Jean Ingelow

(17 March 1820 - 20 July 1897 / Boston, Lincolnshire)

Perdita - Poem by Jean Ingelow

I go beyond the commandment.'
So be it. Then mine be the blame,
The loss, the lack, the yearning, till life's last sand be run,—
I go beyond the commandment, yet honour stands fast with her claim,
And what I have rued I shall rue; for what I have done—I have done.

Hush, hush! for what of the future; you cannot the base exalt,
There is no bridging a chasm over, that yawns with so sheer incline;
I will not any sweet daughter's cheek should pale for this mother's fault,
Nor son take leave to lower his life a-thinking on mine.

' Will I tell you all?' So! this, e'en this, will I do for your great
love's sake;
Think what it costs. 'Then let there be silence—silence you'll count
consent.'
No, and no, and for ever no: rather to cross and to break,
And to lower your passion I speak—that other it was I meant.

That other I meant (but I know not how) to speak of, nor April days,
Nor a man's sweet voice that pleaded—O (but I promised this)—
He never talked of marriage, never; I grant him that praise;
And he bent his stately head, and I lost, and he won with a kiss.

He led me away—O, how poignant sweet the nightingale's note that noon—
I beheld, and each crisped spire of grass to him for my sake was fair,
And warm winds flattered my soul blowing straight from the soul of June,
And a lovely lie was spread on the fields, but the blue was bare.

When I looked up, he said: 'Love, fair love! O rather look in these eyes
With thine far sweeter than eyes of Eve when she stepped the valley
unshod'—
For ONE might be looking through it, he thought, and he would not in any
wise
I should mark it open, limitless, empty, bare 'neath the gaze of God.

Ah me! I was happy—yes, I was; 't is fit you should know it all,
While love was warm and tender and yearning, the rough winds troubled
me not;
I heard them moan without in the forest; heard the chill rains fall—
But I thought my place was sheltered with him—I forgot, I forgot.

After came news of a wife; I think he was glad I should know.
To stay my pleading, 'take me to church and give me my ring';
'You should have spoken before,' he had sighed, when I prayed him so,
For his heart was sick for himself and me, and this bitter thing.

But my dream was over me still,—I was half beguiled,
And he in his kindness left me seldom, O seldom, alone,
And yet love waxed cold, and I saw the face of my little child,
And then at the last I knew what I was, and what I had done.

'YOU will give me the name of wife. YOU will give me a ring.'—O
peace!
You are not let to ruin your life because I ruined mine;
You will go to your people at home. There will be rest and release;
The bitter now will be sweet full soon—ay, and denial divine.

But spare me the ending. I did not wait to be quite cast away;
I left him asleep, and the bare sun rising shone red on my gown.
There was dust in the lane, I remember; prints of feet in it lay,
And honeysuckle trailed in the path that led on to the down.

I was going nowhere—I wandered up, then turned and dared to look back,
Where low in the valley he careless and quiet—quiet and careless slept.
'Did I love him yet?' I loved him. Ay, my heart on the upland track
Cried to him, sighed to him out by the wheat, as I walked, and I wept.

I knew of another alas, one that had been in my place,
Her little ones, she forsaken, were almost in need;
I went to her, and carried my babe, then all in my satins and lace
I sank at the step of her desolate door, a mourner indeed.

I cried, ''T is the way of the world, would I had never been born!'
'Ay, 't is the way of the world, but have you no sense to see
For all the way of the world,' she answers and laughs me to scorn,
'The world is made the world that it is by fools like you, like me.'

Right hard upon me, hard on herself, and cold as the cold stone,
But she took me in; and while I lay sick I knew I was lost,
Lost with the man I loved, or lost without him, making my moan
Blighted and rent of the bitter frost, wrecked, tempest tossed, lost,
lost!

How am I fallen:—we that might make of the world what we would,
Some of us sink in deep waters. Ah! 'you would raise me again?'
No true heart,—you cannot, you cannot, and all in my soul that is good
Cries out against such a wrong. Let be, your quest is for ever in vain.

For I feel with another heart, I think with another mind,
I have worsened life, I have wronged the world, I have lowered the light;
But as for him, his words and his ways were after his kind,
He did but spoil where he could, and waste where he might.

For he was let to do it; I let him and left his soul
To walk mid the ruins he made of home in remembrance of love's despairs,
Despairs that harden the hearts of men and shadow their heads with dole,
And woman's fault, though never on earth, may be healed,—but what of
theirs.

'T was fit you should hear it all—What, tears? they comfort me; now you
will go,
Nor wrong your life for the nought you call 'a pair of beautiful eyes,'
'I will not say I love you.' Truly I will not, no.
'Will, I pity you?' Ay, but the pang will be short, you shall wake and be
wise.

'Shall we meet? We shall meet on the other side, but not before.
I shall be pure and fair, I shall hear the sound of THE NAME,
And see the form of His face. You too will walk on that shore,
In the garden of the Lord God, where neither is sorrow nor shame.

Farewell, I shall bide alone, for God took my one white lamb,
I work for such as she was, and I will the while I last,
But there's no beginning again, ever I am what I am,
And nothing, nothing, nothing, can do away with the past.


Comments about Perdita by Jean Ingelow

  • Susan Williams (1/15/2016 4:38:00 PM)


    Yes, it is long. But persevere! It has power in so many of those lines. (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 14, 2012



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