A WOMAN YOUNG AND OLD I. FATHER AND CHILD SHE hears me strike the board and say That she is under ban Of all good men and women, Being mentioned with a man That has the worst of all bad names; And thereupon replies That his hair is beautiful, Cold as the March wind his eyes. II. BEFORE THE WORLD WAS MADE IF I make the lashes dark And the eyes more bright And the lips more scarlet, Or ask if all be right From mirror after mirror, No vanity's displayed: I'm looking for the face I had Before the world was made. What if I look upon a man As though on my beloved, And my blood be cold the while And my heart unmoved? Why should he think me cruel Or that he is betrayed? I'd have him love the thing that was Before the world was made. III. A FIRST CONFESSION I ADMIT the briar Entangled in my hair Did not injure me; My blenching and trembling, Nothing but dissembling, Nothing but coquetry. I long for truth, and yet I cannot stay from that My better self disowns, For a man's attention Brings such satisfaction To the craving in my bones. Brightness that I pull back From the Zodiac, Why those questioning eyes That are fixed upon me? What can they do but shun me If empty night replies? IV. HER TRIUMPH I DID the dragon's will until you came Because I had fancied love a casual Improvisation, or a settled game That followed if I let the kerchief fall: Those deeds were best that gave the minute wings And heavenly music if they gave it wit; And then you stood among the dragon-rings. I mocked, being crazy, but you mastered it And broke the chain and set my ankles free, Saint George or else a pagan Perseus; And now we stare astonished at the sea, And a miraculous strange bird shrieks at us. V. CONSOLATION O BUT there is wisdom In what the sages said; But stretch that body for a while And lay down that head Till I have told the sages Where man is comforted. How could passion run so deep Had I never thought That the crime of being born Blackens all our lot? But where the crime's committed The crime can be forgot. VI. CHOSEN THE lot of love is chosen. I learnt that much Struggling for an image on the track Of the whirling Zodiac. Scarce did he my body touch, Scarce sank he from the west Or found a subterranean rest On the maternal midnight of my breast Before I had marked him on his northern way, And seemed to stand although in bed I lay. I struggled with the horror of daybreak, I chose it for my lot! If questioned on My utmost pleasure with a man By some new-married bride, I take That stillness for a theme Where his heart my heart did seem And both adrift on the miraculous stream Where -- wrote a learned astrologer -- The Zodiac is changed into a sphere. VII. PARTING i{He.} Dear, I must be gone While night Shuts the eyes Of the household spies; That song announces dawn. i{She.} No, night's bird and love's Bids all true lovers rest, While his loud song reproves The murderous stealth of day. i{He.} Daylight already flies From mountain crest to crest i{She.} That light is from the moon. i{He.} That bird... i{She.} Let him sing on, I offer to love's play My dark declivities. VIII. HER VISION IN THE WOOD DRY timber under that rich foliage, At wine-dark midnight in the sacred wood, Too old for a man's love I stood in rage Imagining men. Imagining that I could A greater with a lesser pang assuage Or but to find if withered vein ran blood, I tore my body that its wine might cover Whatever could recall the lip of lover. And after that I held my fingers up, Stared at the wine-dark nail, or dark that ran Down every withered finger from the top; But the dark changed to red, and torches shone, And deafening music shook the leaves; a troop Shouldered a litter with a wounded man, Or smote upon the string and to the sound Sang of the beast that gave the fatal wound. All stately women moving to a song With loosened hair or foreheads grief-distraught, It seemed a Quattrocento painter's throng, A thoughtless image of Mantegna's thought -- Why should they think that are for ever young? Till suddenly in grief's contagion caught, I stared upon his blood-bedabbled breast And sang my malediction with the rest. That thing all blood and mire, that beast-torn wreck, Half turned and fixed a glazing eye on mine, And, though love's bitter-sweet had all come back, Those bodies from a picture or a coin Nor saw my body fall nor heard it shriek, Nor knew, drunken with singing as with wine, That they had brought no fabulous symbol there But my heart's victim and its torturer. IX. A LAST CONFESSION WHAT lively lad most pleasured me Of all that with me lay? I answer that I gave my soul And loved in misery, But had great pleasure with a lad That I loved bodily. Flinging from his arms I laughed To think his passion such He fancied that I gave a soul Did but our bodies touch, And laughed upon his breast to think Beast gave beast as much. I gave what other women gave 'That stepped out of their clothes. But when this soul, its body off, Naked to naked goes, He it has found shall find therein What none other knows, And give his own and take his own And rule in his own right; And though it loved in misery Close and cling so tight, There's not a bird of day that dare Extinguish that delight. X. MEETING HIDDEN by old age awhile In masker's cloak and hood, Each hating what the other loved, Face to face we stood: 'That I have met with such,' said he, 'Bodes me little good.' 'Let others boast their fill,' said I, 'But never dare to boast That such as I had such a man For lover in the past; Say that of living men I hate Such a man the most.' 'A loony'd boast of such a love,' He in his rage declared: But such as he for such as me -- Could we both discard This beggarly habiliment -- Had found a sweeter word. XI. FROM THE 'ANTIGONE' OVERCOME -- O bitter sweetness, Inhabitant of the soft cheek of a girl -- The rich man and his affairs, The fat flocks and the fields' fatness, Mariners, rough harvesters; Overcome Gods upon Parnassus; Overcome the Empyrean; hurl Heaven and Earth out of their places, That in the Same calamity Brother and brother, friend and friend, Family and family, City and city may contend, By that great glory driven wild. Pray I will and sing I must, And yet I weep -- Oedipus' child Descends into the loveless dust.