A Song Of Parting
QUEEN of my Life, who gave me for my song
The richest crown a poet ever wore,
Since I have given you songs a whole year long,
Stoop, of your grace, and take this one song more.
It was upon a golden first June day
I chanced to take the quiet meadow way
The flowers and grasses met across my feet--
Red sorrel, daisies, and pale meadow-sweet,
With buttercup that set the field ablaze--
The fields have no such flowers now-a-days--
The hedges all along were pearly white;
And there I met with Chloris, all alone,
I drew her face to lean against my own.
The branch of May that hid her maiden eyes
Was scented like the rose of Paradise--
The May-bough fell: I knew what youth was worth,
And sunshine and the pleasant green-gowned earth,
When first love rhymed to summer and delight.
Yet, since my ship must sail away that day,
Despair new-born met new-born joy half-way.
And I, 'mid rapture and tears, found voice to say
'Farewell--my Love--to leave you is to die,
I never shall forget you, dear!--Good-bye!'
At parting from Clarinda life was gray,
With the cold haze of mutual weariness;
The treasure our souls were bartered to possess,
We saw as ashes in the cold new day,
And only longed for leave to steal away
And wash remembrance from our tired eyes,
To cleanse our lips of kisses and of lies,
And to forget the barren fairy gold
For which we had journeyed such a weary road,
Had borne so hard a chain, so great a load,
Yet none the less was the old story told;
The old refrain re-iterate none the less,
'My life's one love,' we said, with sigh for sigh,
'I never can forget you, dear!--Good-bye!'
You were so innocent, so sure, so shy,
Life was a chart well-marked for you, you knew--
With rocks and quicksands plainly set in view,
And, fitly beaconed by a heavenly star,
The port you sought marked unmistakeably
Attainable, and not so very far.
So of your charity you chose to try
To take a pirate bark to haven with you.
Ah! child, I had learned to steer on other seas,
Through other shoals--by other stars than these.
My chart had other ports you knew not of,
And so, one day, my black sails took the breeze,
And, ere you knew it, I was leagues away:
Yet not so far but you could hear me cry
Across the waters of your sheltered bay--
'Farewell, my child! Farewell, my only love!
I never can forget you, dear!--Good-bye!'
When I had courted Chloe half a year
She bade me go--she could not hold me dear,
We parted in the orchard, very late:
The dew lay on the white sweet clover flowers
The moon shone through the pear-tree by the gate,
And on the grass the blossoms fell in showers.
'Pray Heaven,' I cried, 'to bless you--none the less
That you have cursed my life eternally!'
She laughed--my pretty china shepherdess,
Kissed her white hand towards the white full moon.
'Up there,' she said, 'the folk who say farewell
Never intone it to a funeral bell,
But sing it to the sweet old-fashioned tune!
Go there and learn!'--'I have learned that tune,' quoth I
''I never can forget you, dear!--Good-bye!''
In that far land where myrtles dream of love,
Where soft winds whisper through the orange grove;
And, 'twixt the sapphire of the seas and skies,
The sunshine of perpetual summer lies,
I brought white flowers to lie where Clemence lay.
The shutters, closed, strove with the radiant day,
And in her villa all was still and chill.
Flowers die, they say, but these flowers never will,--
Whenever I see a rose I smell them still;
I laid them by her on the strait white bed:
There were no kisses given, no tears were shed,
And never a whisper of farewell was said;
Yet, when they had laid her underneath the clay,
And paid their prayers and tears, and gone their way,
My heart stirred, and I found the old word to say--
This time--this one time--and this last time--true:
'White lady, my white flowers touch you where you lie,
I never shall forget you! Dear, good-bye!'
Queen of my life, and of the songs I sing,
Whose love sets life to such a royal tune;
This song of parting to your hands I bring,
As I bring honour and faith and everything:
Because I know our parting shall be soon--
Since violets hardly live one happy moon,
And love, full-fledged, is ready to take wing;
But, when he flies, part we the silent way,
And, if you ever loved me, do not say:
'Farewell, my only love--I love you still,
I never will forget you!'--For you will!
Edith Nesbit's Other Poems
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