Byways of Love
I may not love you: love's cool arms
are made for cowards who in fear
cry for a haven: I have charms
other than this against despair.
But this I know: that man grows old
in a little time, and like a flower
his courage withers: so would I hold
some thoughts of you against that hour.
And in the lonely waste of years,
in witless age, and creeping folly,
I shall remember, girl, those stars
you lit for me, and call them holy.
I had been down in the lovers' hell
watching the faces of the damned,
laughing to hear those poor fools tell
of young love mocked at, passion shamed.
But now at last I am caught in the web
of my own scorn, like a silly spider,
and nevermore shall I be so glib
with talk of love and the fools who chide her.
My love is too strong for my heart to hold:
not Antony's great breast might cage it,
this fiery essence, shape its mould,
nor Balkis nor Helena assuage it.
But only you, if that you deem
a beggar's love worth nibbling at,
might fill one cranny of my dream,
share one small rood of my estate.
I am a seeker: how then should I love you?
Finding my treasure, how should I seek again,
whose treasure lies in seeking, not in finding?
I'll leave the sweets of love to other men.
But I have need of some sure talisman,
some luck-piece that, worn like a soldier's bible
over the heart, may turn a casual bullet
and guard the flesh, but leave the soul a rebel.
Therefore I say your spirit shall be mine,
my fair sweet prisoner till this world shall fade,
and over all its pomp, its brittle glory,
a handful of ironic dust be laid.