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

Augusta Webster (1837–1894)


WHAT fate is mine, who, far apart from pains

And fears and turmoils of the cross-grained world,

Dwell, like a lonely god, in a charmed isle

Where I am first and only, and like one

Who should love poisonous savors more than mead,

Long for a tempest on me, and grow sick

Of resting and divine free carelessness!

O me! I am a woman, not a god;

Yea, those who tend me even are more than I,—

My nymphs who have the souls of flowers and birds

Singing and blossoming immortally.

Ah me! these love a day and laugh again,

And loving, laughing, find a full content;

But I know naught of peace, and have not loved.

Where is my love? Does some one cry for me,

Not knowing whom he calls? does his soul cry

For mine to grow beside it, grow in it?

Does he beseech the gods to give him me,—

The yet unknown rare woman by whose side

No other woman, thrice as beautiful,

Should once seem fair to him; to whose voice heard

In any common tones no sweeter sound

Of love made melody on silver lutes,

Or singing like Apollo’s when the gods

Grow pale with happy listening, might be peered

For making music to him; whom once found

There will be no more seeking anything?

O love, O love, O love, art not yet come

Out of the waiting shadows into life?

Art not yet come after so many years

That I have longed for thee? Come! I am here….

Nay, but he will come. Why am I so fair,

And marvelously minded, and with sight

Which flashes suddenly on hidden things,

As the gods see who do not need to look?

Why wear I in my eyes that stronger power

Than basilisks, whose gaze can only kill,

To draw men’s souls to me to live or die

As I would have them? Why am I given pride

Which yet longs to be broken, and this scorn

Cruel and vengeful for the lesser men

Who meet the smiles I waste for lack of him,

And grow too glad? Why am I who I am,

But for the sake of him whom fate will send

One day to be my master utterly,

That he should take me, the desire of all,

Whom only he in all the world could bow to him?

O sunlike glory of pale glittering hairs,

Bright as the filmy wires my weavers take

To make me golden gauzes; O deep eyes,

Darker and softer than the bluest dusk

Of August violets, darker and deep

Like crystal fathomless lakes in summer moons;

O sad sweet longing smile; O lips that tempt

My very self to kisses; O round cheeks,

Tenderly radiant with the even flush

Of pale smoothed coral; perfect lovely face

Answering my gaze from out this fleckless pool;

Wonder of glossy shoulders, chiseled limbs,—

Should I be so your lover as I am,

Drinking an exquisite joy to watch you thus

In all a hundred changes through the day,

But that I love you for him till he comes,

But that my beauty means his loving it?…

Too cruel am I? And the silly beasts,

Crowding around me when I pass their way,

Glower on me, and although they love me still

(With their poor sorts of love such as they could),

Call wrath and vengeance to their humid eyes

To scare me into mercy, or creep near

With piteous fawnings, supplicating bleats.

Too cruel? Did I choose them what they are?

Or change them from themselves by poisonous charms?

But any draught—pure water, natural wine—

Out of my cup, revealed them to themselves

And to each other. Change? There was no change;

Only disguise gone from them unawares:

And had there been one right true man of them,

He would have drunk the draught as I had drunk,

And stood unchanged, and looked me in the eyes,

Abashing me before him. But these things—

Why, which of them has ever shown the kind

Of some one nobler beast? Pah! yapping wolves

And pitiless stealthy wild-cats, curs and apes

And gorging swine and stinking venomous snakes,—

All false and ravenous and sensual brutes

That shame the earth that bore them,—these they are.