Home  »  library  »  poem  »  From Prologue to ‘The Wanderer’

C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

From Prologue to ‘The Wanderer’

By E. Robert Bulwer, Lord Lytton (Owen Meredith) (1831–1891)

OH, moment of sweet peril, perilous sweet!

When woman joins herself to man; and man

Assumes the full-lived woman, to complete

The end of life, since human life began!

When in the perfect bliss of union

Body and soul triumphal rapture claim,

When there’s a spirit in blood, in spirit a flame,

And earth’s lone hemispheres glow, fused in one!

Rare moment of rare peril!—The bard’s song,

The mystic’s musing fancy. Did there ever

Two perfect souls in perfect forms belong

Perfectly to each other? Never, never!

Perilous were such moments, for a touch

Might mar their clear perfection. Exquisite

Even for the peril of their frail delight.

Such things man feigns; such seeks: but finds not such.

No; for ’tis in ourselves our love doth grow:

And when our love is fully risen within us,

Round the first object doth it overflow,

Which, be it fair or foul, is sure to win us

Out of ourselves. We clothe with our own nature

The man or woman its first want doth find.

The leafless prop with our own buds we bind,

And hide in blossoms; fill the empty feature

With our own meanings; even prize defects

Which keep the mark of our own choice upon

The chosen; bless each fault whose spot protects

Our choice from possible confusion

With the world’s other creatures; we believe them

What most we wish, the more we find they are not;

Our choice once made, with our own choice we war not;

We worship them for what ourselves we give them.

Doubt is this otherwise.—When fate removes

The unworthy one from our reluctant arms,

We die with that lost love to other loves,

And turn to its defects from other charms.

And nobler forms, where moved those forms, may move

With lingering looks: our cold farewells we wave them.

We loved our lost loves for the love we gave them,

And not for anything they gave our love.

Old things return not as they were in Time.

Trust nothing to the recompense of Chance,

Which deals with novel forms. This falling rhyme

Fails from the flowery steeps of old romance

Down that abyss which Memory droops above;

And gazing out of hopelessness down there,

I see the shadow creep through Youth’s gold hair

And white Death watching over red-lipped Love.