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What did I fear? Thy love shall hold me fast
Until the little minute's sleep is past
And I wake saved.-And yet it will not be!
I WONDER do you feel to-day
As I have felt since, hand in hand,
We sat down on the grass, to stray
In spirit better through the land,
This morn of Rome and May?
For me, I touched a thought, I know,
Has tantalized me many times,
(Like turns of thread the spiders throw
Mocking across our path) for rhymes
To catch at and let go.
Help me to hold it! First it left
The yellowing fennel, run to seed
There, branching from the brickwork's cleft,
Some old tomb's ruin: yonder weed
Took up the floating weft,
Where one small orange cup amassed
Five beetles,--blind and green they grope
Among the honey-meal: and last,
Everywhere on the grassy slope
I traced it. Hold it fast!
The champaign with its endless fleece
Of feathery grasses everywhere!
Silence and passion, joy and peace,
An everlasting wash of air-
Rome's ghost since her decease.
Such life here, through such lengths of hours,
Such miracles performed in play,
Such primal naked forms of flowers,
Such letting nature have her way
While heaven looks from its towers!
How say you? Let us, O my dove,
Let us be unashamed of soul,
As earth lies bare to heaven above!
How is it under our control
To love or not to love?
I would that you were all to me,
You that are just so much, no more.
Nor yours nor mine, nor slave nor free!
Where does the fault lie? What the core
O' the wound, since wound must be?
I would I could adopt your will,
See with your eyes, and set my heart
Beating by yours, and drink my fill
At your soul's springs,-your part, my part
In life, for good and ill.
No. I yearn upward, touch you close,
Then stand away. I kiss your cheek,
Catch your soul's warmth,-I pluck the rose
And love it more than tongue can speak—
Then the good minute goes.
Already how am I so far
Out of that minute? Must I go
Still like the thistle-ball, no bar,
Onward, whenever light winds blow,
Fixed by no friendly star?
Just when I seemed about to learn!
Where is the thread now? Off again!
The old trick! Only I discern-
Infinite passion, and the pain
Of finite hearts that yearn.
THIS is a spray the Bird clung to,
Making it blossom with pleasure,
Ere the high tree-top she sprung to,
Fit for her nest and her treasure.
Oh, what a hope beyond measure
Was the poor spray's, which the flying feet hung to,-
So to be singled out, built in, and sung to!
This is a heart the Queen leant on,
Thrilled in a minute erratic,
Ere the true bosom she bent on,
Meet for love's regal dalmatic.
Oh, what a fancy ecstatic
Was the poor heart's, ere the wanderer went on—
Love to be saved for it, proffered to, spent on!
THAT was I, you heard last night
When there rose no moon at all,
Nor, to pierce the strained and tight
Tent of heaven, a planet small:
Life was dead and so was light.
Not a twinkle from the fly,
Not a glimmer from the worm.
When the crickets stopped their cry,
When the owls forbore a term,
You heard music; that was I.
Earth turned in her sleep with pain,
Sultrily suspired for proof:
In at heaven and out again,
Lightning!-where it broke the roof,
Bloodlike, some few drops of rain.
What they could my words expressed,
O my love, my all, my one!
Singing helped the verses best,
And when singing's best was done,
To my lute I left the rest.
So wore night; the East was gray,
White the broad-faced hemlock-flowers;
There would be another day;
Ere its first of heavy hours
Found me, I had passed away.
What became of all the hopes, Words and song and lute as well? Say, this struck you-"When life gropes "Feebly for the path where fell "Light last on the evening slopes,
"One friend in that path shall be,
"To secure my step from wrong;
"One to count night day for me,
"Patient through the watches long,
"Serving most with none to see."
Never say-as something bodes-
"So, the worst has yet a worse!
"When life halts 'neath double loads,
"Better the task-master's curse
"Than such music on the roads!