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Before Her Portrait In Youth

by
 As lovers, banished from their lady's face
And hopeless of her grace,
Fashion a ghostly sweetness in its place,
Fondly adore
Some stealth-won cast attire she wore,
A kerchief or a glove:
And at the lover's beck
Into the glove there fleets the hand,
Or at impetuous command
Up from the kerchief floats the virgin neck:
So I, in very lowlihead of love, -
Too shyly reverencing
To let one thought's light footfall smooth
Tread near the living, consecrated thing, -
Treasure me thy cast youth.
This outworn vesture, tenantless of thee, Hath yet my knee, For that, with show and semblance fair Of the past Her Who once the beautiful, discarded raiment bare, It cheateth me.
As gale to gale drifts breath Of blossoms' death, So dropping down the years from hour to hour This dead youth's scent is wafted me to-day: I sit, and from the fragrance dream the flower.
So, then, she looked (I say); And so her front sunk down Heavy beneath the poet's iron crown: On her mouth museful sweet - (Even as the twin lips meet) Did thought and sadness greet: Sighs In those mournful eyes So put on visibilities; As viewless ether turns, in deep on deep, to dyes.
Thus, long ago, She kept her meditative paces slow Through maiden meads, with waved shadow and gleam Of locks half-lifted on the winds of dream, Till love up-caught her to his chariot's glow.
Yet, voluntary, happier Proserpine! This drooping flower of youth thou lettest fall I, faring in the cockshut-light, astray, Find on my 'lated way, And stoop, and gather for memorial, And lay it on my bosom, and make it mine.
To this, the all of love the stars allow me, I dedicate and vow me.
I reach back through the days A trothed hand to the dead the last trump shall not raise.
The water-wraith that cries From those eternal sorrows of thy pictured eyes Entwines and draws me down their soundless intricacies!

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