Digby Mackworth Dolben

(1848-1867 / England)

On River Banks My Love Was Born - Poem by Digby Mackworth Dolben

Sis licet felix ubicunque mavis
Et memor nostri . . . vivas

On river banks my love was born,
And cradled 'neath a budding thorn,
Whose flowers never more shall kiss
Lips half so sweet and red as his.
Beneath him lily-islands spread
With broad cool leaves a floating bed:
Around, to meet his opening eyes,
The ripples danced in glad surprise.
I found him there when spring was new,
When winds were soft and skies were blue;
I marvelled not, although he drew
My whole soul to him, for I knew
That he was born to be my king,
And I was only born to sing
With faded lips and feeble lays
His love and beauty all my days.
Therefore I pushed the flowers aside
And humbly knelt me by his side,
And then I stooped, and whispered-'Come,
'O Long-desired, to your Home;
'How much desired none can know,
'But those who wander to and fro
'Through unknown groups and careless faces,
'And seek in vain for friendship's graces,
'Until the earth's rich beauties seem
'The bitter mockery of a dream:
'Nor shall they wake, nor shall they see
'This life's most sweet reality,
'Until before them there arise
'A loving, answering pair of eyes.-
'So had I wandered, till you came;
'Spring, summer, autumn were the same;
'For winter ever held the skies
'Clouded with earth's sad mysteries;
'And on my heart the chilly hand
'Of grief I could not understand.
'Those looks, those words of scorn I felt,-
'Never was frost so hard to melt:-
'Yet, as from gardens far below,
'Sweet breezes through a sick room blow,
'So from the Future that should be,
'Faint hopes were always wafted me;
'Till all my heart and soul were full
'Of longing undefinable.
'You came-you came.

'No lilies can I offer you,
'Nor gentian, nor violets blue:
'The only flower that I own
'Is, was and shall be, yours alone,-
'A flower of such a glowing red
'It seems as if each leaf had bled.'

He took my flower; I saw it pressed
With loving care against his breast.
But on that robe it left a stain,
Which never shall come out again.
He heeded not, but clasped my hand
And led me through enchanted land.
On we went-the flowers springing,
Turtle-voices ever singing;
On we went-I understood
Lake and mountain, rock and wood,
Hidden meanings, hidden duties,
Hidden loves, and hidden beauties;
On we went-the ceaseless chorus
Of all nature chanted o'er us;
On we went-the scented breeze
From the bright Hesperian seas
Striking ever on our faces,
Bringing from those blessed places
A foretaste of the spirit's rest
Among the Islands of the blest;
Till the griefs of life's old story
Faded in a mist of glory.
Came there with that glorious vision
Throbbing notes of songs Elysian,
Echoing now as deep and loud
As the thunder in the cloud;
Then again the music sank
Soft as ripples on the bank;
And the angels, as they passed,
Whispered to me 'Loved at last.'

Gone-gone-O never nevermore,
Standing upon the willowy shore,
Shall it be mine to watch his face
Uplifted westward, all ablaze
With sunset glory, and his eyes
Catching the splendour of the skies,
Then softly downward turned on mine,
As stars in turbid waters shine.

I cannot think, I cannot weep,-
But as one walking in his sleep,
I wander back through well-known ways,
As once with him through summer days.
Again I see the rushes shiver,
And lines on dying sunlight quiver
Across the waters cold and brown,
O'er which our boat glides slowly down.
Again, again I see him stand
With red June roses in his hand;
Again, again within those walls
We loved so well, the sunlight falls
From blazoned windows on his head,
In streams of purple and of red.

So take my flowers, dear river Thames,
And snap, oh snap the lily stems.
I throw my heart among those flowers
You gave to me in boyish hours:
Spare it and them nor storm nor mire;
But sink them lower, toss them higher,
I care not,-for I know that pain
Alone can purify their stain.
So only, only may I win
Some pardon for my youthful sin,-
Vain hopes, false peace, untrustful fears,
Three wasted, dreamy, happy years;-
So only may I stand with him,
When suns have sunk and moons grown dim,
And see him shining in the light
Of the new Heaven's sunless white.

Belovèd, take my little song:
The river, as he rolls along,
Will sing it clearer far than I;
And possibly your memory,
When looking back on what has been,
Will tell you what these verses mean.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, September 13, 2010

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