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- The Home Book of Verse, Volume 2 - 90/175 -


And I nor spoke nor stirred.

So hopeless for my sake it was, So full of ruth, so sweet, My whole heart rose and blessed her, - Then died before her feet.

Edward Dowden [1843-1913]

JESSIE

When Jessie comes with her soft breast, And yields the golden keys, Then is it as if God caressed Twin babes upon His knees - Twin babes that, each to other pressed, Just feel the Father's arms, wherewith they both are blessed,

But when I think if we must part, And all this personal dream be fled - O then my heart! O then my useless heart! Would God that thou wert dead - A clod insensible to joys and ills - A stone remote in some bleak gully of the hills!

Thomas Edward Brown [1830-1897]

THE CHESS-BOARD

My little love, do you remember, Ere we were grown so sadly wise, Those evenings in the bleak December, Curtained warm from the snowy weather, When you and I played chess together, Checkmated by each other's eyes?

Ah! still I see your soft white hand Hovering warm o'er Queen and Knight; Brave Pawns in valiant battle stand; The double Castles guard the wings; The Bishop, bent on distant things, Moves, sliding, through the fight.

Our fingers touch; our glances meet, And falter; falls your golden hair Against my cheek; your bosom sweet Is heaving. Down the field, your Queen Rides slow, her soldiery all between, And checks me unaware.

Ah me! the little battle's done: Dispersed is all its chivalry. Full many a move, since then, have we 'Mid Life's perplexing chequers made, And many a game with Fortune played; - What is it we have won? This, this at least, - if this alone:

That never, never, never more, As in those old still nights of yore (Ere we were grown so sadly wise), Can you and I shut out the skies, Shut out the world and wintry weather, And, eyes exchanging warmth with eyes, Play chess, as then we played together!

Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton [1831-1891]

AUX ITALIENS

At Paris it was, at the Opera there; - And she looked like a queen in a book that night, With the wreath of pearl in her raven hair, And the brooch on her breast, so bright.

Of all the operas that Verdi wrote, The best, to my taste, is the Trovatore; And Mario can soothe with a tenor note The souls in Purgatory.

The moon on the tower slept soft as snow: And who was not thrilled in the strangest way, As we heard him sing, while the gas burned low, "Non ti scordar di me"?

The Emperor there, in his box of state, Looked grave, as if he had just then seen The red flag wave from the city-gate Where his eagles in bronze had been.

The Empress, too, had a tear in her eye. You'd have said that her fancy had gone back again, For one moment, under the old blue sky, To the old glad life in Spain.

Well! there in our front-row box we sat, Together, my bride-betrothed and I; My gaze was fixed on my opera-hat, And hers on the stage hard by.

And both were silent, and both were sad. Like a queen she leaned on her full white arm, With that regal, indolent air she had; So confident of her charm!

I have not a doubt she was thinking then Of her former lord, good soul that he was! Who died the richest and roundest of men, The Marquis of Carabas.

I hope that, to get to the kingdom of heaven, Through a needle's eye he had not to pass. I wish him well, for the jointure given To my lady of Carabas.

Meanwhile, I was thinking of my first love, As I had not been thinking of aught for years, Till over my eyes there began to move Something that felt like tears.

I thought of the dress that she wore last time, When we stood, 'neath the cypress-trees, together, In that lost land, in that soft clime, In the crimson evening weather;

Of that muslin dress (for the eve was hot), And her warm white neck in its golden chain, And her full, soft hair, just tied in a knot, And falling loose again;

And the jasmine-flower in her fair young breast, (O the faint, sweet smell of that jasmine-flower!) And the one bird singing alone to his nest, And the one star over the tower.

I thought of our little quarrels and strife, And the letter that brought me back my ring. And it all seemed then, in the waste of life, Such a very little thing!

For I thought of her grave below the hill, Which the sentinel cypress-tree stands over; And I thought . . . "were she only living still, How I could forgive her, and love her!"

And I swear, as I thought of her thus, in that hour, And of how, after all, old things were best, That I smelt the smell of that jasmine-flower Which she used to wear in her breast.

It smelt so faint, and it smelt so sweet, It made me creep, and it made me cold! Like the scent that steals from the crumbling sheet Where a mummy is half unrolled.

And I turned, and looked. She was sitting there In a dim box, over the stage; and dressed In that muslin dress with that full soft hair, And that jasmine in her breast!

I was here; and she was there; And the glittering horseshoe curved between: - From my bride-betrothed, with her raven hair, And her sumptuous scornful mien,

To my early love, with her eyes downcast, And over her primrose face the shade (In short from the Future back to the Past). There was but a step to be made.

To my early love from my future bride One moment I looked. Then I stole to the door, I traversed the passage; and down at her side I was sitting, a moment more.

My thinking of her, or the music's strain, Or something which never will be expressed, Had brought her back from the grave again, With the jasmine in her breast.

She is not dead, and she is not wed! But she loves me now, and she loved me then! And the very first word that her sweet lips said, My heart grew youthful again.

The Marchioness there, of Carabas, She is wealthy, and young, and handsome still, And but for her . . . well, we'll let that pass, She may marry whomever she will.

But I will marry my own first love, With her primrose face: for old things are best, And the flower in her bosom, I prize it above The brooch in my lady's breast.

The world is filled with folly and sin, And Love must cling where it can, I say:


The Home Book of Verse, Volume 2 - 90/175

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