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My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
……That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
………In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
……Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
……With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
………And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
……And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
……Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
………And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
……Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
……Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
………But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
……Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
……Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
………And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
……The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
……While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
……..In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
……To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
……She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
………The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
…….Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
……Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
………In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
……Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

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Death stands above me, whispering low
I know not what into my ear:
Of his strange language all I know
Is, there is not a word of fear.

 

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………………….(infantry column)

We’re foot-slog-slog-slog-sloggin’ over Africa
Foot-foot-foot-foot-sloggin’ over Africa –
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin’ up and down again!)
……..There’s no discharge in the war! 

Seven-six-eleven-five-nine-an’-twenty mile to-day –
Four-eleven-seventeen-thirty-two the day before –
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin’ up an’ down again!)
……..There’s no discharge in the war! 

Don’t-don’t-don’t-don’t-look at what’s in front of you.
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movn’ up an’ down again),
Men-men-men-men-men go mad with watchin’ ’em,
……..An’ there’s no discharge in the war! 

Try-try-try-try-to think o’ something different –
Oh-my-God-keep-me from goin’ lunatic!
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin’ up and down again!)
……..There’s no discharge in the war! 

Count-count-count-count-the bullets in the bandoliers.
If-your-eyes-drop-they will get atop o’ you.
(Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin’ up and down again) –
……..An’ there’s no discharge in the war! 

We-can-stick-out-‘unger, thirst, an’ weariness,
But-not-not-not-not the chronic sight of ’em –
Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin’ up an’ down again,
……..An’ there’s no discharge in the war! 

Tain’t-so-bad-by-day because o’ company,
But-night-brings-long-strings-o’ forty thousand million
Boots-boots-boots-boots-movin’ up and down again.
……..There’s no discharge in the war! 

I-‘ave-marched-six-weeks in ‘Ell an’ certify
It-is-not-fire-devils-dark or anything,
But boots-boots-boots-boots-movin’ up and down again,
……..An’ there’s no discharge in the war!

 

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I
St. Agnes’ Eve, – ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the beadsman’s fingers while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seemed taking flight for heaven without a death,
Past the sweet virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.

II
His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man;
Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees,
And back returneth, meagre, barefoot, wan,
Along the chapel aisle by slow degrees;
The sculptured dead, on each side seem to freeze,
Emprisoned in black, purgatorial rails;
Knights, ladies, praying in dumb orat’ries,
He passed by; and his weak spirit fails
To think how they may ache in icy hoods and mails.

III
Northward he turneth through a little door,
And scarce three steps, ere music’s golden tongue
Flattered to tears this aged man and poor;
But no, – already had his death-bell rung;
The joys of all this life were said and sung;
His was harsh penance on St. Agnes’ Eve;
Another way he went, and soon among
Rough ashes sat he for his soul’s reprieve,
And all night kept awake, for sinners’ sake to grieve.

IV
That ancient beadsman heard the prelude soft;
And so it chanced, for many a door was wide,
From hurry to and fro. Soon, up aloft,
The silver, snarling trumpets ‘gan to chide;
The level chambers, ready with their pride,
Were glowing to receive a thousand guests;
The carved angels, ever eager-eyed,
Stared, where upon their heads the cornice rests,
With hair blown back, and wings up crosswise on their breasts.

V
At length burst in the argent revelry,
With plume, tiara, and all rich array,
Numerous as shadows haunting fairily
The brain, new-stuffed, in youth, with triumphs gay
Of old romance. These let us wish away;
And turn, sole-thoughted, to one lady there,
Whose heart had brooded, all that wintry day,
On love, and winged St. Agnes’ saintly care,
As she had heard old dames full many times declare.

VI
They told her how, upon St. Agnes’ Eve,
Young virgins might have visions of delight,
And soft adorings from their loves receive
Upon the honeyed middle of the night,
If ceremonies due they did aright;
As, supperless to bed they must retire,
And couch supine their beauties, lily white;
Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require
Of heaven with upward eyes for all that they desire.

VII
Full of this whim was thoughtful Madeline;
The music, yearning like a god in pain,
She scarcely heard; her maiden eyes divine,
Fixed on the floor, saw many a sweeping train
Pass by, – she heeded not at all; in vain
Came many a tiptoe, amorous cavalier,
And back retired; not cooled by high disdain,
But she saw not; her heart was otherwhere;
She sighed for Agnes’ dreams, the sweetest of the year.

VIII
She danced along with vague, regardless eyes,
Anxious her lips, her breathing quick and short;
The hallowed hour was near at hand; she sighs
Amid the timbrels, and the thronged resort
Of whisperers in anger, or in sport;
‘Mid looks of love, defiance, hate, and scorn,
Hoodwinked with faery fancy; all amort
Save to St. Agnes and her lambs unshorn,
And all the bliss to be before to-morrow morn.

IX
So, purposing each moment to retire,
She lingered still. Meantime, across the moors,
Had come young Porphyro, with heart on fire
For Madeline. Beside the portal doors,
Buttressed from moonlight, stands he, and implores
All saints to give him sight of Madeline;
But for one moment in the tedious hours,
That he might gaze and worship all unseen;
Perchance speak, kneel, touch, kiss, – in sooth such things have been.

X
He ventures in; let no buzzed whisper tell;
All eyes be muffled, or a hundred swords
Will storm his heart, love’s feverous citadel;
For him, those chambers held barbarian hordes,
Hyena foemen, and hot-blooded lords,
Whose very dogs would execrations howl
Against his lineage; not one breast affords
Him any mercy, in that mansion foul,
Save one old beldame, weak in body and in soul.

XI
Ah, happy chance! the aged creature came,
Shuffling along with ivory-headed wand,
To where he stood, hid from the torch’s flame,
Behind a broad hall-pillar, far beyond
The sound of merriment and chorus bland.
He startled her; but soon she knew his face,
And grasped his fingers in her palsied hand,
Saying, “Mercy, Porphyro! hie thee from this place;
They are all here to-night, the whole bloodthirsty race!”

XII
“Get hence! get hence! there’s dwarfish Hildebrand;
He had a fever late, and in the fit
He cursed thee and thine, both house and land;
Then there’s that old Lord Maurice, not a whit
More tame for his gray hairs – Alas me! flit!
Flit like a ghost away!” – “Ah, gossip dear,
We’re safe enough; here in this arm-chair sit,
And tell me how” – “Good saints, not here, not here;
Follow me, child, or else these stones will be thy bier.”

XIII
He followed through a lowly arched way,
Brushing the cobwebs with his lofty plume;
And as she muttered “Well-a-well-a-day!”
He found him in a little moonlight room
Pale, latticed, chill, and silent as a tomb.
“Now tell me where is Madeline,,” said he,
“O, tell me, Angela, by the holy loom
Which none but secret sisterhood may see,
When they St. Agnes’ wool are weaving piously.”

XIV
“St. Agnes! Ah1 it is St. Agnes’ Eve, –
Yet men will murder upon holy days;
Thou must hold water in a witch’s sieve,
And be liege-lord of all the elves and fays,
To venture so. It fills me with amaze
To see thee, Porphyro! – St. Agnes’ Eve!
God’s help! my lady fair the conjurer plays
This very night; good angels her deceive!
But let me laugh awhile, I’ve mickle time to grieve.”

XV
Feebly she laughed in the languid moon,
While Porphyro upon her face doth look,
Like puzzled urchin on an aged crone
Who keepeth closed a wondrous riddle-book,
As spectacled she sits in chimney nook.
But soon his eyes grew brilliant, when she told
His lady’s purpose; and he scarce could brook
Tears, at the thought of those enchantments cold,
And Madeline asleep in lap of legends old.

XVI
Sudden a thought came like a full-blown rose,
Flushing his brow, and in his pained heart
Made purple riot; then doth he propose
A stratagem, that makes the beldame start:
“A cruel man and impious thou art!
Sweet lady, let her pray, and sleep, and dream
Alone with her good angels, far apart
From wicked men like thee. Go, go! I deem
Thou canst not surely be the same that thou didst seem.”

XVII
“I will not harm her, by all saints I swear”
Quoth Porphyro; “O, may I ne’er find grace
When my weak voice shall whisper its last prayer,
If one of her soft ringlets I displace,
Or look with ruffian passion in her face;
Good Angela, believe me by these tears;
Or I will, even in a moment’s space,
Awake, with horrid shout, my foemen’s ears,
And beard them, though they be more fanged than wolves and bears.”

XVIII
“Ah! why wilt thou affright a feeble soul?
A poor, weak, palsy-stricken, church-yard thing,
Whose passing-bell may ere the midnight toll;
Whose prayers for thee, each morn and evening,
Were never missed.” Thus plaining, doth she bring
A gentler speech from burning Porphyro;
So woeful, and of such deep sorrowing,
That Angela gives promise she will do
Whatever he shall wish, betide her weal or woe.

XIX
Which was, to lead him, in close secrecy,
Even to Madeline’s chamber, and there hide
Him in a closet, of such privacy
That he might see her beauty unespied,
And win perhaps that night a peerless bride;
While legioned fairies paced the coverlet,
And pale enchantment held her sleepy-eyed.
Never on such a night have lovers met,
Since Merlin paid his demon all his monstrous debt.

XX
“It shall be as thou wishest,” said the dame;
“All cates and dainties shall be stored there
Quickly on this feast-night; by the tambour frame
Her own lute thou wilt see; no time to spare,
For I am slow and feeble, and scarce dare
On such a catering trust my dizzy head.
Wait here, my child, with patience kneel in prayer
The while, Ah! thou must needs the lady wed,
Or may I never leave my grave among the dead.”

XXI
So saying, she hobbled off with busy fear.
The lover’s endless minutes slowly passed:
The dame returned, and whispered in his ear
To follow her; with aged eyes aghast
From fright of dim espial. Safe at last,
Through many a dusky gallery, they gain
The maiden’s chamber, silken, hushed and chaste;
Where Porphyro took covert, pleased amain.
His poor guide hurried back with agues in her brain.

XXII
Her faltering hand upon the balustrade,
Old Angela was feeling for the stair,
When Madeline, St. Agnes’ charmed maid,
Rose, like a missioned spirit, unaware;
With silver taper’s light, and pious care,
She turned, and down the aged gossip led
To a safe level matting. Now prepare,
Young Porphyro, for gazing on that bed!
She comes, she comes again, like a ring-dove frayed and fled.

XXIII
Out went the taper as she hurried in:
Its little smoke, in pallid moonshine, died;
She closed the door, she panted, all akin
To spirits of the air, and visions wide;
No uttered syllable, or, woe betide!
But to her heart, her heart was voluble,
Paining with eloquence her balmy side;
As though a tongueless nightingale should swell
Her throat in vain, and die, heart-stifled in her dell.

XXIV
A casement high and triple-arched there was,
All garlanded with carven imageries
Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass.
And diamonded with panes of quaint device,
Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes,
As are the tiger-moth’s deep-damasked wings;
And in the midst, ‘mong thousand heraldries,
And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings,
A shielded scutcheon blushed with blood of queens and kings.

XXV
Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gules on Madeline’s fair breast,
As down she knelt for heaven’s grace and boon;
Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest,
And on her silver cross soft amethyst,
And on her hair a glory, like a saint;
She seemed a splendid angel, newly drest,
Save wings, for heaven. Porphyro grew faith:
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint.

XXVI
Anon his heart revives; her vespers done,
Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees;
Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
Loosens her fragrant bodice; by degrees
Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees;
Half hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed,
Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees,
In fancy, fair St. Agnes in her bed,
But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled.

XXVII
Soon, trembling in her soft and chilly nest,
In sort of wakeful swoon, perplexed she lay,
Until the poppied warmth of sleep oppressed
Her soothed limbs, and soul fatigued away;
Flown, like a thought, until the morrow-day;
Blissfully havened both from joy and pain;
Clasped like a missal where swart Paynims pray;
Blinded alike from sunshine and from rain,
As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again.

XXVIII
Stolen to this paradise, and so entranced,
Prophyro gazed upon her empty dress,
And listened to her breathing, if it chanced
To wake into a slumberous tenderness;
Which when he heard, that minute did he bless,
And breathed himself; then from the closet crept,
Noiseless as fear in a wide wilderness,
And over the hushed carpet, silent, stept,
And ‘tween the curtains peeped, where, lo! – how fast she slept.

XXIX
Then by the bedside, where the faded moon
Made a dim, silver twilight, soft he set
A table, and half anguished, threw thereon
A cloth of woven crimson, gold, and jet: –
O for some drowsy Morphean amulet!
The boisterous, midnight, festive clarion,
The kettle-drum, and far-heard clarinet,
Affray his ears, though but in dying tone: –
The hall-door shuts again, and all the noise is gone.

XXX
And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,
In blanched linen, smooth, and lavendered;
While he from forth the closet brought a heap
Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;
With jellies soother than the creamy curd,
And lucent syrops, tinct with cinnamon;
Manna and dates, in argosy transferred
From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,
From silken Samarcand to cedared Lebanon.

XXXI
These delicates he heaped with glowing hand
On golden dishes and in baskets bright
Of wreathed silver. Sumptuous they stand
In the retired quiet of the night,
Filling the chilly room with perfume light. –
“And now, my love, my seraph fair awake!
Thou art my heaven, and I thine eremite;
Open thine eyes, for meek St. Agnes’ sake,
Or I shall drowse beside thee, so my soul doth ache.”

XXXII
Thus whispering, his warm, unnerved arm
Sank in her pillow. Shaded was her dream
By the dusk curtain; – ’twas a midnight charm
Impossible to melt an iced stream:
The lustrous slavers in the moonlight gleam;
Broad golden fringe upon the carpet lies;
It seemed he never, never could redeem
From such a steadfast spell his lady’s eyes;
So mused awhile, entoiled in woofed phantasies.

XXXIII
Awakening up, he took her hollow lute, –
Tumultuous, – and, in chords that tenderest be,
He played an ancient ditty, long since mute,
In Provence called “La belle dame sans mercy”;
Close to her ear touching the melody; –
Wherewith disturbed, she uttered a soft moan;
He ceased – she panted quick – and suddenly
Her blue affrayed eyes wide open shone;
Upon his knees he sank, pale as smooth-sculptured stone.

XXXIV
Her eyes were open, but she still beheld,
Now wide awake, the vision of her sleep.
There was a painful change, that nigh expelled
The blisses of her dream so pure and deep;
At which fair Madeline began to weep,
And moan forth witless words with many a sigh;
While still her gaze on Porphyro would keep;
Who knelt, with joined hands and piteous eye,
Fearing to move or speak, she looked so dreamingly.

XXXV
“Ah, Porphyro!” said she, “but even now
Thy voice was at sweet tremble in mine ear,
Made tunable with every sweetest vow;
And those sad eyes were spiritual and clear;
How changed thou art! how pallid, chill, and drear!
Give me that voice again, my Porphyro,
Those looks immortal, those complainings dear!
O leave me not in this eternal woe,
For if thou diest, my love, I know not where to go.”

XXXVI
Beyond a mortal man impassioned far
At these voluptuous accents, he arose,
Ethereal, flushed, and like a throbbing star
Seen mid the sapphire heaven’s deep repose;
Into her dream he melted, as the rose
Blendeth its odor with the violet, –
Solution sweet; meantime the frost-wind blows
Like love’s alarum pattering the sharp sleet
Against the window-panes; St. Agnes’ moon hath set.

XXXVII
‘Tis dark; quick pattereth the flaw-blown sleet;
“This is no dream, my bride, my Madeline!”
‘Tis dark; the iced gust still rave and beat:
“No dream, alas! alas! and woe is mine!
Porphyro will leave me here to fade and pine. –
Cruel! what traitor could thee hither bring?
I curse not, for my heart is lost in thine,
Though thou forsakest a deceived thing; –
A dove forlorn and lost, with sick, unpruned wing.”

XXXVIII
“My Madeline! sweet dreamer! lovely bride!
Say, may I be for aye thy vassal blest?
Thy beauty’s shield, heart-shaped and vermeil dyed?
Ah, silver shrine, here will I take my rest
After so many hours of toil and quest,
A famished pilgrim, – saved by miracle.
Though I have found, I will not rob thy nest,
Saving of thy sweet self; if thou think’st well
To trust, fair Madeline, to no rude infidel.

XXXIX
“Hark! ’tis an elfin-storm from faery land,
Of haggard seeming, but a boon indeed:
Arise – arise! the morning is at hand; –
The bloated wassaillers will never heed: –
Let us away, my love, with happy speed;
There are no ears to hear, or eyes to see, –
Drown’d all in Rhenish and the sleepy mead:
Awake! arise! my love, and fearless be,
For o’er the southern moors I have a home for thee.”

XL
She hurried at his words, beset with fears,
For there were sleeping dragons all around,
At glaring watch, perhaps, with ready spears –
Down the wide stairs a darkling way they found. –
In all the house was heard no human sound.
A chain-droop’d lamp was flickering by each door;
The arras, rich with horseman, hawk, and hound,
Flutter’d in the besieging wind’s uproar;
And the long carpets rose along the gusty floor.

XLI
They glide, like phantoms, into the wide hall!
Like phantoms, to the iron porch they glide,
Where lay the porter, in uneasy sprawl,
With a huge empty flagon by his side;
The wakeful bloodhound rose, and shook his hide,
But his sagacious eye an inmate owns;
By one, and one, the bolts full easy slide;
The chains lie silent on the footworn stones;
The key turns, and the door upon its hinges groans.

XLII
And they were gone! ay, ages long ago
These lovers fled away into the storm.
That night the baron dreamt of many a woe,
And all his warrior-guests, with shade and form
Of witch, and demon, and large coffin-worm,
Were long be-nightmared. Angela the old
Died palsy-twitched, with meagre face deform;
The beadsman, after thousand aves told,
For aye unsought-for slept among his ashes cold.

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The night is full of stars, full of magnificence:
Nightingales hold the wood, and fragrance loads the dark.
Behold, what fires august, what lights eternal! Hark,
What passionate music poured in passionate love’s defence!
Breathe but the wafting wind’s nocturnal frankincense!
Only to feel this night’s great heart, only to mark
The splendours and the glooms, brings back the patriarch,
Who on Chaldean wastes found God through reverence.

Could we but live at will upon this perfect height,
Could we but always keep the passion of this peace,
Could we but face unshamed the look of this pure light,
Could we but win earth’s heart, and give desire release:
Then were we all divine, and then were ours by right
These stars, these nightingales, these scents: then shame would cease.

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Borgia, thou once wert almost too august
And high for adoration; now thou’rt dust;
All that remains of thee these plaits unfold,
Calm hair, meandering in pellucid gold.

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A stranger came one night to Yussouf’s tent,
Saying, “Behold one outcast and in dread,
Against whose life the bow of power is bent,
Who flies, and hath not where to lay his head;
I come to thee for shelter and for food,
To Yussouf, called through all our tribes “The Good.'”

“This tent is mine,” said Yussouf, “but no more
Than it is God’s ; come in, and be at peace;
Freely shalt thou partake of all my store
As I of His who buildeth over these
Our tents his glorious roof of night and day,
And at whose door none ever yet heard Nay.”

So Yussouf entertained his guest that night,
And, waking him ere day, said: “Here is gold;
My swiftest horse is saddled for thy flight;
Depart before the prying day grow bold.”
As one lamp lights another, nor grows less,
So nobleness enkindleth nobleness.

That inward light the stranger’s face made grand,
Which shines from all self-conquest; kneeling low,
He bowed his forehead upon Yussouf’s hand,
Sobbing: “O Sheik, I cannot leave thee so;
I will repay thee; all this thou hast done
Unto that Ibrahim who slew thy son!”

“Take thrice the gold,” said Yussouf, “for with thee
Into the desert, never to return,
My one black thought shall ride away from me;
First-born, for whom by day and night I yearn,
Balanced and just are all of God’s decrees;
Thee art avenged my first-born, sleep in peace!”

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No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kissed
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a sweeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Of if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty – Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at is lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure sigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips;
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veiled Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

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Why did I laugh tonight?  No voice will tell:
No god, nor demon of severe response,
Deigns to reply from heaven or from hell.
Then to my human heart I turn at once –
Heart! thou and I are here sad and alone;
Say, wherefore did I laugh? O mortal pain!
O darkness! darkness! ever must I moan,
To question heaven and hell and heart in vain!
Why did I laugh? I know this being’s lease –
My fancy to its utmost blisses spreads:
Yet could I on this very midnight cease,
And the world’s gaudy ensigns see in shreds.
Verse, fame, and beauty are intense indeed,
But death intenser – death is life’s high meed.

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Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art –
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priest-like task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors –
No – yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever – or else swoon to death.

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