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Whom but Maud should I meet ?

And she touch'd my hand with a smile so sweet

She made me divine amends

For a courtesy not return'd.

3.

And thus a delicate spark

Of glowing and growing light
Thro' the livelong hours of the dark
Kept itself warm in the heart of my dreams,
Ready to burst in a colour'd flame ;
Till at last when the morning came
In a cloud, it faded, and seems
But an ashen-gray delight.

4.

What if with her sunny hair,
And smile as sunny as cold,

She meant to weave me a snare

Of some coquettish deceit,

Cleopatra-like as of old

To entangle me when we met,

To have her lion roll in a silken net

And fawn at a victor's feet.

5.

Ah, what shall I be at fifty
Should Nature keep me alive,

If I find the world so bitter

When I am but twenty-five ?
Yet, if she were not a cheat,
If Maud were all that she seem'd,
And her smile were all that I dream’d,

Then the world were not so bitter

But a smile could make it sweet.

6.

What if tho' her eye seem'd full

Of a kind intent to me,

What if that dandy-despot, he,

That jewell'd mass of millinery,

That oil'd and curl'd Assyrian Bull

Smelling of musk and of insolence,
Her brother, from whom I keep aloof,

Who wants the finer politic sense

To mask, tho' but in his own behoof,

With a glassy smile his brutal scorn

What if he had told her yestermorn

How prettily for his own sweet sake
A face of tenderness might be feign'd,
And a moist mirage in desert eyes,
That so, when the rotten hustings shake

In another month to his brazen lies,

A wretched vote may be gain’d.

7.

For a raven ever croaks, at my side,
Keep watch and ward, keep watch and ward,

Or thou wilt

prove

their tool.

Yea too, myself from myself I guard,

For often a man's own angry pride

Is cap and bells for a fool.

8.

Perhaps the smile and tender tone
Came out of her pitying womanhood,
For am I not, am I not, here alone
So many a summer since she died,
My mother, who was so gentle and good ?

Living alone in an empty house,
Here half-hid in the gleaming wood,
Where I hear the dead at midday moan,
And the shrieking rush of the wainscot mouse,
And my own sad name in corners cried,
When the shiver of dancing leaves is thrown
About its echoing chambers wide,

Till a morbid hate and horror have

grown

Of a world in which I have hardly mixt,

And a morbid eating lichen fixt

On a heart haif-turn'd to stone.

9.

O heart of stone, are you flesh, and caught
By that you swore to withstand ?
For what was it else within me wrought
But, I fear, the new strong wine of love,
That made my tongue so stammer and trip
When I saw the treasured splendour, her hand,
Come sliding out of her sacred glove,
And the sunlight broke from her lip?

10.

I have play'd with her when a child ;

She remembers it now we meet.

Ah well, well, well, I may be beguiled

By some coquettish deceit.

Yet, if she were not a cheat,

If Maud were all that she seem'd,

And her smile had all that I dream’d,

Then the world were not so bitter

But a smile could make it sweet.

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