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

John Payne b. 1842


LO, what a golden day it is!

The glad sun rives the sapphire deeps

Down to the dim pearl-floor’d abyss

Where, cold in death, my lover sleeps;

Crowns with soft fire his sea-drench’d hair,

Kisses with gold his lips death-pale,

Lets down from heaven a golden stair,

Whose steps methinks his soul doth scale.

This is my treasure. White and sweet,

He lies beneath my ardent eyne,

With heart that nevermore shall beat,

Nor lips press softly against mine.

How like a dream it seems to me,

The time when hand in hand we went

By hill and valley, I and he,

Lost in a trance of ravishment!

I and my lover here that lies

And sleeps the everlasting sleep,

We walk’d whilere in Paradise;

(Can it be true?) Our souls drank deep

Together of Love’s wonder-wine:

We saw the golden days go by,

Unheeding, for we were divine;

Love had advanced us to the sky.

And of that time no traces bin,

Save the still shape that once did hold

My lover’s soul, that shone therein,

As wine laughs in a vase of gold.

Cold, cold he lies, and answers not

Unto my speech; his mouth is cold

Whose kiss to mine was sweet and hot

As sunshine to a marigold.

And yet his pallid lips I press;

I fold his neck in my embrace;

I rain down kisses none the less

Upon his unresponsive face:

I call on him with all the fair

Flower-names that blossom out of love;

I knit sea-jewels in his hair;

I weave fair coronals above

The cold, sweet silver of his brow:

For this is all of him I have;

Nor any Future more than now

Shall give me back what Love once gave.

For from Death’s gate our lives divide;

His was the Galilean’s faith:

With those that serve the Crucified,

He shar’d the chance of Life and Death.

And so my eyes shall never light

Upon his star-soft eyes again;

Nor ever in the day or night,

By hill or valley, wood or plain,

Our hands shall meet afresh. His voice

Shall never with its silver tone

The sadness of my soul rejoice,

Nor his breast throb against my own.

His sight shall never unto me

Return whilst heaven and earth remain:

Though Time blend with Eternity,

Our lives shall never meet again,—

Never by gray or purple sea,

Never again in heavens of blue,

Never in this old earth—ah me!

Never, ah never! in the new.

For me, he treads the windless ways

Among the thick star-diamonds,

Where in the middle æther blaze

The Golden City’s pearl gate-fronds;

Sitteth, palm-crown’d and silver-shod,

Where in strange dwellings of the skies

The Christians to their Woman-God

Cease nevermore from psalmodies.

And I, I wait, with haggard eyes

And face grown awful for desire,

The coming of that fierce day’s rise

When from the cities of the fire

The Wolf shall come with blazing crest,

And many a giant arm’d for war;

When from the sanguine-streaming West,

Hell-flaming, speedeth Naglfar.