'Oh, sad thy lot before I came,
But sadder when I go;
My presence but a flash of flame,
A transitory glow
Between two barren wastes like snow.
What wilt thou do when I am gone,
Where wilt thou rest, my dear?
For cold thy bed to rest upon,
And cold the falling year
Whose withered leaves are lost and sere.'
She hushed the baby at her breast,
She rocked it on her knee:
'And I will rest my lonely rest,
Warmed with the thought of thee,
Rest lulled to rest by memory.'
She hushed the baby with her kiss,
She hushed it with her breast:
'Is death so sadder much than this—
Sure death that builds a nest
For those who elsewhere cannot rest?'
'Oh, sad thy note, my mateless dove,
With tender nestling cold;
But hast thou ne'er another love
Left from the days of old,
To build thy nest of silk and gold,
To warm thy paleness to a blush
When I am far away—
To warm thy coldness to a flush,
And turn thee back to May,
And turn thy twilight back to day?'
She did not answer him again,
But leaned her face aside,
Weary with the pang of shame and pain,
And sore with wounded pride:
He knew his very soul had lied.
She strained his baby in her arms,
His baby to her heart:
'Even let it go, the love that harms:
We twain will never part;
Mine own, his own, how dear thou art.'
'Now never teaze me, tender-eyed,
Sigh-voiced,' he said in scorn:
'For nigh at hand there blooms a bride,
My bride before the morn;
Ripe-blooming she, as thou forlorn.
Ripe-blooming she, my rose, my peach;
She woos me day and night:
I watch her tremble in my reach;
She reddens, my delight,
She ripens, reddens in my sight.'
'And is she like a sunlit rose?
Am I like withered leaves?
Haste where thy spicèd garden blows:
But in bare Autumn eves
Wilt thou have store of harvest sheaves?
Thou leavest love, true love behind,
To seek a love as true;
Go, seek in haste: but wilt thou find?
Change new again for new;
Pluck up, enjoy—yea, trample too.
'Alas for her, poor faded rose,
Alas for her her, like me,
Cast down and trampled in the snows.'
'Like thee? nay, not like thee:
She leans, but from a guarded tree.
Farewell, and dream as long ago,
Before we ever met:
Farewell; my swift-paced horse seems slow.'
She raised her eyes, not wet
But hard, to Heaven: 'Does God forget?'