WHO shall forget till his last hour be come,--
Until the useful service of the dust
Hath drawn the emptying cerements in and in;--
Until the Earth hath eaten love and lust,
Mirth, Beauty, and their kin . . .
Who shall forget that hour
That night unstarred, that day ungarlanded;
Where fell the petals of that fadeless flower?
When every word was said
That long had bared frustrate and savage teeth,
Leashed in the perishable thong of days,
And whipped to words of praise!
When every ill, and each ingratitude,
Each joy misnamed,
Each deed misunderstood,
Was flogged into the daylight, halt, and maimed,
Out of its bier, to bear the day's disgust--
Out of its decent bed
To beat Love's tortured head
Into the troubled and uncertain dust.
Who can forget the naked hour profane,
When Love fled from us, shrieking through the dark,
His torch blown backward by the hurricane
Licking his dreadful features with its tongue,
While his mouth spat a curse at every spark,
And a scourged menace flung?
Thou wert that dreadful thing!
O Beautiful, O Rare, O Breath of rose,
O Spirit as impalpable as Spring!
How have I held thee, then? Too long, too close?
For it was thou, was thou, who left me thus,
With each sweet thing, with all the lovely host
That turning stared at us,
And, shuddering, gave up their frailest ghost!
Oh! to remember! Oh! to hear the tune
That Love first sang to us, that happy day;
When over us was furled his radiant wing.
Oh! for that one May moment. Not to lose
Its greenest leaf, or miss its singlest spray
So that this hour by that forgotten day
Might be all buried by the buds of Spring
That soft winds beat,--not bruise,--
To make a bridal bed for June
From the pale shroud of May.
O Love, O Love! There was not any need
For thee to die, for me to be bereft,
Our garden to be left
To nettle and to weed,--
To whips of rain when the chid wind was wroth.
Surely by some word, some sigh, had saved us both?
Could everything be lost,
All torn and tossed
Between thy speech and mine? Could all our vows,
And all our lovely life be laid so low,
And God fall on His face within the house
At first marauder's blow?
Yea, it was so:
And all of pride and pleasure, peace and power,
All Life's rich fruit and flower,
Died, as least darnel dies, in that dread hour.