Modern Love: IX

- 1828-1909
He felt the wild beast in him between whiles
So masterfully rude, that he would grieve
To see the helpless delicate thing receive
His guardianship through certain dark defiles.
Had he not teeth to rend, and hunger too?
But still be spared her. Once: ‘Have you no fear?’
He said: ’t was dusk; she in his grasp; none near.
She laughed: ‘No, surely; am I not with you?’
And uttering that soft starry ‘you,’ she leaned
 Her gentle body near him, looking up;
And from her eyes, as from a poison-cup,
He drank until the flittering eyelids screened.
Devilish malignant witch! and oh, young beam
Of heaven’s circle-glory! Here thy shape
To squeeze like an intoxicating grape—
I might, and yet thou goest safe, supreme.
 

More by George Meredith

Winter Heavens

Sharp is the night, but stars with frost alive
Leap off the rim of earth across the dome.
It is a night to make the heavens our home
More than the nest whereto apace we strive.
Lengths down our road each fir-tree seems a hive,
In swarms outrushing from the golden comb.
They waken waves of thoughts that burst to foam:
The living throb in me, the dead revive.
Yon mantle clothes us: there, past mortal breath,
Life glistens on the river of the death.
It folds us, flesh and dust; and have we knelt,
Or never knelt, or eyed as kine the springs
Of radiance, the radiance enrings:
And this is the soul's haven to have felt.

Modern Love: II

It ended, and the morrow brought the task.
Her eyes were guilty gates, that let him in
By shutting all too zealous for their sin:
Each sucked a secret, and each wore a mask.
But, oh, the bitter taste her beauty had!
Her sickened as at breath of poison-flowers:
A languid humour stole among the hours,
And if their smiles encountered, he went mad,
And raged, deep inward, till the light was brown
Before his vision, and the world forgot,
Looked wicked as some old dull murder-spot.
A star with lurid beams, she seemed to crown
The pit of infamy: and then again
He fainted on his vengefulness, and strove
To ape the magnanimity of love,
And smote himself, a shuddering heap of pain.
 

Modern Love: IV

All other joys of life he strove to warm,
And magnify, and catch them to his lip:
But they had suffered shipwreck with the ship,
And gazed upon him sallow from the storm.
Or if Delusion came, ’t was but to show
The coming minute mock the one that went.
Cold as a mountain in its star-pitched tent,
Stood high Philosophy, less friend than foe:
Whom self-caged Passion, from its prison-bars,
Is always watching with a wondering hate.
Not till the fire is dying in the grate,
Look we for any kinship with the stars.
Oh, wisdom never comes when it is gold,
And the great price we pay for it full worth:
We have it only when we are half earth.
Little avails that coinage to the old!
 

Related Poems

The Poster Girl's Defence

It was an Artless Poster Girl pinned up against my wall,
She was tremendous ugly, she was exceeding tall;
I was gazing at her idly, and I think I must have slept,
For that poster maiden lifted up her poster voice, and wept.

She said between her poster sobs, ‘I think it’s rather rough
To be jeered and fleered and flouted, and I’ve stood it long enough;
I’m tired of being quoted as a Fright and Fad and Freak,
And I take this opportunity my poster mind to speak.

‘Although my hair is carmine and my nose is edged with blue,
Although my style is splashy and my shade effects are few,
Although I’m out of drawing and my back hair is a show,
Yet I have n’t half the whimseys of the maidens that you know.

‘I never keep you waiting while I prink before the glass,
I never talk such twaddle as that little Dawson lass,
I never paint on china, nor erotic novels write,
And I never have recited “Curfew must not ring tonight”.

‘I don’t rave over Ibsen, I never, never flirt,
I never wear a shirt waist with a disconnected skirt;
I never speak in public on “The Suffrage”, or “The Race”,
I never talk while playing whist, or trump my partner’s ace.’

I said: ‘O artless Poster Girl, you’re in the right of it,
You are a joy forever, though a thing of beauty, nit!’
And from her madder eyebrows to her utmost purple swirl,
Against all captious critics I’ll defend the Poster Girl.