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D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930). New Poems. 1916.

36. Intime

RETURNING, I find her just the same,

At just the same old delicate game.

Still she says: “Nay, loose no flame

To lick me up and do me harm!

Be all yourself!—for oh, the charm

Of your heart of fire in which I look!

Oh, better there than in any book

Glow and enact the dramas and dreams

I love for ever!—there it seems

You are lovelier than life itself, till desire

Comes licking through the bars of your lips

And over my face the stray fire slips,

Leaving a burn and an ugly smart

That will have the oil of illusion. Oh, heart

Of fire and beauty, loose no more

Your reptile flames of lust; ah, store

Your passion in the basket of your soul,

Be all yourself, one bonny, burning coal

That stays with steady joy of its own fire.

But do not seek to take me by desire.

Oh, do not seek to thrust on me your fire!

For in the firing all my porcelain

Of flesh does crackle and shiver and break in pain,

My ivory and marble black with stain,

My veil of sensitive mystery rent in twain,

My altars sullied, I, bereft, remain

A priestess execrable, taken in vain——”

So the refrain

Sings itself over, and so the game

Re-starts itself wherein I am kept

Like a glowing brazier faintly blue of flame

So that the delicate love-adept

Can warm her hands and invite her soul,

Sprinkling incense and salt of words

And kisses pale, and sipping the toll

Of incense-smoke that rises like birds.

Yet I’ve forgotten in playing this game,

Things I have known that shall have no name;

Forgetting the place from which I came

I watch her ward away the flame,

Yet warm herself at the fire—then blame

Me that I flicker in the basket;

Me that I glow not with content

To have my substance so subtly spent;

Me that I interrupt her game.

I ought to be proud that she should ask it

Of me to be her fire-opal—.

It is well

Since I am here for so short a spell

Not to interrupt her?—Why should I

Break in by making any reply!