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

Alfred Austin (1835–1913)

Parting of Godfrid and Olympia

From ‘Madonna’s Child’

SO once again they fled without delay,

On wings of wind through leagues of dim-seen land;

Night and the stars accompanying their way,

And roar and blackness close on either hand:

Until the dark drew off, and with the day

They saw the sparkling bay and joyous strand,

White sails, brown oars, huge coils of briny ropes,

And fair proud city throned on regal slopes.

And soon the road they came by, which doth run

’Twixt hill and sea, now smooth as woodland pond,

Saw them once more, with all their dreams unspun,

Facing farewell. A little way beyond,

A big brown mule stood blinking in the sun,

For a long march rudely caparisoned;

And at its side a gentle mountaineer,

Who to their grief lent neither eye nor ear.

“Hear me once more, Olympia! Must we part?

Is Heaven so stern, and can a gentle breast

Inflict and aye endure so keen a smart,

When pity’s voice could lull our pain to rest?

Is there no common Eden of the heart,

Where each fond bosom is a welcome guest?

No comprehensive paradise to hold

All loving souls in one celestial fold?

“For Love is older far than all the gods,

And will survive both gods and men, and be

The sovereign ruler still, when Nature nods,

And the scared stars through misty chaos flee.

Take love away, and we are brutish clods,

Blind, spelling out our fate without the key;

Love, love is our immortal part, and they

Who own it not are only walking clay.

“But they who in this cold contentious sphere

Deep in their heart cherish love’s sacred fire,

Can smile at pain, and all that mortals fear,

And tranquil keep when time and death conspire.

Though fickle winds should vex, they do not veer;

No threats can daunt them, weary waitings tire:

Their feet are planted on the clouds; their eyes

Glare cannot blind, scan the eternal skies.

“This is my creed, and that the heaven I seek;

Which even here, Olympia! may be ours,

Unless my lips, or else thine ears, be weak,

Or we have outraged the supernal powers.

Oh, but that cannot be! Would Nature wreak

Her wrath on thee, most precious of her flowers?

The sin, if sin there be, is mine, is mine;—

Wrong never was, can pain be ever, thine?

“Here ’twixt the mountains and the sea I swear

That I thy faith will reverence as thy soul;

And as on that bright morning when thy fair

Entrancing form upon my senses stole,

Still every dewy dawn fresh gifts will bear

Unto Madonna’s shrine,—that happy goal

Where our first journey ended, and I fain

Would have this end—not snapped, as now, in pain!”

The foam-fringe at their feet was not more white

Than her pale cheeks, as downcast she replied:—

“No, Godfrid! no. Farewell, farewell! You might

Have been my star;—a star once fell by pride;—

But since you furl your wings, and veil your light,

I cling to Mary and Christ crucified.

Leave me, nay, leave me, ere it be too late!

Better part here than part at heaven’s gate!”

Thereat he kissed her forehead, she his hand,

And on the mule he mounted her, and then,

Along the road that skirts the devious strand,

Watched her, until she vanished from his ken.

Tears all in vain as water upon sand,

Or words of grace to hearts of hardened men,

Coursed down her cheeks, whilst, half her grief divined,

The mountain guide walked sad and mute behind.

But never more as in the simple days

When prayer was all her thought, her heart shall be;

For she is burdened with the grief that stays,

And by a shadow vexed that will not flee.

Pure, but not spared, she passes from our gaze,—

Victim, not vanquisher, of love. And he?

Once more a traveler o’er land and main;—

Ah! life is sad and scarcely worth the pain!