Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
The New Arcadia (1884)
Tuscan Olives
By A. Mary F. Robinson-Darmesteter (1857–1944)

THE COLOUR of the olives who shall say?
  In winter on the yellow earth they’re blue,
A wind can change the green to white or gray,
  But they are olives still in every hue;
But they are olives always, green or white,        5
As love is love in torment or delight;
But they are olives, ruffled or at rest,
As love is always love in tears or jest.
We walked along the terraced olive-yard,
  And talked together till we lost the way;        10
We met a peasant, bent with age, and hard,
  Bruising the grape-skins in a vase of clay;
Bruising the grape-skins for the second wine.
We did not drink, and left him, Love of mine;
Bruising the grapes already bruised enough:        15
He had his meagre wine, and we our love.
We climbed one morning to the sunny height,
  Where chestnuts grow no more, and olives grow;
Far-off the circling mountains, cinder-white,
  The yellow river and the gorge below.        20
“Turn round,” you said, O flower of Paradise;
I did not turn, I looked upon your eyes.
“Turn round,” you said, “turn round, look at the view!”
I did not turn, my Love, I looked at you.
How hot it was! Across the white-hot wall        25
  Pale olives stretch towards the blazing street;
You broke a branch, you never spoke at all,
  But gave it me to fan with in the heat;
You gave it me without a sign or word,
And yet, my love, I think you knew I heard.        30
You gave it me without a word or sign:
Under the olives first I called you mine.
At Lucca, for the autumn festival,
  The streets are tulip-gay; but you and I
Forget them, seeing over church and wall        35
  Guinigi’s tower soar i’ the black-blue sky,
A stem of delicate rose against the blue,
And on the top two lonely olives grew,
Crowning the tower, far from the hills, alone,
As on our risen love our lives are grown.        40
Who would have thought we should stand again together,
  Here, with the convent a frown of towers above us;
Here, mid the sere-wooded hills and wintry weather;
  Here, where the olives bend down and seem to love us;
Here, where the fruit-laden olives half remember        45
All that began in their shadow last November;
Here, where we knew we must part, must part and sever;
Here where we know we shall love for aye and ever.
Reach up and pluck a branch, and give it me,
  That I may hang it in my Northern room,        50
That I may find it there, and wake, and see
  —Not you! not you!—dead leaves and wintry gloom.
O senseless olives, wherefore should I take
Your leaves to balm a heart that can but ache?
Why should I take you hence, that can but show        55
How much is left behind? I do not know.

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