I thought once how Theocritus had sungOf the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,Who each one in a gracious hand appearsTo bear a gift for mortals, old or young;And, as I mused it in his antique tongue,I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,Those of my own life, who by turns had flungA shadow across me. Straightaway I was 'ware,So weeping, how a mystic Shape did moveBehind me, and drew me backward by the hair;And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,--Guess now who holds thee?--Death, I said, But, there,The silver answer rang,--Not Death, but Love.
My letters! all dead paper, mute and white!And yet they seem alive and quiveringAgainst my tremulous hands which loose the stringAnd let them drop down on my knee to-night.This said, -- he wished to have me in his sightOnce, as a friend: this fixed a day in springTo come and touch my hand ... a simple thing,Yet I wept for it! -- this, ... the paper's light ...Said, Dear I love thee; and I sank and quailedAs if God's future thundered on my past.This said, I am thine -- and so its ink has paledWith lying at my heart that beat too fast.And this ... O Love, thy words have ill availedIf, what this said, I dared repeat at last!
In all my wanderings through this world of care,In all my griefs -- and God has given my share --I still had hopes, my latest hours to crown,Amidst these humble bowers to lay me down;To husband out life's taper at the close,And keep the flame from wasting, by repose:I still had hopes, for pride attends us still,Amidst the swains to show my book-learn'd skill,Around my fire an evening group to draw,And tell of all I felt, and all I saw;And, as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue,Pants to the place from whence at first she flew,I still had hopes, my long vexations past,Here to return -- and die at home at last.
Only now, in rhythmic waves, was she struck by her stupidity, her blindness, her estheronautiness, and, above all, her longing, the insult of the power of her longing, and she knew very well that is was these shortcomings that had made her so eager to interweave in his story the threads of her secret dreams of candor and of painful, purifying honesty; of a generous togetherness in which everything was possible. For a moment, with all that had been spun and stabbed and defiled within her, her face took on the expression of a frightened, abandoned girl who lunges out to bite, who lives unimaginably close to the skin’s surface, ready to be drawn out like a final plan of retreat.
Who am I? They often tell me I would step from my cell's confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a squire from his country-house.Who am I? They often tell me I would talk to my warden freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.Who am I? They also tell me I would bear the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.Am I then really all that which other men tell of, or am I only what I know of myself, restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness, trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation, tossing in expectation of great events, powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint and ready to say farewell to it all.Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person today, and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!