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Poem by Madison Julius Cawein

Face to Face

Dead! and all the haughty fate
 Fair on throat and face of wax,
 White, calm hands crossed still and lax,
Cold, impassionate!

Dead! and no word whispered low
 At the dull ear now could wake
 One responsive chord or make
One wan temple glow.

Dead! and no hot tear would stir
 All that woman sweet and fair,
 Woman soul from feet to hair
Which was once of her.

God! and thus to die! and I -
 I must live though life be but
 One long, hard, monotonous rut,
There to plod and - die!

Creeds are well in such a case;
 But no sermon could have wrought
 More of faith than you have taught
With your pale, dead face.

And I see it as you see -
 One mistake, so very small!
 Yet so great it mangled all,
Left you this and me!

Oft I pondered saying, "Sure
 She could never live such life!"
 And the truth stabbed like a knife
When I found you pure.

Pure, so pure! and me bemoiled,
 Loathly as loathed vermin, just
 As weak souls are left of lust -
Loveless, low, and soiled.

Nay! I loved you then and love! -
 Grand, great eyes, I see them yet,
 Set like luminous gems of jet
In wax lids above.

Lips - O poor, dumb, chideless lips!
 Once as red as life could make,
 Moist as wan wild roses wake
When the wild dew drips.

Hair - imperial, full, and warm
 As a Grace's, where one stone
 Precious lay ensnared and shone
Like a star in storm.

Eyes - at parting big with pain;
 God! I see them and the tear
 In them - big as eyes of deer
Led by lights and slain!

Life so true! I falsely cursed -
 Lips that, curled with scorn and pride,
 Hurt me though I said they lied,
While the true heart burst.

Rest! my heart has suffered too:
 And this life had woe enough
 For the little dole of love
Given to me and you.

Can you hear me? can you know
 What I am and how it came,
 You, beyond me like a flame,
You, before me like the snow!

Dead! and all my heart a cup
 Hollowed for sad, bitter tears,
 Bitter in the bitter years
Slowly brimming up.

Sleep! 'tis well! but might have been
 Better! - yes, God knows it might!
 Better for me in His sight
And my soul more clean.

Sleep in very peace! but I
 With Earth's other fools will stay,
 Live 'mid laughter, day by day
Mocking laugh and - die.

You will know me now, I know,
 But in life had never known
 How, indeed, I was alone -
But, 'tis better so.

And I know you what you were,
 Faithful and - it were no use,
 Only to yourself abuse, -
I shall tell you there.

There beyond the lightning and
 The long clouds and utter skies,
 Moons and suns and stars that rise,
Where we'll understand.

Madison Julius Cawein

Madison Julius Cawein's other poems:
  1. Here Is the Place Where Loveliness Keeps House
  2. The Battle
  3. The Ribbon
  4. The Unattainable
  5. The Coward

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