Love is a Flame

- 1860-

Love is a flame that burns with sacred fire, 
And fills the being up with sweet desire;
Yet, once the altar feels love’s fiery breath,
The heart must be a crucible till death.

Say love is life; and say it not amiss, 
That love is but a synonym for bliss.
Say what you will of love—in what refrain, 
But knows the heart, ‘tis but a word for pain.

More by George Marion McClellan

A January Dandelion

All Nashville is a chill. And everywhere
Like desert sand, when the winds blow,
There is each moment sifted through the air,
A powdered blast of January snow.
O! thoughtless Dandelion, to be misled
By a few warm days to leave thy natural bed,
Was folly growth and blooming over soon.
And yet, thou blasted yellow-coated gem,
Full many a heart has but a common boon
With thee, now freezing on thy slender stem.
When the heart has bloomed by the touch of love’s warm breath
Then left and chilling snow is sifted in,
It still may beat but there is blast and death
To all that blooming life that might have been.

A September Night

The full September moon sheds floods of light,
And all the bayou’s face is gemmed with stars,
Save where are dropped fantastic shadows down
From sycamores and moss-hung cypress trees.
With slumberous sound the waters half asleep
Creep on and on their way, ’twixt rankish reeds,
Through marsh and lowlands stretching to the Gulf.
Begirt with cotton fields, Anguilla sits
Half bird-like, dreaming on her Summer nest.
Amid her spreading figs and roses, still
In bloom with all their Spring and Summer hues,
Pomegranates hang with dapple cheeks full ripe,
And over all the town a dreamy haze
Drops down. The great plantations, stretching far
Away, are plains of cotton, downy white.
O, glorious is this night of joyous sounds;
Too full for sleep. Aromas wild and sweet,
From muscadine, late blooming jessamine,
And roses, all the heavy air suffuse.
Faint bellows from the alligators come
From swamps afar, where sluggish lagoons give
To them a peaceful home. The katydids
Make ceaseless cries. Ten thousand insects’ wings
Stir in the moonlight haze and joyous shouts
Of Negro song and mirth awake hard by
The cabin dance. O, glorious is this night!
The Summer sweetness fills my heart with songs,
I can not sing, with loves I can not speak.

To Theodore

Such are the little memories of you;
They come and go, return and lie apart
From all main things of life; yet more than they,
With noiseless feet, they come and grip the heart.
Gay laughter leading quick and stormy tears,
Then smiles again and pulse of flying feet,
In breathless chase of fleeting gossamers,
Are memories so dear, so bitter-sweet.

No more are echoes of your flying feet.
Hard by, where Pike’s Peak rears its head in state,
The erstwhile rushing feet, with halting steps,
For health’s return in Denver watch and wait.
But love and memories of noiseless tread,
Where angels hovered once, all shining fair,
To tuck you in your little trundle bed,
Kneel nightly now in agony of prayer.

Related Poems

Blossom

What is a wound but a flower
dying on its descent to the earth,
bag of scent filled with war, forest,
torches, some trouble that befell
now over and done. A wound is a fire
sinking into itself. The tinder 
serves only so long, the log holds on
and still it gives up, collapses
into its bed of ashes and sand. I burned
my hand cooking over a low flame,
that flame now alive under my skin,
the smell not unpleasant, the wound
beautiful as a full-blown peony.
Say goodbye to disaster. Shake hands
with the unknown, what becomes
of us once we’ve been torn apart
and returned to our future, naked
and small, sewn back together
scar by scar. 

Absence

Good-night, my love, for I have dreamed of thee
In waking dreams, until my soul is lost—
Is lost in passion’s wide and shoreless sea,
Where, like a ship, unruddered, it is tost
Hither and thither at the wild waves’ will.
There is no potent Master’s voice to still
This newer, more tempestuous Galilee!

The stormy petrels of my fancy fly
In warning course across the darkening green,
And, like a frightened bird, my heart doth cry
And seek to find some rock of rest between
The threatening sky and the relentless wave.
It is not length of life that grief doth crave,
But only calm and peace in which to die.

Here let me rest upon this single hope,
For oh, my wings are weary of the wind,
And with its stress no more may strive or cope.
One cry has dulled mine ears, mine eyes are blind,—
Would that o’er all the intervening space,
I might fly forth and see thee face to face.
I fly; I search, but, love, in gloom I grope.

Fly home, far bird, unto thy waiting nest;
Spread thy strong wings above the wind-swept sea.
Beat the grim breeze with thy unruffled breast
Until thou sittest wing to wing with me.
Then, let the past bring up its tales of wrong;
We shall chant low our sweet connubial song,
Till storm and doubt and past no more shall be!
 

Poet of an Ordinary Heartbreak

Who hasn’t been tempted by the sharp edge of a knife?
An ordinary knife cutting ordinary tomatoes on
an ordinary slab of wood on an ordinary Wednesday.
The knife nicks, like a bite to the soul. A reminder
that what is contemplated is as real as the blood
sprouting from a finger. As real as a bruised eye.
Instead turn back to the meat stewing on the stove.
Scrape pulpy red flesh into the heat and turn.
Say: even this is a prayer. Even this.