Sidney Lanier

(1842-1881 / Macon / Georgia)

At First. To Charlotte Cushman.


My crippled sense fares bow'd along
His uncompanioned way,
And wronged by death pays life with wrong
And I wake by night and dream by day.

And the Morning seems but fatigued Night
That hath wept his visage pale,
And the healthy mark 'twixt dark and light
In sickly sameness out doth fail.

And the woods stare strange, and the wind is dumb,
-- O Wind, pray talk again --
And the Hand of the Frost spreads stark and numb
As Death's on the deadened window-pane.

Still dumb, thou Wind, old voluble friend?
And the middle of the day is cold,
And the heart of eve beats lax i' the end
As a legend's climax poorly told.

Oh vain the up-straining of the hands
In the chamber late at night,
Oh vain the complainings, the hot demands,
The prayers for a sound, the tears for a sight.

No word from over the starry line,
No motion felt in the dark,
And never a day gives ever a sign
Or a dream sets seal with palpable mark.

And O my God, how slight it were,
How nothing, thou All! to thee,
That a kiss or a whisper might fall from her
Down by the way of Time to me:

Or some least grace of the body of love,
-- Mere wafture of floating-by,
Mere sense of unseen smiling above,
Mere hint sincere of a large blue eye,

Mere dim receipt of sad delight
From Nearness warm in the air,
What time with the passing of the night
She also passed, somehow, somewhere.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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