Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
The Sonnet
By Muna Lee
From “These Are but Words”

WHAT other form were worthy of your praise
But this lute-voice, mocking the centuries
In many a silvery phrase that hallowed is
By love not faltering with lengthening days?
A lute that I have little worth to raise        5
And little skill to sound—yet not amiss
Your love may find it, since my heart in this
Only one thing for your heart only says.
These are no perfect blossoms I offer you,
No rose whose crimson cup all longing slakes,        10
Not moonflowers, sunflowers, flowers rich of hue,
Nor silver lilies mystical with dew—
No more than bluets, blown when April takes
Millions of them to make one meadow blue.
I have been happy: let the falcon fly,
And follow swiftly where the light wings whir—
Let him bring down the reckless wanderer,
Snatch back that eager rapture from the sky!
And I have been contented: let me cry
My discontent, until, like reeds astir        20
Before the swift, the tragic whisperer,
Broken are these frail dreams that satisfy!
I have known laughter: make me blind with tears.
I have loved silence: make me deaf with sound.
For every joy set vengeful grief above.        25
I will not shrink before the threatening years;
I will not falter, I will not give ground;
And I will love as you would have me love!
I have a thousand pictures of the sea—
Snatches of song and things that travellers say.        30
I know its shimmering from green to gray;
At dawn and sunset it is plain to me.
Like something known and loved for years will be
That sight of it when I shall come some day
Where little waves and great waves war and play,        35
And little winds and great winds fly out free.
Of love I had no pictures: love would come
Like any casual guest whom I could greet
Serenely, and serenely let depart—
Love, that came like fire and struck me dumb,        40
That came like wind and swept me from my feet,
That came like lightning shattering my heart.
Life of itself will be cruel and hard enough:
There will be loss and pain enough to bear;
Battles to wage, sorrow and tears to share.        45
We must know grief—the bitter taste thereof;
Must mark the Shadow towering above;
Must shut our eyes to gain the strength to dare,
And force tired hearts to face the noise and glare
Though it is dusk and silence that we love.        50
Life has no need of stones that we might heap
To build up walls between; no need of tears
That we seek out and proudly make our own.
O my beloved, since we have alone
These brief hours granted from the hurrying years,        55
Be patient—life itself will make us weep!
There have been many Junes with larkspur blowing,
Many Octobers with crimson-berried haws,
When from my heart regret like smoke withdraws,
Wreath after wreath, to watch the sunsets glowing,        60
And see tall poplars make so brave a showing
Against pale skies at dusk. There were no flaws
To mar the summer for me; never pause
In my delight for winds and waters flowing.
Yet was all beauty beauty uncompleted,        65
Vaguely perceived, not truly heard and seen;
Or seen as are the hills with mist between,
Or heard as song thin echoes have repeated;
Until you gave earth meaning, giving me
The love that lifts the heart to hear and see.        70
You have not known the autumns I have known.
November for you has bloomed as bright as spring,
With tropic suns to glow and birds to sing,
And flowers more vivid than mine in August blown.
You have made, beside, those autumns half your own        75
That come with ice and sleet and wind, to sting
The blood itself to ruddy blossoming—
Such autumns as the bleak North knows alone.
My autumns are merely quiet, and they show
Straight trees that are bared alike of leaves and snow—        80
Yet it is only thus you can know the trees.
Love proud enough to forego bloom and song,
To strip the boughs of foliage; bare and strong
To bide your judgment, would be most like these.
It would be easy to say: “The moon and lake
Made wizardry—how could we see aright?
That was a world unreal in silver light,
And we were lovers for the moment’s sake.
It was youth spoke in us, quick to mistake
Earth-lamp for dawn, the mirage for true sight;        90
Hailing a hill-crest as the long-sought height,
Swearing such oaths as honors us to break.”
That would be easiest: then no regret
Could chill a heart grown happy to forget,
Nor touch a soul that sophistry sufficed.        95
There was a man once, in a hall of trial,
Thrice before cock-crow uttered such denial—
And knows forever that he denied the Christ!
I make no question of your right to go—
Rain and swift lightning, thunder and the sea,        100
Sand and dust and ashes are less free!
Follow all paths that wings and spread sails know;
Unheralded you came, and even so
If so you will, may you take leave of me.
Yours is your life, and what you will shall be.        105
I ask no question: hasten or be slow!
But I who would not hold you—I who give
Your freedom to you with no word to say;
And, watching quietly, with my prayers all dumb,
Speed you to any life you choose to live—        110
Shall ask God’s self, incredulous, some day,
Why in the name of Christ He let you come!
No love can quite forego the battle-field;
Since life is struggle, and love and life are one.
No soul is quiet and sheltered enough to shun        115
The tireless foes at work to make love yield.
Not flowers and samite, but lance and shield
Were dower of love; not wreath but gonfalon;
And while the bitter struggle is unwon
Not even to faith is all the truth revealed.        120
Each heart its own most dreaded foe must meet;
Each heart its own conspiracies must lay,
And fight what it finds hardest to defeat.
Mine is it to meet Doubt in serried mass
Stronger and subtler with each toilsome day;        125
Yet steel my soul to swear, “They shall not pass.”
It will be easy to love you when I am dead—
Shadowed from light and shut away from sound,
Held deeper than the wild roots underground,
Where nothing can be changed and no more said.        130
All will be uttered then: beyond the dread
Of failure in you or me, I shall have found
Most perfect quietness to fold me round,
Where I can dream while all Time’s years are sped.
But now Life roars about me like a sea,        135
Sears me like flame, is thunder in my ears.
There is no time for song, no space for tears,
And every vision has forsaken me.
In a world earthquake-shaken, lightning-charred,
Love is the hardest where all things are hard.        140

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