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The Garden by the Bridge

   The Desert sands are heated, parched and dreary,
     The tigers rend alive their quivering prey
   In the near Jungle; here the kites rise, weary,
     Too gorged with living food to fly away.

   All night the hungry jackals howl together
     Over the carrion in the river bed,
   Or seize some small soft thing of fur or feather
     Whose dying shrieks on the night air are shed.

   I hear from yonder Temple in the distance
     Whose roof with obscene carven Gods is piled,
   Reiterated with a sad insistence
     Sobs of, perhaps, some immolated child.

   Strange rites here, where the archway's shade is deeper,
     Are consummated in the river bed;
   Parias steal the rotten railway sleeper
     To burn the bodies of their cholera dead.

   But yet, their lust, their hunger, cannot shame them
     Goaded by fierce desire, that flays and stings;
   Poor beasts, and poorer men.  Nay, who shall blame them?
     Blame the Inherent Cruelty of Things.

   The world is horrible and I am lonely,
     Let me rest here where yellow roses bloom
   And find forgetfulness, remembering only
     Your face beside me in the scented gloom.

   Nay, do not shrink!  I am not here for passion,
     I crave no love, only a little rest,
   Although I would my face lay, lover's fashion,
     Against the tender coolness of your breast.

   I am so weary of the Curse of Living
     The endless, aimless torture, tumult, fears.
   Surely, if life were any God's free giving,
     He, seeing His gift, long since went blind with tears.

   Seeing us; our fruitless strife, our futile praying,
     Our luckless Present and our bloodstained Past.
   Poor players, who make a trick or two in playing,
     But know that death must win the game at last.

   As round the Fowler, red with feathered slaughter,
     The little joyous lark, unconscious, sings,—
   As the pink Lotus floats on azure water,
     Innocent of the mud from whence it springs.

   You walk through life, unheeding all the sorrow,
     The fear and pain set close around your way,
   Meeting with hopeful eyes each gay to-morrow,
     Living with joy each hour of glad to-day.

   I love to have you thus (nay, dear, lie quiet,
     How should these reverent fingers wrong your hair?)
   So calmly careless of the rush and riot
     That rages round is seething everywhere.

   You do not understand.  You think your beauty
     Does but inflame my senses to desire,
   Till all you hold as loyalty and duty,
     Is shrunk and shrivelled in the ardent fire.

   You wrong me, wearied out with thought and grieving
     As though the whole world's sorrow eat my heart,
   I come to gaze upon your face believing
     Its beauty is as ointment to the smart.

   Lie still and let me in my desolation
     Caress the soft loose hair a moment's span.
   Since Loveliness is Life's one Consolation,
     And love the only Lethe left to man.

   Ah, give me here beneath the trees in flower,
     Beside the river where the fireflies pass,
   One little dusky, all consoling hour
     Lost in the shadow of the long grown grass

   Give me, oh you whose arms are soft and slender,
     Whose eyes are nothing but one long caress,
   Against your heart, so innocent and tender,
     A little Love and some Forgetfulness.

Poem by Adela Florence Cory Nicolson
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