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

Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch 1863–1944

The White Moth


IF a leaf rustled, she would start:

And yet she died, a year ago.

How had so frail a thing the heart

To journey where she trembled so?

And do they turn and turn in fright,

Those little feet, in so much night?

The light above the poet’s head

Streamed on the page and on the cloth,

And twice and thrice there buffeted

On the black pane a white-winged moth:

’T was Annie’s soul that beat outside

And “Open, open, open!” cried:

“I could not find the way to God;

There were too many flaming suns

For signposts, and the fearful road

Led over wastes where millions

Of tangled comets hissed and burned—

I was bewildered and I turned.

“O, it was easy then! I knew

Your window and no star beside.

Look up, and take me back to you!”

—He rose and thrust the window wide.

’T was but because his brain was hot

With rhyming; for he heard her not.

But poets polishing a phrase

Show anger over trivial things;

And as she blundered in the blaze

Towards him, on ecstatic wings,

He raised a hand and smote her dead;

Then wrote “That I had died instead!”