You have not then heard the news about yourself? Such interesting echoes reach the last A man's own ear. The public has decreed You and the countess run away together. 'Tis certain she has balked the London Argos, And that she has been often to your house. The count believes it--clearly from his face: The man is dying slowly on his feet.
Lord S. (starting up and ringing the bell). O God! what am I? My love burns like hate, Scorching and blasting with a fiery breath!
What the deuce ails you, Seaford? Are you raving?
Post-chaise for London--four horses--instantly.
[He sinks exhausted in his chair.]
SCENE XXI.--LILY in bed. JULIAN seated by her.
O father, take me on your knee, and nurse me. Another story is very nearly done.
[He takes her on his knees.]
I am so tired! Think I should like to go Down to the warm place that the flowers come from, Where all the little boys and girls are lying In little beds--white curtains, and white tassels. --No, no, no--it is so dark down there! Father will not come near me all the night.
You shall not go, my darling; I will keep you.
O will you keep me always, father dear? And though I sleep ever so sound, still keep me? Oh, I should be so happy, never to move! 'Tis such a dear well place, here in your arms! Don't let it take me; do not let me go: I cannot leave you, father--love hurts so.
Yes, darling; love does hurt. It is too good Never to hurt. Shall I walk with you now, And try to make you sleep?
Yes--no; for I should leave you then. Oh, my head! Mother, mother, dear mother!--Sing to me, father.
[He tries to sing.]
Oh the hurt, the hurt, and the hurt of love! Wherever the sun shines, the waters go. It hurts the snowdrop, it hurts the dove, God on his throne, and man below.
But sun would not shine, nor waters go, Snowdrop tremble, nor fair dove moan, God be on high, nor man below, But for love--for the love with its hurt alone.
Thou knowest, O Saviour, its hurt and its sorrows; Didst rescue its joy by the might of thy pain: Lord of all yesterdays, days, and to-morrows, Help us love on in the hope of thy gain;
Hurt as it may, love on, love for ever; Love for love's sake, like the Father above, But for whose brave-hearted Son we had never Known the sweet hurt of the sorrowful love.
[She sleeps at last. He sits as before, with the child leaning on his bosom, and falls into a kind of stupor, in which he talks.]
A voice comes from the vacant, wide sea-vault: Man with the heart, praying for woman's love, Receive thy prayer; be loved; and take thy choice: Take this or this. O Heaven and Earth! I see--What is it? Statue trembling into life With the first rosy flush upon the skin? Or woman-angel, richer by lack of wings? I see her--where I know not; for I see Nought else: she filleth space, and eyes, and brain-- God keep me!--in celestial nakedness. She leaneth forward, looking down in space, With large eyes full of longing, made intense By mingled fear of something yet unknown; Her arms thrown forward, circling half; her hands Half lifted, and half circling, like her arms.
O heavenly artist! whither hast thou gone To find my own ideal womanhood-- Glory grown grace, divine to human grown?
I hear the voice again: Speak but the word: She will array herself and come to thee. Lo, at her white foot lie her daylight clothes, Her earthly dress for work and weary rest! --I see a woman-form, laid as in sleep, Close by the white foot of the wonderful. It is the same shape, line for line, as she.
Long grass and daisies shadow round her limbs.
Why speak I not the word?------Clothe thee, and come,
O infinite woman! my life faints for thee.
Once more the voice: Stay! look on this side first: I spake of choice. Look here, O son of man! Choose then between them. Ah! ah!
Her I knew
Some ages gone; the woman who did sail Down a long river with me to the sea; Who gave her lips up freely to my lips, Her body willingly into my arms; Came down from off her statue-pedestal, And was a woman in a common house, Not beautified by fancy every day, And losing worship by her gifts to me. She gave me that white child--what came of her? I have forgot.--I opened her great heart, And filled it half-way to the brim with love-- With love half wine, half vinegar and gall-- And so--and so--she--went away and died? O God! what was it?--something terrible-- I will not stay to choose, or look again Upon the beautiful. Give me my wife, The woman of the old time on the earth. O lovely spirit, fold not thy parted hands, Nor let thy hair weep like a sunset-rain
If thou descend to earth, and find no man To love thee purely, strongly, in his will, Even as he loves the truth, because he will, And when he cannot see it beautiful-- Then thou mayst weep, and I will help thee weep. Voice, speak again, and tell my wife to come.
'Tis she, 'tis she, low-kneeling at my feet! In the same dress, same flowing of the hair, As long ago, on earth: is her face changed? Sweet, my love rains on thee, like a warm shower; My dove descending rests upon thy head; I bless and sanctify thee for my own: Lift up thy face, and let me look on thee.
Heavens, what a face! 'Tis hers! It is not hers! She rises--turns it up from me to God, With great rapt orbs, and such a brow!--the stars Might find new orbits there, and be content. O blessed lips, so sweetly closed that sure Their opening must be prophecy or song! A high-entranced maiden, ever pure, And thronged with burning thoughts of God and Truth!
Vanish her garments; vanishes the silk That the worm spun, the linen of the flax;-- O heavens! she standeth there, my statue-form, With the rich golden torrent-hair, white feet, And hands with rosy palms--my own ideal! The woman of my world, with deeper eyes Than I had power to think--and yet my Lilia, My wife, with homely airs of earth about her, And dearer to my heart as my lost wife, Than to my soul as its new-found ideal! Oh, Lilia! teach me; at thy knees I kneel: Make me thy scholar; speak, and I will hear. Yea, all eternity--
[He is roused by a cry from the child.]
Oh, father! put your arms close round about me. Kiss me. Kiss me harder, father dear. Now! I am better now.
[She looks long and passionately in his face. Her eyes close; her head drops backward. She is dead.]
Now I have told him all; no word kept back To burn within me like an evil fire. And where I am, I have told him; and I wait To know his will. What though he love me not, If I love him!--I will go back to him, And wait on him submissive. Tis enough For one life, to be servant to that man! It was but pride--at best, love stained with pride, That drove me from him. He and my sweet child Must miss my hands, if not my eyes and heart. How lonely is my Lily all the day, Till he comes home and makes her paradise!
I go to be his servant. Every word That comes from him softer than a command, I'll count it gain, and lay it in my heart, And serve him better for it.--He will receive me.