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

Adelaide Anne Procter 1825–64

A Woman’s Question

BEFORE I trust my fate to thee,

Or place my hand in thine,

Before I let thy future give

Color and form to mine,

Before I peril all for thee, question thy soul to-night for me.

I break all slighter bonds, nor feel

A shadow of regret:

Is there one link within the Past

That holds thy spirit yet?

Or is thy faith as clear and free as that which I can pledge to thee?

Does there within thy dimmest dreams

A possible future shine,

Wherein thy life could henceforth breathe,

Untouch’d, unshar’d by mine?

If so, at any pain or cost, O, tell me before all is lost.

Look deeper still. If thou canst feel,

Within thy inmost soul,

That thou hast kept a portion back,

While I have stak’d the whole;

Let no false pity spare the blow, but in true mercy tell me so.

Is there within thy heart a need

That mine cannot fulfil?

One chord that any other hand

Could better wake or still?

Speak now—lest at some future day my whole life wither and decay.

Lives there within thy nature hid

The demon-spirit Change,

Shedding a passing glory still

On all things new and strange?

It may not be thy fault alone—but shield my heart against thy own.

Couldst thou withdraw thy hand one day

And answer to my claim,

That Fate, and that to-day’s mistake—

Not thou—had been to blame?

Some soothe their conscience thus; but thou wilt surely warn and save me now.

Nay, answer not,—I dare not hear,

The words would come too late;

Yet I would spare thee all remorse,

So, comfort thee, my fate—

Whatever on my heart may fall—remember, I would risk it all!