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Poem by Bessie Rayner Parkes

The Dead Love

POOR Love! It died a sudden death
While yet 'twas filled with hope and joy;
No lingering failure of the breath,
No cruel doubt did it annoy;
Till in one evil hour it fell,
Struck by a dull shaft weighted well.

I took it up so dead and cold,
I smoothed its garments' silken fold;--
No living Love so dear, so fair!
The glimmer of its drooping hair
Cast a pale light upon my breast;
I crossed its hands in sign of rest,
And in them laid the sweetest flower
That Summer brings us in her dower,
Sweet as the Love that perished there,
And burning even as my despair.

Thus placed in decent order all,
I wrapped it in a stainless pall,
And bore it on my heart alway;
Its sweetness kept it from decay,
But well-nigh chilled my heart away;
Yet so it to my life had grown
I could not lay the burden down.
How often on that dreary road
I fainted with mine awful load!
Too many years it was to me
A saintship and a company,
A blessing, an idolatry,
To lay it where I could not see.

Then spake my conscience of remorse,
"This lies upon thee like a curse;
Thine arms are full, thine heart is dull,
Lay down thine ill lest it grow worse,
Grow heavier as thou weaker grow,
And crush thee with a weight of snow."

Poor Love! Its dead face looked reproach,
It seemed to feel the foe's approach,
The foe Oblivion, worse than death--
I warmed it with my living breath,
I said, "Fear not, thou poor dead thing!
More precious than all Time can bring;
Thee shall the tenderest thoughts embalm
In memory's safe embracing calm;
Where only hushful breezes blow
From the far shores of long ago;
Bringing soft scent of summer flowers
And music of the golden hours,
And loving words which echo still
Through silence (which they cannot fill).

For thee the present and the past
Shall melt into one moment;--last,
O mournful Love! that still dost dread
Oblivion for the voiceless dead--
A cross for a memorial
Of sweetness issuing forth from gall,
Of use from loss, of health from pain,
And from spent tears the noblest gain,
I will erect, and lilies three
Will twine about its foot; so be,
O dearest Love! content, that I
May walk once more in liberty.
So shall my deeds, in this regret
And earnest fondness strongly set,
Cling round the happy past, and be
One fresh perpetual song of Thee!"

Bessie Rayner Parkes

Bessie Rayner Parkes's other poems:
  1. On a Group of Justice and Charity
  2. The Little Bird
  3. At First
  4. Up the River
  5. The Old Chateau

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