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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Lord De Tabley (John Byrne Leicester Warren) b. 1835

A Song of Faith Forsworn

TAKE back your suit.

It came when I was weary and distraught

With hunger. Could I guess the fruit you brought?

I ate in mere desire of any food,

Nibbled its edge, and nowhere found it good.

Take back your suit.

Take back your love.

It is a bird poach’d from my neighbor’s wood:

Its wings are wet with tears, its beak with blood.

’T is a strange fowl with feathers like a crow:

Death’s raven, it may be, for all we know.

Take back your love.

Take back your gifts.

False is the hand that gave them; and the mind

That plann’d them, as a hawk spread in the wind

To poise and snatch the trembling mouse below,

To ruin where it dares—and then to go.

Take back your gifts.

Take back your vows.

Elsewhere you trimm’d and taught these lamps to burn;

You bring them stale and dim to serve my turn.

You lit those candles in another shrine,

Gutter’d and cold you offer them on mine.

Take back your vows.

Take back your words.

What is your love? Leaves on a woodland plain,

Where some are running and where some remain.

What is your faith? Straws on a mountain height,

Dancing like demons on Walpurgis night.

Take back your words.

Take back your lies.

Have them again: they wore a rainbow face,

Hollow with sin and leprous with disgrace:

Their tongue was like a mellow turret bell

To toll hearts burning into wide-lipp’d hell

Take back your lies.

Take back your kiss.

Shall I be meek, and lend my lips again

To let this adder daub them with his stain?

Shall I turn cheek to answer, when I hate?

You kiss like Judas in the garden gate!

Take back your kiss.

Take back delight,

A paper boat launch’d on a heaving pool

To please a child, and folded by a fool;

The wild elms roar’d: it sail’d—a yard or more.

Out went our ship, but never came to shore.

Take back delight.

Take back your wreath.

Has it done service on a fairer brow?

Fresh, was it folded round her bosom snow?

Her cast-off weed my breast will never wear:

Your word is ‘love me;’ my reply, ‘despair!’

Take back your wreath.