And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,--

"Guess now who holds thee!"--"Death," I said, But, there,

The silver answer rang, "Not Death, but Love."

II

But only three in all God's universe

Have heard this word thou hast said,--Himself, beside

Thee speaking, and me listening! and replied

One of us . . . that was God, . . . and laid the curse

So darkly on my eyelids, as to amerce

My sight from seeing thee,--that if I had died,

The death-weights, placed there, would have signified

Less absolute exclusion. "Nay" is worse

From God than from all others, O my friend!

Men could not part us with their worldly jars,

Nor the seas change us, nor the tempests bend;

Our hands would touch for all the mountain-bars:

And, heaven being rolled between us at the end,

We should but vow the faster for the stars.

III

Unlike are we, unlike, O princely Heart!

Unlike our uses and our destinies.

Our ministering two angels look surprise

On one another, as they strike athwart

Their wings in passing. Thou, bethink thee, art

A guest for queens to social pageantries,

With gages from a hundred brighter eyes

Than tears even can make mine, to play thy part

Of chief musician. What hast thou to do

With looking from the lattice-lights at me,

A poor, tired, wandering singer, singing through

The dark, and leaning up a cypress tree?

The chrism is on thine head,--on mine, the dew,--

And Death must dig the level where these agree.

IV

Thou hast thy calling to some palace-floor,

Most gracious singer of high poems! where

The dancers will break footing, from the care

Of watching up thy pregnant lips for more.

And dost thou lift this house's latch too poor

For hand of thine? and canst thou think and bear

To let thy music drop here unaware

In folds of golden fulness at my door?

Look up and see the casement broken in,

The bats and owlets builders in the roof!

My cricket chirps against thy mandolin.

Hush, call no echo up in further proof

Of desolation! there's a voice within

That weeps . . . as thou must sing . . . alone, aloof.

V

I lift my heavy heart up solemnly,

As once Electra her sepulchral urn,

And, looking in thine eyes, I over-turn

The ashes at thy feet. Behold and see

What a great heap of grief lay hid in me,

And how the red wild sparkles dimly burn

Through the ashen greyness. If thy foot in scorn

Could tread them out to darkness utterly,

It might be well perhaps. But if instead

Thou wait beside me for the wind to blow

The grey dust up, . . . those laurels on thine head,

O my Beloved, will not shield thee so,

That none of all the fires shall scorch and shred

The hair beneath. Stand further off then! go!

VI

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