Charles Stuart Calverley ( )

On The Brink

I WATCHD her as she stoopd to pluck
A wild flower in her hair to twine;
And wishd that it had been my luck
To call her mine;

Anon I heard her rate with mad,
Mad words her babe within its cot,
And felt particularly glad
That it had not.

I knew (such subtle brains have men!)
That she was uttering what she shouldnt;
And thought that I would chide, and then
I thought I would nt.

Few could have gazd upon that face,
Those pouting coral lips, and chided:
A Rhadamanthus, in my place,
Had done as I did.

For wrath with which our bosoms glow
Is chaind there oft by Beautys spell;
And, more than that, I did not know
The widow well.

So the harsh phrase passd unreprovd:
Still mute(O brothers, was it sin?)
I drank, unutterably movd,
Her beauty in.

And to myself I murmurd low,
As on her upturnd face and dress
The moonlight fell, Would she say No,
By chance, or Yes?

She stood so calm, so like a ghost,
Betwixt me and that magic moon,
That I already was almost
A finishd coon.

But when she caught adroitly up
And soothd with smiles her little daughter;
And gave it, if I m right, a sup
Of barley-water;

And, crooning still the strange, sweet lore
Which only mothers tongues can utter,
Snowd with deft hand the sugar oer
Its bread-and-butter;

And kissd it clingingly (ah, why
Dont women do these things in private?)
I felt that if I lost her, I
Should not survive it.

And from my mouth the words nigh flew,
The past, the future, I forgat em,
Oh, if you d kiss me as you do
That thankless atom!

But this thought came ere yet I spake,
And froze the sentence on my lips:
They err who marry wives that make
Those little slips.

It came like some familiar rhyme,
Some copy to my boyhood set;
And that s perhaps the reason Im
Unmarried yet.

Would she have ownd how pleasd she was,
And told her love with widows pride?
I never found out that, because
I never tried.

Be kind to babes and beasts and birds,
Hearts may be hard though lips are coral;
And angry words are angry words:
And that s the moral. 

Charles Stuart Calverley's other poems:
  1. A, B, C.
  2. Ode to Tobacco
  3. Peace. A Study
  4. Visions
  5. Lovers And A Reflection

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