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The deep pollution of my loathed embrace !
That your eyes ne'er had lied love in my face !
That, like some maniac monk, I had torn out
The nerves of manhood by their bleeding root
With mine own quivering fingers, so that ne'er
Our hearts had for a moment mingled there,
To disunite in horror! These were not,
With thee, like some suppressed and hideous thought,
Which flits athwart our musings, but can find
No rest within a pure and gentle mind:
Thou sealedst them with many a bare broad word,
And searedst my memory o’er them,- for I heard
And can forget not;—they were ministered
One after one, those curses. Mix them up
Like self-destroying poisons in one cup;
And they will make one blessing which thou ne'er
Didst imprecate for on me- death!
A cruel punishment for one most cruel,
If such can love, to make that love the fuel
Of the mind's hell-hate, scorn, remorse, despair.
But me, whose heart a stranger's tear might wear
As water-drops the sandy fountain-stone;
Who loved and pitied all things, and could moan
For woes which others hear not, and could see
The absent with a glass of fantasy,
And near the poor and trampled sit and weep,
Following the captive to his dungeon deep;
Me, who am as a nerve o'er which do creep
The else-unfelt oppressions of this earth,
And was to thee the flame upon thy hearth
When all beside was cold :—that thou on me
Shouldst rain these plagues of blistering agony !
Such curses are, from lips once eloquent
With love's too partial praise. Let none relent
Who intend deeds too dreadful for a name,
Henceforth, if an example for the same
They seek :--for thou on me lookedst so and so,
And didst speak thus and thus! I live to show
How much men bear, and die not.
“Thou wilt tell, With the grimace of hate, how horrible
It was to meet my love when thine grew less;
Thou wilt admire how I could e'er address
Such features to love's work. This taunt, though true,
(For indeed Nature nor in form nor hue
Bestowed on me her choicest workmanship)
Shall not be thy defence: for, since thy lip
Met mine first, years long past-since thine eye kindled
With soft fire under mine,- I have not dwindled,
Nor changed in mind or body, or in aught,
But as love changes what it loveth not
After long years and many trials.
Are words! I thought never to speak again,
Not even in secret, not to my own heart-
But from my lips the unwilling accents start,
And from my pen the words flow as I write,
Dazzling my eyes with scalding tears. My sight
Is dim to see that charactered in vain
On this unfeeling leaf which burns the brain
And eats into it, blotting all things fair
And wise and good which time had written there.
Those who inflict must suffer; for they see
The work of their own hearts, and that must be
Our chastisement or recompense.–O child !
I would that thine were like to be more mild,
For both our wretched sakes,--for thine the most,
Who feel'st already all that thou hast lost,
Without the power to wish it thine again.
And, as slow years pass, a funereal train,
Each with the ghost of some lost hope or friend
Following it like its shadow, wilt thou bend
No thought on my dead memory?
Fear me not: against thee I'd not move
A finger in despite. Do I not live
That thou mayst have less bitter cause to grieve?
I give thee tears for scorn, and love for hate;
And, that thy lot may be less desolate
Than his on whom thou tramplest, I refrain
From that sweet sleep which medicines all pain.
Then-when thou speakest of me-never say
“He could forgive not.'-—Here I cast away
All human passions, all revenge, all pride;
I think, speak, act, no ill; I do but hide
Under these words, like embers, every spark
Of that which has consumed me. Quick and dark
The grave is yawning :- as its roof shall cover
My limbs with dust and worms, under and over,
So let oblivion hide this grief.—The air
Closes upon my accents, as despair
Upon my heart—let death upon despair !"
He ceased, and overcome leant back awhile;
Then rising, with a melancholy smile,
Went to a sofa, and lay down, and slept
A heavy sleep; and in his dreams he wept,
And muttered some familiar name, and we
Wept without shame in his society.
I think I never was impressed so much :
The man who were not must have lacked a touch
Of human nature.
Then we lingered not,
Although our argument was quite forgot;
But, calling the attendants, went to dine
At Maddalo's. Yet neither cheer nor wine
Could give us spirits; for we talked of him,
And nothing else, till daylight made stars dim.
And we agreed it was some dreadful ill
Wrought on him boldly, yet unspeakable,
By a dear friend ; some deadly change in love
Of one vowed deeply (which he dreamed not of),
For whose sake he, it seemed, had fixed a blot
Of falsehood in his mind, which flourished not
But in the light of all-beholding truth;
And, having stamped this canker on his youth,
She had abandoned him. And how much more
Might be his woe we guessed not. He had store
Of friends and fortune once, as we could guess
From his nice habits and his gentleness:
These now were lost-it were a grief indeed
If he had changed one unsustaining reed
For all that such a man might else ador.
The colours of his mind seemed yet unworn;
For the wild language of his grief was high-
Such as in measure were called poetry.
And I remember one remark which then
Maddalo made: he said—“Most wretched men
Are cradled into poetry by wrong:
They learn in suffering what they teach in song.”
If I had been an unconnected man,
I, from this moment, should have formed some plan
Never to leave sweet Venice. For to me
It was delight to ride by the lone sea:
And then the town is silent--one may write
Or read in gondolas, by day or night,
Having the little brazen lamp alight,
Unseen, uninterrupted. Books are there,
Pictures, and casts from all those statues fair
Which were twin-born with poetry, and all
We seek in towns, with little to recall
Regret for the green country. I might sit
In Maddalo's great palace, and his wit
And subtle talk would cheer the winter night,
And make me know myself: and the fire-light
Would flash upon our faces, till the day
Might dawn, and make me wonder at my stay.
But I had friends in London too. The chief
Attraction here was that I sought relief
From the deep tenderness that maniac wrought
Within me. . . . 'Twas perhaps an idle thought,
But I imagined that-if day by day
I watched him, and seldom went away,
And studied all the beatings of his heart
With zeal (as men study some stubborn art
For their own good), and could by patience find
An entrance to the caverns of his mind -
I might reclaim him from his dark estate.
In friendships I had been most fortunate;
Yet never saw I one whom I would call
More willingly my friend.–And this was all
Accomplished not. Such dreams of baseless good
Oft come and go, in crowds or solitude,
And leave no trace: but what I now designed
Made, for long years, impression on my mind.-
The following morning, urged by my affairs,
I left bright Venice.
Aster many years
And many changes, I returned. The name
Of Venice, and its aspect, was the same.
But Maddalo was travelling, far away,
Among the mountains of Armenia:
His dog was dead: his child had now become
A woman, such as it has been my doom
To meet with few; a wonder of this earth,
Where there is little of transcendent worth,
Like one of Shakspeare's women. Kindly she,
And with a manner beyond courtesy,
Received her father's friend; and, when I asked
Of the lorn maniac, she her memory tasked,
And told, as she had heard, the mournful tale:-
That the poor sufferer's health began to fail
Two years from my departure; but that then
The lady who had left him came again.
“Her mien had been imperious, but she now
Looked meek; perhaps remorse had brought her low.
Her coming made him better; and they stayed
Together at my father's—(for I played,
As I remember, with the lady's shawl;
I might be six years old).—But, after all,
She left him.”
“Why, her heart must have been tough! How did it end?"
“And was not this enough? They met, they parted.”
“Child, is there no more?” “Something within that interval which bore The stamp of why they parted, how they met. Yet, if thine aged eyes disdain to wet Those wrinkled cheeks with youth's remembered tears, Ask me no more; but let the silent years Be closed and cered over their memory,– As yon mute marble where their corpses lie.” I urged and questioned still. She told me how All happened-But the cold world shall not know.