Constancy In Inconstancy
An Old Man’s Confession
SHE has a large still heart--this lady of mine,
(Not mine, i'faith! nor would I that she were
She walks this world of ours like Grecian nymph,
Pure with a marble pureness, moving on
Among the herd of men, environed round
With native airs of deep Olympian calm.
I have a great love for that lady of mine:
I like to watch her motions, trick of face,
And turn of thought, when speaking high and wise
The tongue of gods, not men. Ay, every day,
And twenty times a day, I start to catch
Some look or gesture of familiar mould,
And then my panting soul leans forth to her
Like some sick traveller who astonied sees
Gliding across the distant twilight fields--
His lovely, lost, beloved memory-fields--
The shadowy people of an earlier world.
I have a friend, how dearly liked, heart-warm,
Did I confess, sure she and all would smile:
I watch her as she steals in some dull room
That brightens at her entrance--slow lets fall
A word or two of wise simplicity,
Then goes, and at her going all seems dark.
Little she knows this: little thinks each brow
Lightens, each heart grows purer with her eyes,
Good, honest eyes--clear, upward, righteous eyes,
That look as if they saw the dim unseen,
And learnt from thence their deep compassionate calm.
Why do I precious hold this friend of mine?
Why in our talks, our quiet fireside talks,
When we, two earnest travellers through the dark,
Grasp at the guiding threads that homeward lead,
Seems it another soul than hers looks out
From these her eyes?--until I ofttimes start
And quiver, as when some soft ignorant hand
Touches the barb hid in a long-healed wound/
Yet still no blame, but thanks to thee, dear friend,
Ay, even when we wander back at eve,
They careless arm loose linked within my own--
The same height as I gaze down--nay, the hair
Her very color--fluttering 'neath the stars--
The same large stars which lit that earlier world.
I have another love--whose dewy looks
Are fresh with life's young dawn. I prophesy
The streak of light now trembling on the hills
Will broaden out into a glorious day.
Thou sweet one, meek as good, and good as fair,
Wise as a woman, harmless as a child,
I love thee well! And yet not thee, not thee,
God knows--they know who sit among the stars.
As one whose sun was darkened before noon,
Creeps patiently along the twilight lands,
Sees glow-worms, meteors, or tapers kind
Of an hour's burning, stops awhile to mark,
Thanks heaven for them, but never calls them day--
So love I these, and more. Yet thou, my sun,
Who rose, leaped to thy zenith, sat there throned,
And made the whole earth day--look, if thou canst,
Out of thy veilèd glory, and behold
How all these lesser lights but come and go,
Mere reflexes of thee. Be it so! I keep
My face unto the eastward, where thou stand'st--
I know thou stand'st--behind the purpling hills,
And I shall wake and find morn in the world.