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Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
'HE while that in mine eyes tears yet may spring
To mourn past happiness beside thee spent,
And that my voice can, keeping its intent,
Still in despite of sighs have strength to sing;
The while my hand can stretch the light lute's string
The while my soul is willingly content
In knowing thee to know no other thing;
But when I find these wells of grief grown dry,
135 SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE 2
THOUGHT once how Theocritus had sung
I sweet years, the dear wished for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
1 The translation is by George Wyndham, and is reprinted with the permission of Macmillan & Co., Ltd.
2 "Sonnets from the Portuguese," as a whole, is a cycle of forty-four sonnets, in which the author has recorded the inner history of her love for Robert Browning. The main incidents or aspects of this history may be inferred from the twelve poems here reprinted. These are presented in their original order, and include the first, and the last two, of the cycle.
And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,
"Guess now who holds thee?"-"Death,” I said.' But there,
[NLIKE are we, unlike, O princely Heart!
Our ministering two angels look surprise
On one another as they strike athwart
Their wings in passing. Thou, bethink thee, art
The chrism is on thine head; on mine the dew:
LIFT my heavy heart up solemnly,
Through the ashen grayness. If thy foot in scorn
1 An allusion to a scene in Sophocles' Electra. See above, pp. 347f.
Could tread them out to darkness utterly,
The gray dust up .. those laurels on thine head,
That none of all the fires shall scorch and shred
Stand farther off, then!
AN it be right to give what I can give?
To let thee sit beneath the fall of tears
As salt as mine, and hear the sighing years
Re-sighing on my lips renunciative
Through those infrequent smiles which fail to live
For all thy adjurations?
O my fears,
That this can scarce be right! We are not peers,
So to be lovers; and I own, and grieve,
That givers of such gifts as mine are, must
ND wilt thou have me fashion into speech thee, finding words enough, And hold the torch out, while the winds are rough, Between our faces, to cast light on each?
I drop it at thy feet. I cannot teach
From myself-me-that I should bring thee proof
And rend the garment of my life, in brief,
Lest one touch of this heart convey its grief.
F thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
"I love her for her smile-her look-her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
ND yet, because thou overcomest so,
Because thou art more noble, and like a king,
Here ends my strife. If thou invite me forth,
Make thy love larger to enlarge my worth.
NEVER gave a lock of hair away
To a man, Dearest, except this to thee,
I ring out to the full brown length and say
As girls do, any more; it only may
Now shade on two pale cheeks the mark of tears,
Take it thou, finding pure, from all those years,
Y letters! all dead paper, mute and white! And yet they seem alive and quivering Against my tremulous hands which loose the string. And let them drop down on my knee to-night.
This said, he wished to have me in his sight
And this .. O Love, thy words have ill availed
I leave all for thee, wilt thou exchange, And be all to me? Shall I never miss Home-talk and blessing, and the common kiss That comes to each in turn, nor count it strange,