALL seems a painted show. I look
- Up thro’ the bloom that’s shed
By leaves above my head,
- And feel the earnest life forsook
- All being, when she died:—
My heart halts, hot and dried
- As the parched course where once a brook
- Thro’ fresh growth used to flow,—
Because her past is now
- No more than stories in a printed book.
- The grass has grown above that breast,
- Now cold and sadly still,
My happy face felt thrill:—
- Her mouth’s mere tones so much expressed!
- Those lips are now close set,—
Lips which my own have met;
- Her eyelids by the earth are pressed;
- Damp earth weighs on her eyes;
Damp earth shuts out the skies.
- My lady rests her heavy, heavy rest.
- To see her slim perfection sweep,
- Trembling impatiently,
With eager gaze at me!
- Her feet spared little things that creep:—
- “We’ve no more right,” she’d say,
“In this the earth than they.”
- Some remember it but to weep.
- Her hand’s slight weight was such,
Care lightened with its touch;
- My lady sleeps her heavy, heavy sleep.
- My day-dreams hovered round her brow;
- Now o’er its perfect forms
Go softly real worms.
- Stern death, it was a cruel blow,
- To cut that sweet girl’s life
Sharply, as with a knife.
- Cursed life that lets me live and grow,
- Just as a poisonous root,
From which rank blossoms shoot;
- My lady’s laid so very, very low.
- Dread power, grief cries aloud, “unjust,”—
- To let her young life play
Its easy, natural way;
- Then, with an unexpected thrust,
- Strike out the life you lent,
Just when her feelings blent
- With those around whom she saw trust
- Her willing power to bless,
For their whole happiness;
- My lady moulders into common dust.
- Small birds twitter and peck the weeds
- That wave above her head,
Shading her lowly bed:
- Their brisk wings burst light globes of seeds,
- Scattering the downy pride
Of dandelions, wide:
- Speargrass stoops with watery beads:
- The weight from its fine tips
- The bee drops in the mallow-bloom, and feeds.
- About her window, at the dawn,
- From the vine’s crooked boughs
Birds chirupped an arouse:
- Flies, buzzing, strengthened with the morn;—
- She’ll not hear them again
At random strike the pane:
- No more upon the close-cut lawn,
- Her garment’s sun-white hem
Bend the prim daisy’s stem,
- In walking forth to view what flowers are born.
- No more she’ll watch the dark-green rings
- Stained quaintly on the lea,
To image fairy glee;
- While thro’ dry grass a faint breeze sings,
- And swarms of insects revel
Along the sultry level:—
- No more will watch their brilliant wings,
- Now lightly dip, now soar,
Then sink, and rise once more.
- My lady’s death makes dear these trivial things.
- Within a huge tree’s steady shade,
- When resting from our walk,
How pleasant was her talk!
- Elegant deer leaped o’er the glade,
- Or stood with wide bright eyes,
Staring a short surprise:
- Outside the shadow cows were laid,
- Chewing with drowsy eye
Their cuds complacently:
- Dim for sunshine drew near a milking-maid.
- Rooks cawed and labored thro’ the heat;
- Each wing-flap seemed to make
Their weary bodies ache:
- The swallows, tho’ so very fleet,
- Made breathless pauses there
At something in the air:—
- All disappeared: our pulses beat
- Distincter throbs: then each
Turned and kissed, without speech,—
- She trembling, from her mouth down to her feet.
- My head sank on her bosom’s heave,
- So close to the soft skin
I heard the life within.
- My forehead felt her coolly breathe,
- As with her breath it rose:
To perfect my repose
- Her two arms clasped my neck. The eve
- Spread silently around,
A hush along the ground,
- And all sound with the sunlight seemed to leave.
- By my still gaze she must have known
- The mighty bliss that filled
My whole soul, for she thrilled,
- Drooping her face, flushed, on my own;
- I felt that it was such
By its light warmth of touch.
- My lady was with me alone:
- That vague sensation brought
More real joy than thought.
- I am without her now, truly alone.
- We had no heed of time: the cause
- Was that our minds were quite
Absorbed in our delight,
- Silently blessed. Such stillness awes,
- And stops with doubt, the breath,
Like the mute doom of death.
- I felt Time’s instantaneous pause;
- An instant, on my eye
Flashed all Eternity:—
- I started, as if clutched by wild beasts’ claws,
- Awakened from some dizzy swoon:
- I felt strange vacant fears,
With singings in my ears,
- And wondered that the pallid moon
- Swung round the dome of night
With such tremendous might.
- A sweetness, like the air of June,
- Next paled me with suspense,
A weight of clinging sense—
- Some hidden evil would burst on me soon.
- My lady’s love has passed away,
- To know that it is so
To me is living woe.
- That body lies in cold decay,
- Which held the vital soul
When she was my life’s soul.
- Bitter mockery it was to say—
- “Our souls are as the same:”
My words now sting like shame;
- Her spirit went, and mine did not obey.
- It was as if a fiery dart
- Passed seething thro’ my brain
When I beheld her lain
- There whence in life she did not part.
- Her beauty by degrees,
Sank, sharpened with disease:
- The heavy sinking at her heart
- Sucked hollows in her cheek,
And made her eyelids weak,
- Tho’ oft they’d open wide with sudden start.
- The deathly power in silence drew
- My lady’s life away.
I watched, dumb with dismay,
- The shock of thrills that quivered thro’
- And tightened every limb:
For grief my eyes grew dim;
- More near, more near, the moment grew.
- O horrible suspense!
O giddy impotence!
- I saw her fingers lax, and change their hue.
- Her gaze, grown large with fate, was cast
- Where my mute agonies
Made more sad her sad eyes:
- Her breath caught with short plucks and fast:—
- Then one hot choking strain.
She never breathed again:
- I had the look which was her last:
- Even after breath was gone,
Her love one moment shone,—
- Then slowly closed, and hope for ever passed.
- Silence seemed to start in space
- When first the bell’s harsh toll
Rang for my lady’s soul.
- Vitality was hell; her grace
- The shadow of a dream:
Things then did scarcely seem:
- Oblivion’s stroke fell like a mace:
- As a tree that’s just hewn
I dropped, in a dead swoon,
- And lay a long time cold upon my face.
- Earth had one quarter turned before
- My miserable fate
Pressed on with its whole weight.
- My sense came back; and, shivering o’er,
- I felt a pain to bear
The sun’s keen cruel glare;
- It seemed not warm as heretofore.
- Oh, never more its rays
Will satisfy my gaze.
- No more; no more; oh, never any more.
Last modified 9/23/95