Verse > Anthologies > Andrew Macphail, ed. > The Book of Sorrow
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Andrew Macphail, comp.  The Book of Sorrow.  1916.
 
XXVII. Vain Longing
‘She touches a sad string of soft recall’
By Sydney Dobell (1824–1874)
 
From ‘England in Time of War’

RETURN, return! all night my lamp is burning,
All night, like it, my wide eyes watch and burn;
Like it, I fade and pale, when day returning
Bears witness that the absent can return,
            Return, return.        5
 
Like it, I lessen with a lengthening sadness,
Like it, I burn to waste and waste to burn,
Like it, I spend the golden oil of gladness
To feed the sorrowy signal for return,
            Return, return.        10
 
Like it, like it, whene’er the east wind sings,
I bend and shake; like it, I quake and yearn,
When Hope’s late butterflies, with whispering wings,
Fly in out of the dark, to fall and burn—
  Burn in the watchfire of return,        15
            Return, return.
 
Like it, the very flame whereby I pine
Consumes me to its nature. While I mourn
My soul becomes a better soul than mine,
And from its brightening beacon I discern        20
My starry love go forth from me, and shine
Across the seas a path for thy return,
            Return, return.
 
Return, return! all night I see it burn,
All night it prays like me, and lifts a twin        25
Of palmèd praying hands that meet and yearn—
Yearn to the impleaded skies for thy return.
Day, like a golden fetter, locks them in,
And wans the light that withers, tho’ it burn
  As warmly still for thy return;        30
Still thro’ the splendid load uplifts the thin
Pale, paler, palest patience that can learn
Naught but that votive sign for thy return—
That single suppliant sign for thy return,
            Return, return.        35
 
Return, return! lest haply, love, or e’er
Thou touch the lamp the light have ceased to burn,
And thou, who thro’ the window didst discern
The wonted flame, shalt reach the topmost stair
  To find no wide eyes watching there,        40
No wither’d welcome waiting thy return!
A passing ghost, a smoke-wreath in the air,
The flameless ashes, and the soulless urn,
Warm with the famish’d fire that lived to burn—
Burn out its lingering life for thy return,        45
Its last of lingering life for thy return,
Its last of lingering life to light thy late return,
            Return, return.
 
 
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