The prime of summer is coming, and with it there comes, to-day,
A thought of another summer, whose garlands have faded away:
The tall laburnums are covered with tresses of yellow flowers,
As they were when under your shadow you used to loiter for hours;
And the blackberry’s starry blossom, and the buttercup’s chalice of gold,
Bloom bright in the ancient forest where you loved to wander of old-
Where you loved to wander at even, but wandered never alone;
For a manly form was beside you, and a voice of manly tone
Told ever the olden story; the tale that you know so well,
You seem to think it the only it is worth man’s while to tell,
Come, sit you down here and listen; I have many things to say,
And though I am loth to blame you, yet
I surely may.
Ay, ay, you wince! I fancy you rather have blame instead;
Oh, girl: will you never learn wisdom? I had hoped your pride was dead;
But no-it will last and flourish so long as vanities live-
So long as you hunger for worship-so long as your subjects give.
It was strange that he thought you loved him; it was strange that he never knew
Your heart, except by the shadow that others mistook for you:
But you went well-masked, and no one, whether you laughed or wept,
Knew aught of the secret chamber where your broken relics were kept;
You hid them so very securely the wisest had already guessed,
From your light-hearted tone and manner, your outer seeming of rest,
That your heart was a drear Golgotha, where all the ground was white
With the wrecks of joys that had perished-the skeletons of delight!
He loved you; his soul was in earnest; at your dainty feet he poured
The purest and best libation that human hearts can afford:
He dreamed of you morn and even; he cherished the flowers you gave;
And I tell you, though they are withered now, they will go with him to the grave!
But you-how was it?-you met him with marvelous glances and smiles;
You wove your glittering meshes; you compassed him with your wiles;
You sang the songs that he had written; you talked in your sweetest voice,
Till he thought his bondage was freedom, and wore your fetters by choice.
Then a great joy flooded his spirit, and the yellow laburnum flowers
Heard wondrous vows and pledges in the dusk of the evening hours;
While there in your heart, close hidden with jealously watchful care,
Lay that strange Golgotha of passion-that arid waste of despair!
It is well that I know your story-I know that your first love came,
As of old came Jove to Semele, a splendid and fatal flame:
It left all your heart in ashes-dead ashes, that cooled and lay
A wearisome weight in your bosom, a burden to bear for aye.
Since then you have shown no mercy to any that circle around
The dangerous blaze of your beauty, for you no mercy had found.
‘Tis for this I offer you pity, and blame you not, as I should
Had you still a heart that was human, with a human knowledge of good;
But the glass of your life has darkened, and darkly through it you see
Distorted and ghastly fragments of duty and destiny.
Yet you can still flirt and trifle, still live in folly and mirth-
Ah, they say that revenge is sweeter than any thing else on earth!
But are there no better moments-better? or are they worse?-
When flattery loses its sweetness, and beauty becomes a curse?
When you come from the world of pleasure, the whirl, and glitter, and glare,
The tattle instead of wisdom, the perfume instead of air;
When the hot-house garlands are withered, and the gray dawn breaks in the east,
And the wine grows stale in the goblets that shone so fair at the feast;
When rouge hides paleness no longer, and folly gives way to thought-
Do love, and life, and emotion still count in your creed for naught?
Do you never gaze in your mirror, when your beauty at daybreak goes,
And pressing your throbbing temples, pray God to give you repose?
Repose! it is tardy in coming; when the bitter chalice is filled,
We must wait till the feverish pulses and the passionate heart are stilled.
There is one that we know thus waiting-waiting and thinking to-day,
Perchance of the happy summer whose blossoms have faded away:
He walks beneath the laburnums, but not with the hopeful pride
That made his world such an Eden when you walked there by his side.
Oh, love! ’tis a wonderful passion; it makes or it mars us all;
By love men may walk with the angels, by love the angels may fall!
And you-it has changed your nature, it has warped you, heart and soul,
Till you flee, with fierce desperation, the genii you cannot control.
What, tears? they are not becoming; let others such weakness show-
The hall is garnished for dancing, the wine and the gaslights glow-
Go, stifle your sobs with laughter, let your eyes, like your heart, be dry,
And pray, when the ball is over, to be forgiven-and die!
© George Arnold