Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
A Separation Deed
By Sir Lewis Morris (1833–1907)
WHEREAS we twain, who still are bound for life,
Who took each other for better and for worse,
Are now plunged deep in hate and bitter strife,
And all our former love is grown a curse;
So that ’twere better, doubtless, we should be        5
In loneliness, so that we were apart,
Nor in each other’s changed eyes looking, see
The cold reflection of an alien heart:
To this insensate parchment we reveal
Our joint despair, and seal it with our seal.        10
Forgetting the dear days not long ago,
When we walk’d slow by starlight through the corn:
Forgetting, since our hard fate wills it so,
All but our parted lives and souls forlorn;
Forgetting the sweet fetters strong to bind        15
Which childish fingers forge, and baby smiles,
Our common pride to watch the growing mind,
Our common joy in childhood’s simple wiles,
The common tears we shed, the kiss we gave,
Standing beside the open little grave;        20
Forgetting these and more, if to forget
Be possible, as we would fain indeed.
And if the past be not too deeply set
In our two hearts, with roots that, touch’d, will bleed
Yet, could we cheat by any pretext fair        25
The world, if not ourselves—’twere so far well—
We would not put our bonds from us, and bare
To careless eyes the secrets of our hell;
So this indenture witnesseth that we,
As follows here, do solemnly agree.        30
We will take each our own, and will abide
Separate from bed and board for all our life;
Whatever chance of weal or woe betide,
Naught shall re-knit the husband and the wife.
Though one grow gradually poor and weak,        35
The other, lapt in luxury, will not heed;
Though one, in mortal pain, the other seek,
The other may not answer to the need;
We, who thro’ long years did together rest
In wedlock, heart to heart, and breast to breast.        40
One shall the daughter take, and one the boy,—
Poor boy, who shall not hear his mother’s name,
Nor feel her kiss; poor girl, for whom the joy
Of her sire’s smile is changed for sullen shame:
Brother and sister, who, if they should meet,        45
With faces strange, amid the careless crowd,
Will feel their hearts beat with no quicker beat,
Nor inward voice of kinship calling loud:
Two widow’d lives, whose fullness may not come;
Two orphan lives, knowing but half of home.        50
We have not told the tale, nor will, indeed,
Of dissonance, whether cruel wrong or crime,
Or sum of petty injuries which breed
The hate of hell when multiplied by time,
Dishonour, falsehood, jealous fancies, blows,        55
Which in one moment wedded souls can sunder;
But, since our yoke intolerable grows,
Therefore we set our seals and souls as under:
Witness the powers of Wrong and Hate and Death.
And this Indenture also witnesseth.        60

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.