Tis for your sake, my Gertrude, I am sorry. If you could go alone, I'd have you go.
And leave you ill? No, you are not so cruel. Believe me, father, I am happier In your sick room, than on a glowing island In the blue Bay of Naples.
|It was so sudden!|
'Tis plain it will not go again as quickly. But have your walk before the sun be hot. Put the ice near me, child. There, that will do.
Good-bye then, father, for a little while.
I never knew what illness was before. O life! to think a man should stand so little On his own will and choice, as to be thus Cast from his high throne suddenly, and sent To grovel beast-like. All the glow is gone From the rich world! No sense is left me more To touch with beauty. Even she has faded Into the far horizon, a spent dream Of love and loss and passionate despair!
Is there no beauty? Is it all a show Flung outward from the healthy blood and nerves, A reflex of well-ordered organism? Is earth a desert? Is a woman's heart No more mysterious, no more beautiful, Than I am to myself this ghastly moment? It must be so--it must, except God is, And means the meaning that we think we see, Sends forth the beauty we are taking in. O Soul of nature, if thou art not, if There dwelt not in thy thought the primrose-flower Before it blew on any bank of spring, Then all is untruth, unreality, And we are wretched things; our highest needs Are less than we, the offspring of ourselves; And when we are sick, they are not; and our hearts Die with the voidness of the universe.
But if thou art, O God, then all is true; Nor are thy thoughts less radiant that our eyes Are filmy, and the weary, troubled brain Throbs in an endless round of its own dreams. And she is beautiful--and I have lost her!
O God! thou art, thou art; and I have sinned Against thy beauty and thy graciousness! That woman-splendour was not mine, but thine. Thy thought passed into form, that glory passed Before my eyes, a bright particular star: Like foolish child, I reached out for the star, Nor kneeled, nor worshipped. I will be content That she, the Beautiful, dwells on in thee, Mine to revere, though not to call my own. Forgive me, God! Forgive me, Lilia!
My love has taken vengeance on my love. I writhe and moan. Yet I will be content. Yea, gladly will I yield thee, so to find That thou art not a phantom, but God's child; That Beauty is, though it is not for me. When I would hold it, then I disbelieved. That I may yet believe, I will not touch it. I have sinned against the Soul of love and beauty, Denying him in grasping at his work.
SCENE XIX.--A country churchyard. JULIAN seated on a tombstone. LILY gathering flowers and grass among the grass.
O soft place of the earth! down-pillowed couch, Made ready for the weary! Everywhere, O Earth, thou hast one gift for thy poor children-- Room to lie down, leave to cease standing up, Leave to return to thee, and in thy bosom Lie in the luxury of primeval peace, Fearless of any morn; as a new babe Lies nestling in his mother's arms in bed: That home of blessedness is all there is; He never feels the silent rushing tide, Strong setting for the sea, which bears him on, Unconscious, helpless, to wide consciousness. But thou, thank God, hast this warm bed at last Ready for him when weary: well the green Close-matted coverlid shuts out the dawn. O Lilia, would it were our wedding bed To which I bore thee with a nobler joy! --Alas! there's no such rest: I only dream Poor pagan dreams with a tired Christian brain.
How couldst thou leave me, my poor child? my heart Was all so tender to thee! But I fear My face was not. Alas! I was perplexed With questions to be solved, before my face Could turn to thee in peace: thy part in me Fared ill in troubled workings of the brain. Ah, now I know I did not well for thee In making thee my wife! I should have gone Alone into eternity. I was
Too rough for thee, for any tender woman-- Other I had not loved--so full of fancies! Too given to meditation. A deed of love Is stronger than a metaphysic truth; Smiles better teachers are than mightiest words. Thou, who wast life, not thought, how couldst thou help it? How love me on, withdrawn from all thy sight-- For life must ever need the shows of life? How fail to love a man so like thyself, Whose manhood sought thy fainting womanhood? I brought thee pine-boughs, rich in hanging cones, But never white flowers, rubied at the heart. O God, forgive me; it is all my fault. Would I have had dead Love, pain-galvanized, Led fettered after me by gaoler Duty? Thou gavest me a woman rich in heart, And I have kept her like a caged seamew Starved by a boy, who weeps when it is dead. O God, my eyes are opening--fearfully: I know it now--'twas pride, yes, very pride, That kept me back from speaking all my soul. I was self-haunted, self-possessed--the worst Of all possessions. Wherefore did I never Cast all my being, life and all, on hers, In burning words of openness and truth? Why never fling my doubts, my hopes, my love, Prone at her feet abandonedly? Why not Have been content to minister and wait; And if she answered not to my desires, Have smiled and waited patient? God, they say, Gives to his aloe years to breed its flower: I gave not five years to a woman's soul! Had I not drunk at last old wine of love? I shut her love back on her lovely heart; I did not shield her in the wintry day; And she has withered up and died and gone. God, let me perish, so thy beautiful Be brought with gladness and with singing home. If thou wilt give her back to me, I vow To be her slave, and serve her with my soul. I in my hand will take my heart, and burn Sweet perfumes on it to relieve her pain. I, I have ruined her--O God, save thou!
[His bends his head upon his knees. LILY comes running up to him, stumbling over the graves.]
Why do they make so many hillocks, father? The flowers would grow without them.
|So they would.|
What are they for, then?
I wish I had not brought her;
She will ask questions. I must tell her all.
'Tis where they lay them when the story's done.
What! lay the boys and girls?
Yes, my own child--
To keep them warm till it begin again.
Is it dark down there?
[Clinging to JULIAN, and pointing down.]
Yes, it is dark; but pleasant--oh, so sweet! For out of there come all the pretty flowers.
Did the church grow out of there, with the long stalk That tries to touch the little frightened clouds?
It did, my darling.--There's a door down there That leads away to where the church is pointing.
[She is silent far some time, and keeps looking first down and then up. JULIAN carries her away.]
SCENE XX.--Portsmouth. LORD SEAFORD, partially recovered. Enter