What precious thing are you making fast
In all these silken lines?
And where and to whom will it go at last?
Such subtle knots and twines!
I am tying up all my love in this,
With all its hopes and fears,
With all its anguish and all its bliss,
And its hours as heavy as years.
I am going to send it afar, afar,
To I know not where above;
To that sphere beyond the highest star
Where dwells the soul of my Love.
But in vain, in vain, would I make it fast
With countless subtle twines;
For ever its fire breaks out at last,
And shrivels all the lines.
If you have a carrier-dove
That can fly over land and sea;
And a message for your Love,
“Lady, I love but thee!”
And this dove will never stir
But straight from her to you,
And straight from you to her;
As you know and she knows too.
Will you first ensure, O sage,
Your dove that never tires
With your message in a cage,
Though a cage of golden wires?
Or will you fling your dove
“Fly, darling, without rest,
Over land and sea to my Love,
And fold your wings in her breast”?
Singing is sweet; but be sure of this,
Lips only sing when they cannot kiss.
Did he ever suspire a tender lay
While her presence took his breath away?
Had his fingers been able to toy with her hair
Would they then have written the verses fair?
Had she let his arm steal round her waist
Would the lovely portrait yet be traced?
Since he could not embrace it flushed and warm
He has carved in stone the perfect form.
Who gives the fine report of the feast?
He who got none and enjoyed it least.
Were the wine really slipping down his throat
Would his song of the wine advance a note?
Will you puff out the music that sways the whirl,
Or dance and make love with a pretty girl?
Who shall the great battle-story write?
Not the hero down in the thick of the fight.
Statues and pictures and verse may be grand,
But they are not the Life for which they stand.
Art by James Thomson (BV)