Listen, Beloved, the Casurinas quiver,
Each tassel prays the wind to set it free,
Hark to the frantic sobbing of the river,
Wild to attain extinction in the sea.
All Nature blindly struggles to dissolve
In other forms and forces, thus to solve
The painful riddle of identity.
Ah, that my soul might lose itself in thee!
Yet, my Beloved One, wherefore seek I union,
Since there is no such thing in all the world, -
Are not our spirits linked in close communion, -
And on my lips thy clinging lips are curled?
Thy tender arms are round my shoulders thrown,
I hear thy heart more loudly than my own,
And yet, to my despair, I know thee far,
As in the stellar darkness, star from star.
Even in times when love with bounteous measure
A simultaneous joy on us has shed,
In the last moment of delirious pleasure,
Ere the sense fail, or any force be fled,
My rapture has been even as a wall,
Shutting out any thought of thee at all!
My being, by its own delight possessed,
Forgot that it was sleeping on thy breast.
Ay, from his birth each man is vowed and given
To a vast loneliness, ungauged, unspanned,
Whether by pain and woe his soul be riven,
Or all fair pleasures clustered 'neath his hand.
His gain by day, his ecstasy by night, -
His force, his folly, fierce or faint delight, -
Suffering or sorrow, fortune, feud, or care, -
Whate'er he find or feel, - he may not share.
Lonely we join the world, and we depart
Even as lonely, having lived alone,
The breast that feeds us, the beloved one's heart,
The lips we kiss, - or curse - alike unknown.
Ay, even these lips of thine, so often kissed,
What certitude have I that they exist?
Alas, it is the truth, though harsh it seems,
I have been loved as sweetly in my dreams.
Therefore if I should seem too fiercely fond,
Too swift to love, too eager to attain,
Forgive the fervour that would forge beyond
The limits set to mortal joy and pain.
Knowing the soul's unmeasured loneliness,
My passion must be mingled with distress,
As I, despairing, struggle to draw near
What is as unattainable as dear.
Thirst may be quenched at any kindly river,
Rest may be found 'neath any arching tree.
No sleep allures, no draughts of love deliver
My spirit from its aching need of thee.
Thy sweet assentiveness to my demands,
All the caressive touches of thy hands, -
These soft cool hands, with fingers tipped with fire, -
They can do nothing to assuage desire.
Sometimes I think my longing soul remembers
A previous love to which it aims and strives,
As if this fire of ours were but the embers
Of some wild flame burnt out in former lives.
Perchance in earlier days I did attain
That which I seek for now so all in vain,
Maybe my soul with thine was fused and wed
In some great night, long since dissolved and dead.
We may progress; but who shall answer clearly
The riddle of the endless change of things.
Perchance in other days men loved more dearly,
Or Love himself had wider ways and wings,
Maybe we gave ourselves with less control,
Or simpler living left more free the soul,
So that with ease the flesh aside was flung, -
Or was it merely that Mankind was young?
Or has my spirit a divine prevision
Of vast vague passions stored in days to be,
When some strong souls shall conquer their division
And two shall be as one, eternally?
Finding at last upon each other's breast,
Unutterable calm and infinite rest,
While love shall burn with such intense a glow
That both shall die, and neither heed or know.
Why do I question thus, and wake confusion
In the soft thought that lights thy perfect face,
Ah, shed once more thy perfumed hair's profusion,
Open thine arms and make my resting place.
Lay thy red lips on mine as heretofore,
Grant me the treasure of thy beauty's store,
Stifle all thought in one imperious kiss, -
What shall I ask for more than this, - and this?
Listen, Beloved by Laurence Hope (Adela Florence Cory Nicolson)