Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘Modern Love’
By George Meredith (1828–1909)
ALL other joys of life he strove to warm,
  And magnify, and catch them to his lip;
  But they had suffered shipwreck with the ship.
And gazed upon him sallow from the storm.
Or if Delusion came, ’twas but to show        5
  The coming minute mock the one that went.
  Cold as a mountain in its star-pitched tent
Stood high philosophy, less friend than foe;
Whom self-caged passion, from its prison-bars,
  Is always watching with a wondering hate.        10
  Not till the fire is dying in the grate
Look we for any kinship with the stars.
Oh, Wisdom never comes when it is gold,
  And the great price we pay for it full worth;
  We have it only when we are half earth:        15
Little avails that coinage to the old!
In our old shipwrecked days there was an hour
  When, in the firelight steadily aglow,
  Joined slackly, we beheld the red chasm grow
Among the clicking coals. Our library-bower        20
That eve was left to us; and hushed we sat
  As lovers to whom Time is whispering.
  From sudden-opened doors we heard them sing;
The nodding elders mixed good wine with chat.
Well knew we that Life’s greatest treasure lay        25
  With us, and of it was our talk. “Ah, yes!
  Love dies!” I said: I never thought it less.
She yearned to me that sentence to unsay.
Then when the fire domed blackening, I found
  Her cheek was salt against my kiss, and swift        30
  Up the sharp scale of sobs her breast did lift;—
Now am I haunted by that taste! that sound!
Mark where the pressing wind shoots javelin-like
  Its skeleton shadow on the broad-backed wave!
  Here is a fitting spot to dig Love’s grave;        35
Here where the ponderous breakers plunge and strike,
And dart their hissing tongues high up the sand;
  In hearing of the ocean, and in sight
  Of those ribbed wind-streaks running into white.
If I the death of Love had deeply planned        40
I never could have made it half so sure
  As by the unblest kisses which upbraid
  The full-waked senses; or, failing that, degrade!
’Tis morning; but no morning can restore
What we have forfeited. I see no sin:        45
  The wrong is mixed. In tragic life, God wot
  No villain need be! Passions spin the plot.
We are betrayed by what is false within.
We saw the swallows gathering in the sky,
  And in the osier-isle we heard their noise.        50
  We had not to look back on summer joys,
Or forward to a summer of bright dye;
But in the largeness of the evening earth
  Our spirits grew as we went side by side.
  The hour became her husband and my bride.        55
Love that had robbed us so, thus blessed our dearth!
The pilgrims of the year waxed very loud
  In multitudinous chatterings as the flood
  Full brown came from the West and like pale blood
Expanded to the upper crimson cloud.        60
Love, that had robbed us of immortal things,
  This little moment mercifully gave,
  Where I have seen across the twilight wave
The swan sail with her young beneath her wings.
Thus piteously Love closed what he begat;
The union of this ever-diverse pair!
These two were rapid falcons in a snare,
Condemned to do the flitting of the bat.
Lovers beneath the singing sky of May,
They wandered once; clear as the dew on flowers.        70
But they fed not on the advancing hours:
Their hearts held cravings for the buried day.
Then each applied to each that fatal knife,
Deep questioning, which probes to endless dole.
Ah! what a dusty answer gets the soul        75
When hot for certainties in this our life!—
In tragic hints here see what evermore
Moves dark as yonder midnight ocean’s force,
Thundering like ramping hosts of warrior horse,
To throw that faint thin line upon the shore.        80

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