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Preference

 NOT in scorn do I reprove thee,
Not in pride thy vows I waive,
But, believe, I could not love thee,
Wert thou prince, and I a slave.
These, then, are thine oaths of passion ? This, thy tenderness for me ? Judged, even, by thine own confession, Thou art steeped in perfidy.
Having vanquished, thou wouldst leave me ! Thus I read thee long ago; Therefore, dared I not deceive thee, Even with friendship's gentle show.
Therefore, with impassive coldness Have I ever met thy gaze; Though, full oft, with daring boldness, Thou thine eyes to mine didst raise.
Why that smile ? Thou now art deeming This my coldness all untrue,­ But a mask of frozen seeming, Hiding secret fires from view.
Touch my hand, thou self-deceiver, Nay­be calm, for I am so: Does it burn ? Does my lip quiver ? Has mine eye a troubled glow ? Canst thou call a moment's colour To my forehead­to my cheek ? Canst thou tinge their tranquil pallor With one flattering, feverish streak? Am I marble ? What ! no woman Could so calm before thee stand ? Nothing living, sentient, human, Could so coldly take thy hand ? Yes­a sister might, a mother: My good-will is sisterly: Dream not, then, I strive to smother Fires that inly burn for thee.
Rave not, rage not, wrath is fruitless, Fury cannot change my mind; I but deem the feeling rootless Which so whirls in passion's wind.
Can I love ? Oh, deeply­truly­ Warmly­fondly­but not thee; And my love is answered duly, With an equal energy.
Wouldst thou see thy rival ? Hasten, Draw that curtain soft aside, Look where yon thick branches chasten Noon, with shades of eventide.
In that glade, where foliage blending Forms a green arch overhead, Sits thy rival thoughtful bending O'er a stand with papers spread­ Motionless, his fingers plying That untired, unresting pen; Time and tide unnoticed flying, There he sits­the first of men ! Man of conscience­man of reason; Stern, perchance, but ever just; Foe to falsehood, wrong, and treason, Honour's shield, and virtue's trust ! Worker, thinker, firm defender Of Heaven's truth­man's liberty; Soul of iron­proof to slander, Rock where founders tyranny.
Fame he seeks not­but full surely She will seek him, in his home; This I know, and wait securely For the atoning hour to come.
To that man my faith is given, Therefore, soldier, cease to sue; While God reigns in earth and heaven, I to him will still be true !

by Charlotte Bronte
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