The Passing

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From Songs of Action (1898).



It was the hour of dawn,
When the heart beats thin and small,
The window glimmered grey,
Framed in a shadow wall.

And in the cold sad light
Of the early morningtide,
The dear dead girl came back
And stood by his bedside.

The girl he lost came back:
He saw her flowing hair;
It flickered and it waved
Like a breath in frosty air.

As in a steamy glass,
Her face was dim and blurred;
Her voice was sweet and thin,
Like the calling of a bird.

'You said that you would come,
You promised not to stay;
And I have waited here,
To help you on the way.

'I have waited on,
But still you bide below;
You said that you would come,
And oh, I want you so!

'For half my soul is here,
And half my soul is there,
When you are on the earth
And I am in the air.

'But on your dressing-stand
There lies a triple key;
Unlock the little gate
Which fences you from me.

'Just one little pang,
Just one throb of pain,
And then your weary head
Between my breasts again.'

In the dim unhomely light
Of the early morningtide,
He took the triple key
And he laid it by his side.

A pistol, silver chased,
An open hunting knife,
A phial of the drug
Which cures the ill of life.

He looked upon the three,
And sharply drew his breath:
'Now help me, oh my love,
For I fear this cold grey death.'

She bent her face above,
She kissed him and she smiled;
She soothed him as a mother
May sooth a frightened child.

'Just that little pang, love,
Just a throb of pain,
And then your weary head
Between my breasts again.'

He snatched the pistol up,
He pressed it to his ear;
But a sudden sound broke in,
And his skin was raw with fear.

He took the hunting knife,
He tried to raise the blade;
It glimmered cold and white,
And he was sore afraid.

He poured the potion out,
But it was thick and brown;
His throat was sealed against it,
And he could not drain it down.

He looked to her for help,
And when he looked--behold!
His love was there before him
As in the days of old.

He saw the drooping head,
He saw the gentle eyes;
He saw the same shy grace of hers
He had been wont to prize.

She pointed and she smiled,
And lo! he was aware
Of a half-lit bedroom chamber
And a silent figure there.

A silent figure lying
A-sprawl upon a bed,
With a silver-mounted pistol
Still clotted to his head.

And as he downward gazed,
Her voice came full and clear,
The homely tender voice
Which he had loved to hear:

'The key is very certain,
The door is sealed to none.
You did it, oh, my darling!
And you never knew it done.

'When the net was broken,
You thought you felt its mesh;
You carried to the spirit
The troubles of the flesh.

'And are you trembling still, dear?
Then let me take your hand;
And I will lead you outward
To a sweet and restful land.

'You know how once in London
I put my griefs on you;
But I can carry yours now -
Most sweet it is to do!

'Most sweet it is to do, love,
And very sweet to plan
How I, the helpless woman,
Can help the helpful man.

'But let me see you smiling
With the smile I know so well;
Forget the world of shadows,
And the empty broken shell.

'It is the worn-out garment
In which you tore a rent;
You tossed it down, and carelessly
Upon your way you went.

'It is not YOU, my sweetheart,
For you are here with me.
That frame was but the promise of
The thing that was to be -

'A tuning of the choir
Ere the harmonies begin;
And yet it is the image
Of the subtle thing within.

'There's not a trick of body,
There's not a trait of mind,
But you bring it over with you,
Ethereal, refined,

'But still the same; for surely
If we alter as we die,
You would be you no longer,
And I would not be I.

'I might be an angel,
But not the girl you knew;
You might be immaculate,
But that would not be you.

'And now I see you smiling,
So, darling, take my hand;
And I will lead you outward
To a sweet and pleasant land,

'Where thought is clear and nimble,
Where life is pure and fresh,
Where the soul comes back rejoicing
From the mud-bath of the flesh

'But still that soul is human,
With human ways, and so
I love my love in spirit,
As I loved him long ago.'

So with hands together
And fingers twining tight,
The two dead lovers drifted
In the golden morning light.

But a grey-haired man was lying
Beneath them on a bed,
With a silver-mounted pistol
Still clotted to his head.



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