A Man’s Wooing
YOU said, last night, you did not think
In all the world of men
Was one true lover--true alike
In deed and word and pen;--
One knightly lover, constant as
The old knights, who sleep sound:
Some women, said you, there might be--
Not one man faithful found:
Not one man, resolute to win,
Or, winning, firm to hold
The woman, among women--sought
With steadfast love and bold.
Not one whose noble life and pure
Had power so to control
To tender hublest loyalty
Her free, but reverent soul,
That she beside him gladly moved
As sovereign and slave;
In faith unfettered, homage true,
Each claiming what each gave.
And then you dropped your eyelids white,
And stood in maiden bloom
Proud, calm:--unloving and unloved
Descending to the tomb.
I let you speak and ne'er replied;
I watched you for a space,
Until that passionate glow, like youth,
Had faded from your face.
No anger showed I--nor complaint:
My heart's beats shook no breath,
Although I knew that I had found
Her, who brings life or death;
The woman, true as life or death;
The love, strong as these twain,
Against which seas of mortal fate
Beat harmlessly in vain.
"Not one true man": I hear it still,
Your voice's clear cold sound,
Upholding all your constant swains
And good knights underground.
"Not one true lover":--Woman, turn;
I love you. Words are small;
'T is life speaks plain: In twenty years
Perhaps you may know all.
I seek you. You alone I seek:
All other women, fair,
Or wise, or good, may go their way,
Without my thought or care.
But you I follow day by day,
And night by night I keep
My heart's chaste mansion lighted, where
Your image lies asleep.
Asleep! If e'er to wake, He knows
Who Eve to Adam brought,
As you to me: the embodiment
Of boyhood's dear sweet thought,
And youth's fond dream, and manhood's hope,
That still half hopeless shone;
Till every rootless vain ideal
Commingled into one,--
You; who are so diverse from me,
And yet as much my own
As this my soul, which, formed apart,
Dwells in its bodily throne;--
Or rather for that perishes,
As these our two lives are
So strangely, marvellously drawn
Together from afar;
Till week by week and month by month
We closer seem to grow,
As two hill streams, flushed with rich rain,
Each into the other flow.
I swear no oaths, I tell no lies,
Nor boast I never knew
A love-dream--we all dream in youth--
But waking, I found you,
The real woman, whose first touch
Aroused to highest life
My real manhood. Crown it then,
Good angel, friend, love, wife!
Imperfect as I am, and you,
Perchance, not all you seem,
We two together shall bind up
Our past's bright, broken dream.
We two together shall dare look
Upon the years to come,
As travellers, met in far countrie,
Together look towards home.
Come home! The old tales were not false,
Yet the new faith is true;
Those saintly souls who made men knights
Were women such as you.
For the great love that teaches love
Deceived not, ne'er deceives:
And she who most believes in man
Makes him what she believes.
Come! If you come not, I can wait;
My faith, like life, is long;
My will--not little; my hope much:
The patient are the strong.
Yet come, ah come! The years run fast,
And hearths grow swiftly cold--
Hearts too: but while blood beats in mine
It holds you and will hold.
And so before you it lies bare,--
Take it or let it lie,
It is an honest heart; and yours
To all eternity.