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.
“When First You Went”
By Harriet Prescott Spofford (1835–1921)
From ‘Titian’s Garden and Other Poems’

WHEN first you went, oh, desert was the day,
The lonely day, and desert was the night;
And alien was the power that robbed from me
The white and starlike beauty of your face,
The white and starlike splendor of your soul!        5
Since you were all of life, I too had died,—
Died, not as you into the larger life,
But into nothingness,—had not the thought
Of your bright being led outward, as a beam
Piercing the labyrinthine gloom shows light        10
Somewhere existing.
                    Like a golden lure
Bringing me to the open was the thought,—
For since I loved you still, you still must be,
And where you were, there I must follow you.
And follow, follow, follow, cried the winds,        15
And follow, follow, murmured all the tides,
And follow, sang the stars that wove the web
Of their white orbits far in shining space,
Where Sirius with his dark companion went.
Bound in the bands of Law they ranged the deep;        20
And Law, I said, means Will to utter Law;
And Will means One, indeed, to have the Will.
And having found that One, shall it not be
The One Supreme of all, whose power I prove,
Whose inconceivable intelligence        25
Faintly divine, and who perforce must dwell
Compact of love, that most supreme of all?
Had I found God, and should I not find you?
That love supreme will never mock my search.
That thought accordant in the infinite        30
The great flame of your spirit will not quench.
That power embattled through the universe
Needs in all firmaments your panoply
Of stainless purity, of crystal truth;
Your sympathy that melts into the pang,        35
Your blazing wrath with wrong, your tenderness
To every small or suffering thing, as sweet
As purple twilight touching throbbing eyes;
Your answer to great music when it breathes
Silver and secret speech from sphere to sphere;        40
Your thrill before the beauty of the earth;
Your passion for the sorrow of the race!
You who in the gray waste of night awoke
When clashing mill-bells frolicking in air
Called up the day, and sounded in your ear        45
Clank of enormous fetters that have bound
Labor in all lands; you whose pity went
Out on the long swell where the fisherman
Slides with his shining boat-load in the dark;
You whom the versed in statecraft paused to hear,        50
The sullen prisoner blest, the old man loved,
The little children ran along beside;
You who to women were the Knight of God.
Therefore as God lives, so I know do you.
And with that knowledge comes a keener joy        55
Than blushing, beating, folds young love about.
Again the sky burns azure, and the stars
Lean from their depths to tell me of your state.
Again the sea-line meets the line divine,
And the surge shatters in wide melody;        60
The unguessed hues that the soul swells to note
Haunting the rainbow’s edges lead me on;
And all the dropping dews of summer nights
Keep measure with the music in my heart.
And still I climb where you have passed before,        65
Unchallenged spirit who inclosed my days
As in a jewel, walled about with light!
And far, far off, I seem to see you go
Familiar of unknown immensity,
And move, enlarged to all the rosy vast,        70
And boon companion of the dawn beyond.

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