I, Lover

- 1898-1986

I shall never have any fear of love, 
Not of its depth nor its uttermost height,
Its exquisite pain and its terrible delight.
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never hesitate to go down
Into the fastness of its abyss
Nor shrink from the cruelty of its awful kiss.
I shall never have any fear of love.

Never shall I dread love’s strength
Nor any pain it might give.
Through all the years I may live
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never draw back from love
Through fear of its vast pain
But build joy of it and count it again.
I shall never have any fear of love.

I shall never tremble nor flinch
From love’s moulding touch:
I have loved too terribly and too much
Ever to have any fear of love.

Of a Certain Friendship

Odd how you entered my house quietly,
Quietly left again.
While you stayed you ate at my table,
Slept in my bed.
There was much sweetness,
Yet little was done, little said.
After you left there was pain,
Now there is no more pain.

But the door of a certain room in my house
Will be always shut.
Your fork, your plate, the glass you drank from,
The music you played,
Are in that room
With the pillow where last your head was laid.
And there is one place in my garden
Where it’s best that I set no foot.

Youth Insatiate

If I have wished for skies unscarred by storm,
Shrunk from the grievous bitterness of things,
The days’ perplexities, the nights’ unrest,
The cruel, fruitless beating with clipped wings

Against the windows of the Infinite,
And, weary with the conflict’s puerile stress,
Cried out against it all, cried out for peace,
Even what peace the rotting dead possess,

May Life forgive me: I am stronger now,
The play bewilders, but I know my part;
And I have learned that Beauty is salt blood
Pain-wrung from the unconquerable heart.

Let there be laughter then, love’s wine and bread,
The many mouths of passion, their joys, their grief;
These are but soil and seed—for what grave growths?
I plant and wait, (and pray the time be brief!)

Lean wisdom this, to pause and taste and pause
Like a scared virgin who must stop for breath.
Take the cup simply, drain it to the lees;
Then, smiling, fling the empty cup to Death.

Disillusionment

The agonies of disillusionment are the growing-pains of Truth

Now I am done with ineffectual dreams,
Kindly play-toys of the unsure years,
And unencumbered, proud and free and light,
With even pulses and a lifting heart,
I mount the future’s twisting stairs.

A week ago I thought that I must die,
Or hang forever, bitter as frost-killed fruit,
Scarred and broken from the Tree of Life —
Because I suddenly came into my sight
And men walked as trees; and dreams went mute.

’T is no small thing, to lose a dear, sure world,
To stumble, desolate, through hideous space,
Down unfamiliar and unfriendly roads
That bruise your feet. And then to suddenly feel
A great light newly shining in your face.

Related Poems

On the Road to the Sea

We passed each other, turned and stopped for half an hour, then went our way,
           I who make other women smile did not make you--
But no man can move mountains in a day.
                  So this hard thing is yet to do.

But first I want your life:--before I die I want to see
                  The world that lies behind the strangeness of your eyes,
There is nothing gay or green there for my gathering, it may be,
                             Yet on brown fields there lies
A haunting purple bloom: is there not something in grey skies
                      And in grey sea?
                  I want what world there is behind your eyes,
                  I want your life and you will not give it me.

                 Now, if I look, I see you walking down the years,
                 Young, and through August fields--a face, a thought, a swinging dream
                               perched on a stile--;
                  I would have liked (so vile we are!) to have taught you tears
                   But most to have made you smile.
                 To-day is not enough or yesterday: God sees it all--
Your length on sunny lawns, the wakeful rainy nights--; tell me--;
                   (how vain to ask), but it is not a question--just a call--;
Show me then, only your notched inches climbing up the garden wall,
                     I like you best when you are small.

                                   Is this a stupid thing to say
                                  Not having spent with you one day?
                  No matter; I shall never touch your hair
                   Or hear the little tick behind your breast,
                                   And as a flying bird
                  Brushes the branches where it may not rest
                 I have brushed your hand and heard
               The child in you: I like that best
So small, so dark, so sweet; and were you also then too grave and wise?
                  Always I think. Then put your far off little hand in mine;--
                         Oh! let it rest;
I will not stare into the early world beyond the opening eyes,
                 Or vex or scare what I love best.
                  But I want your life before mine bleeds away--
                      Here--not in heavenly hereafters--soon,--
                      I want your smile this very afternoon,
                 (The last of all my vices, pleasant people used to say,
                     I wanted and I sometimes got--the Moon!)

                      You know, at dusk, the last bird's cry,
                  And round the house the flap of the bat's low flight,
                     Trees that go black against the sky
                 And then--how soon the night!

          No shadow of you on any bright road again,
And at the darkening end of this--what voice? whose kiss? As if you'd say!
It is not I who have walked with you, it will not be I who take away
                  Peace, peace, my little handful of the gleaner's grain
                 From your reaped fields at the shut of day.

                Peace! Would you not rather die
                  Reeling,--with all the cannons at your ear?
                So, at least, would I,
                   And I may not be here
                   To-night, to-morrow morning or next year.
                  Still I will let you keep your life a little while,
                      See dear?
                    I have made you smile.

At a Dinner Party

With fruit and flowers the board is decked,
    The wine and laughter flow;
I'll not complain—could one expect
    So dull a world to know?

You look across the fruit and flowers,
    My glance your glances find.—
It is our secret, only ours,
    Since all the world is blind.

On the Hill-Side

A Memory

You lay so still in the sunshine,
So still in that hot sweet hour—
That the timid things of the forest land
Came close; a butterfly lit on your hand,
Mistaking it for a flower.

You scarcely breathed in your slumber,
So dreamless it was, so deep—
While the warm air stirred in my veins like wine,
The air that had blown through a jasmine vine,
But you slept—and I let you sleep.