John Howard Payne

(9 June 1791 – 10 April 1852 / New York City, New York)


LO, what a golden day it is!
The glad sun rives the sapphire deeps
Down to the dim pearl-floor’d abyss
Where, cold in death, my lover sleeps;

Crowns with soft fire his sea-drench’d hair,
Kisses with gold his lips death-pale,
Lets down from heaven a golden stair,
Whose steps methinks his soul doth scale.

This is my treasure. White and sweet,
He lies beneath my ardent eyne,
With heart that nevermore shall beat,
Nor lips press softly against mine.

How like a dream it seems to me,
The time when hand in hand we went
By hill and valley, I and he,
Lost in a trance of ravishment!

I and my lover here that lies
And sleeps the everlasting sleep,
We walk’d whilere in Paradise;
(Can it be true?) Our souls drank deep

Together of Love’s wonder-wine:
We saw the golden days go by,
Unheeding, for we were divine;
Love had advanced us to the sky.

And of that time no traces bin,
Save the still shape that once did hold
My lover’s soul, that shone therein,
As wine laughs in a vase of gold.

Cold, cold he lies, and answers not
Unto my speech; his mouth is cold
Whose kiss to mine was sweet and hot
As sunshine to a marigold.

And yet his pallid lips I press;
I fold his neck in my embrace;
I rain down kisses none the less
Upon his unresponsive face:

I call on him with all the fair
Flower-names that blossom out of love;
I knit sea-jewels in his hair;
I weave fair coronals above

The cold, sweet silver of his brow:
For this is all of him I have;
Nor any Future more than now
Shall give me back what Love once gave.

For from Death’s gate our lives divide;
His was the Galilean’s faith:
With those that serve the Crucified,
He shar’d the chance of Life and Death.

And so my eyes shall never light
Upon his star-soft eyes again;
Nor ever in the day or night,
By hill or valley, wood or plain,

Our hands shall meet afresh. His voice
Shall never with its silver tone
The sadness of my soul rejoice,
Nor his breast throb against my own.

His sight shall never unto me
Return whilst heaven and earth remain:
Though Time blend with Eternity,
Our lives shall never meet again,—

Never by gray or purple sea,
Never again in heavens of blue,
Never in this old earth—ah me!
Never, ah never! in the new.

For me, he treads the windless ways
Among the thick star-diamonds,
Where in the middle æther blaze
The Golden City’s pearl gate-fronds;

Sitteth, palm-crown’d and silver-shod,
Where in strange dwellings of the skies
The Christians to their Woman-God
Cease nevermore from psalmodies.

And I, I wait, with haggard eyes
And face grown awful for desire,
The coming of that fierce day’s rise
When from the cities of the fire

The Wolf shall come with blazing crest,
And many a giant arm’d for war;
When from the sanguine-streaming West,
Hell-flaming, speedeth Naglfar.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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