And yet, because thou overcomest so, Because thou art more noble and like a king, Thou canst prevail against my fears and fling Thy purple round me, till my heart shall grow Too close against thine heart henceforth to know How it shook when alone. Why, conquering May prove as lordly and complete a thing In lifting upward, as in crushing low! And as a vanquished soldier yields his sword To one who lifts him from the bloody earth, Even so, Belovèd, I at last record, Here ends my strife. If thou invite me forth, I rise above abasement at the word. Make thy love larger to enlarge my worth.
The face of all the world is changed, I think, Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul Move still, oh, still, beside me, as they stole Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink Of obvious death, where I, who thought to sink, Was caught up into love, and taught the whole Of life in a new rhythm. The cup of dole God gave for baptism, I am fain to drink, And praise its sweetness, Sweet, with thee anear. The names of country, heaven, are changed away For where thou art or shalt be, there or here; And this … this lute and song … loved yesterday, (The singing angels know) are only dear Because thy name moves right in what they say.
There are some heights in Wessex, shaped as if by a kindly hand For thinking, dreaming, dying on, and at crises when I stand, Say, on Ingpen Beacon eastward, or on Wylls-Neck westwardly, I seem where I was before my birth, and after death may be.
In the lowlands I have no comrade, not even the lone man’s friend — Her who suffereth long and is kind; accepts what he is too weak to mend: Down there they are dubious and askance; there nobody thinks as I, But mind-chains do not clank where one’s next neighbour is the sky.
In the towns I am tracked by phantoms having weird detective ways — Shadows of beings who fellowed with myself of earlier days: They hang about at places, and they say harsh heavy things — Men with a wintry sneer, and women with tart disparagings.
Down there I seem to be false to myself, my simple self that was, And is not now, and I see him watching, wondering what crass cause Can have merged him into such a strange continuator as this, Who yet has something in common with himself, my chrysalis.
I cannot go to the great grey Plain; there’s a figure against the moon, Nobody sees it but I, and it makes my breast beat out of tune; I cannot go to the tall-spired town, being barred by the forms now passed For everybody but me, in whose long vision they stand there fast.
There’s a ghost at Yell’ham Bottom chiding loud at the fall of the night, There’s a ghost in Froom-side Vale, thin-lipped and vague, in a shroud of white, There is one in the railway train whenever I do not want it near, I see its profile against the pane, saying what I would not hear.
As for one rare fair woman, I am now but a thought of hers, I enter her mind and another thought succeeds me that she prefers; Yet my love for her in its fulness she herself even did not know; Well, time cures hearts of tenderness, and now I can let her go.
So I am found on Ingpen Beacon, or on Wylls-Neck to the west, Or else on homely Bulbarrow, or little Pilsdon Crest, Where men have never cared to haunt, nor women have walked with me, And ghosts then keep their distance; and I know some liberty.
‘Man, you too, aren’t you, one of these rough followers of the criminal? All hanging hereabout to gather how he’s going to bear Examination in the hall.’ She flung disdainful glances on The shabby figure standing at the fire with others there, Who warmed them by its flare.
‘No indeed, my skipping maiden: I know nothing of the trial here, Or criminal, if so he be. – I chanced to come this way, And the fire shone out into the dawn, and morning airs are cold now; I, too, was drawn in part by charms I see before me play, That I see not every day.’
‘Ha, ha!’ then laughed the constables who also stood to warm themselves, The while another maiden scrutinized his features hard, As the blaze threw into contrast every line and knot that wrinkled them, Exclaiming, ‘Why, last night when he was brought in by the guard, You were with him in the yard!’
‘Nay, nay, you teasing wench, I say! You know you speak mistakenly. Cannot a tired pedestrian who has footed it afar Here on his way from northern parts, engrossed in humble marketings, Come in and rest awhile, although judicial doings are Moot by morning star?’
‘O, come, come!’ laughed the constables. ‘Why, man, you speak the dialect He uses in his answers; you can hear him up the stairs. So own it. We sha’n’t hurt ye. There he’s speaking His syllables Are those you sound yourself when you are talking unawares, As this pretty girl declares.’
‘And you shudder when his chain clinks!’ she rejoined. ‘O yes, I noticed it. And you winced, too, when those cuffs they gave him echoed to us here. They’ll soon be coming down, and you may then have to defend yourself Unless you hold your tongue, or go away and keep you clear When he’s led to judgment near!’
‘No! I’ll be damned in hell if I know anything about the man! No single thing about him more than everybody knows! Must not I even warm my hands but I am charged with blasphemies?’… – His face convulses as the morning cock that moment crows, And he stops, and turns, and goes.
A shaded lamp and a waving blind, And the beat of a clock from a distant floor: On this scene enter–winged, horned, and spined – A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore; While ‘mid my page there idly stands A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands . . .
Thus meet we five, in this still place, At this point of time, at this point in space. – My guests parade my new-penned ink, Or bang at the lamp-glass, whirl, and sink. “God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why? They know Earth-secrets that know not I.