It is time (it was time long ago) I should sever This chain—why I wear it I know not—forever! Yet I cling to the bond, e'en while sick of the mask I must wear, as of one whom his commonplace task And proof-armor of dullness have steeled to her charms! Ah! how lovely she looked as she flung from her arms, In heaps to this table (now starred with the stains Of her booty yet wet with those yesterday rains), These roses and lilies, and—what? let me see! Then was off in a moment, but turned with a glee, That lit her sweet face as with moonlight, to say, As 't was almost too late for a lesson to-day, She meant to usurp, for this morning at least, My office of Tutor; and instead of a feast Of such mouthfuls as 'poluphloisboio thalasses', With which I fed her, I should study the grasses (Love-grasses she called them), the buds, and the flowers Of which I know nothing; and if "with MY powers", I did not learn all she could teach in that time, And thank her, perhaps, in a sweet English rhyme, If I did not do this, and she flung back her hair, And shook her bright head with a menacing air, She'd be—oh! she'd be—a real Saracen Omar To a certain much-valued edition of Homer! But these flowers! I believe I could number as soon The shadowy thoughts of a last summer's noon, Or recall with their phases, each one after one, The clouds that came down to the death of the Sun, Cirrus, Stratus, or Nimbus, some evening last year, As unravel the web of one genus! Why, there, As they lie by my desk in that glistering heap, All tangled together like dreams in the sleep Of a bliss-fevered heart, I might turn them and turn Till night, in a puzzle of pleasure, and learn Not a fact, not a secret I prize half so much, As, how rough is this leaf when I think of her touch. There's one now blown yonder! what can be its name? A topaz wine-colored, the wine in a flame; And another that's hued like the pulp of a melon, But sprinkled all o'er as with seed-pearls of Ceylon; And a third! its white petals just clouded with pink! And a fourth, that blue star! and then this, too! I think If one brought me this moment an amethyst cup, From which, through a liquor of amber, looked up, With a glow as of eyes in their elfin-like lustre, Stones culled from all lands in a sunshiny cluster, From the ruby that burns in the sands of Mysore To the beryl of Daunia, with gems from the core Of the mountains of Persia (I talk like a boy In the flush of some new, and yet half-tasted joy); But I think if that cup and its jewels together Were placed by the side of this child of the weather (This one which she touched with her mouth, and let slip From her fingers by chance, as her exquisite lip, With a music befitting the language divine, Gave the roll of the Greek's multitudinous line), I should take—not the gems—but enough! let me shut In the blossom that woke it, my folly, and put Both away in my bosom—there, in a heart-niche, One shall outlive the other—is 't hard to tell which? In the name of all starry and beautiful things, What is it? the cross in the centre, these rings, And the petals that shoot in an intricate maze, From the disk which is lilac—or purple? like rays In a blue Aureole! And so now will she wot, When I sit by her side with my brows in a knot, And praise her so calmly, or chide her perhaps, If her voice falter once in its musical lapse, As I've done, I confess, just to gaze at a flush In the white of her throat, or to watch the quick rush Of the tear she sheds smiling, as, drooping her curls O'er that book I keep shrined like a casket of pearls, She reads on in low tones of such tremulous sweetness, That (in spite of some faults) I am forced, in discreetness, To silence, lest mine, growing hoarse, should betray What I must not reveal—will she guess now, I say, How, for all his grave looks, the stern, passionless Tutor, With more than the love of her youthfulest suitor, Is hiding somewhere in the shroud of his vest, By a heart that is beating wild wings in its nest, This flower, thrown aside in the sport of a minute, And which he holds dear as though folded within it Lay the germ of the bliss that he dreams of! Ah, me! It is hard to love thus, yet to seem and to be A thing for indifference, faint praise, or cold blame, When you long (by the right of deep passion, the claim, On the loved of the loving, at least to be heard) To take the white hand, and with glance, touch, and word, Burn your way to the heart! That her step on the stair? Be still thou fond flutterer! How little I care For your favorites, see! they are all of them, look! On the spot where they fell, and—but here is your book!
Henry Timrod’s other poems:
- The Stream is Flowing from the West
- To Whom?
- Sonnets. 2. Most Men Know Love But as a Part of Life
- Sonnets. 14. Are These Wild Thoughts, Thus Fettered in My Rhymes
- An Exotic
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