I The Chace
She wearies with an ill unknown;
In sleep she sobs and seems to float,
A water-lily, all alone
Within a lonely castle-moat;
And as the full-moon, spectral, lies
Within the crescent’s gleaming arms,
The present shows her heedless eyes
A future dim with vague alarms.
She sees, and yet she scarcely sees,
For, life-in-life not yet begun,
Too many are its mysteries
For thought to fix on any one.
She’s told that maidens are by youths
Extremely honour’d and desired;
And sighs, ‘If those sweet tales be truths,
‘What bliss to be so much admired!’
The suitors come; she sees them grieve;
Her coldness fills them with despair;
She’d pity if she could believe;
She’s sorry that she cannot care.
But who now meets her on her way?
Comes he as enemy or friend,
Or both? Her bosom seems to say,
He cannot pass, and there an end.
Whom does he love? Does he confer
His heart on worth that answers his?
Or is he come to worship her?
She fears, she hopes, she thinks he is!
Advancing stepless, quick, and still,
As in the grass a serpent glides,
He fascinates her fluttering will,
Then terrifies with dreadful strides.
At first, there’s nothing to resist;
He fights with all the forms of peace;
He comes about her like a mist,
With subtle, swift, unseen increase;
And then, unlook’d for, strikes amain
Some stroke that frightens her to death,
And grows all harmlessness again,
Ere she can cry, or get her breath.
At times she stops, and stands at bay;
But he, in all more strong than she,
Subdues her with his pale dismay,
Or more admired audacity.
She plans some final, fatal blow,
But when she means with frowns to kill
He looks as if he loved her so,
She smiles to him against her will.
How sweetly he implies her praise!
His tender talk, his gentle tone,
The manly worship in his gaze,
They nearly made her heart his own.
With what an air he speaks her name;
His manner always recollects
Her sex, and still the woman’s claim
Is taught its scope by his respects.
Her charms, perceived to prosper first
In his beloved advertencies,
When in her glass they are rehearsed,
Prove his most powerful allies.
Ah, whither shall a maiden flee,
When a bold youth so swift pursues,
And siege of tenderest courtesy,
With hope perseverant, still renews!
Why fly so fast? Her flatter’d breast
Thanks him who finds her fair and good;
She loves her fears; veil’d joys arrest
The foolish terrors of her blood.
By secret, sweet degrees, her heart,
Vanquish’d, takes warmth from his desire;
She makes it more, with hidden art,
And fuels love’s late dreaded fire.
The generous credit he accords
To all the signs of good in her
Redeems itself; his praiseful words
The virtues they impute confer.
Her heart is thrice as rich in bliss,
She’s three times gentler than before;
He gains a right to call her his
Now she through him is so much more;
‘Tis heaven where’er she turns her head;
Tis music when she talks; ’tis air
On which, elate, she seems to tread,
The convert of a gladder sphere!
Ah, might he, when by doubts aggrieved,
Behold his tokens next her breast,
At all his words and sighs perceived
Against its blythe upheaval press’d!
But still she flies. Should she be won,
It must not be believed or thought
She yields; she’s chased to death, undone,
Surprised, and violently caught.
The storm-cloud, whose portentous shade
Fumes from a core of smother’d fire,
His livery is whose worshipp’d maid
Denies herself to his desire.
Ah, grief that almost crushes life,
To lie upon his lonely bed,
And fancy her another’s wife!
His brain is flame, his heart is lead.
Sinking at last, by nature’s course,
Cloak’d round with sleep from his despair,
He does but sleep to gather force
That goes to his exhausted care.
He wakes renew’d for all the smart.
His only Love, and she is wed!
His fondness comes about his heart,
As milk comes, when the babe is dead.
The wretch, whom she found fit for scorn,
His own allegiant thoughts despise;
And far into the shining morn
Lazy with misery he lies.
III The Churl
This marks the Churl: when spousals crown
His selfish hope, he finds the grace,
Which sweet love has for even the clown,
Was not in the woman, but the chace.
From little signs, like little stars,
Whose faint impression on the sense
The very looking straight at mars,
Or only seen by confluence;
From instinct of a mutual thought,
Whence sanctity of manners flow’d;
From chance unconscious, and from what
Concealment, overconscious, show’d;
Her hand’s less weight upon my arm,
Her lowlier mien; that match’d with this;
I found, and felt with strange alarm,
I stood committed to my bliss.
I grew assured, before I ask’d,
That she’d be mine without reserve,
And in her unclaim’d graces bask’d,
At leisure, till the time should serve,
With just enough of dread to thrill
The hope, and make it trebly dear;
Thus loth to speak the word to kill
Either the hope or happy fear.
Till once, through lanes returning late,
Her laughing sisters lagg’d behind;
And, ere we reach’d her father’s gate,
We paused with one presentient mind;
And, in the dim and perfumed mist,
Their coming stay’d, who, friends to me,
And very women, loved to assist
Love’s timid opportunity.
Twice rose, twice died my trembling word;
The faint and frail Cathedral chimes
Spake time in music, and we heard
The chafers rustling in the limes.
Her dress, that touch’d me where I stood,
The warmth of her confided arm,
Her bosom’s gentle neighbourhood,
Her pleasure in her power to charm;
Her look, her love, her form, her touch,
The least seem’d most by blissful turn,
Blissful but that it pleased too much,
And taught the wayward soul to yearn.
It was as if a harp with wires
Was traversed by the breath I drew;
And, oh, sweet meeting of desires,
She, answering, own’d that she loved too.
Honoria was to be my bride!
The hopeless heights of hope were scaled;
The summit won, I paused and sigh’d,
As if success itself had fail’d.
It seem’d as if my lips approach’d
To touch at Tantalus’ reward,
And rashly on Eden life encroach’d,
Half-blinded by the flaming sword.
The whole world’s wealthiest and its best,
So fiercely sought, appear’d, when found,
Poor in its need to be possess’d,
Poor from its very want of bound.
My queen was crouching at my side,
By love unsceptred and brought low,
Her awful garb of maiden pride
All melted into tears like snow;
The mistress of my reverent thought,
Whose praise was all I ask’d of fame,
In my close-watch’d approval sought
Protection as from danger and blame;
Her soul, which late I loved to invest
With pity for my poor desert,
Buried its face within my breast,
Like a pet fawn by hunters hurt.