In Divers Tones

by Charles G.D. Roberts

Edited by Tracy Ware


 

IN NOTRE DAME


 

When first did I perceive you, when take heed
   Of what is now so deep in heart and brain
That tears shall not efface it, nor the greed
   Of time or fate destroy, nor scorn, nor pain?

Long summers back I trembled to the vision

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   Of your keen beauty,—a delirious sense
That he you loved might hold in like derision
   Or Hell or Heaven, or sin or innocence.

This in my heart of hearts, while outwardly
   Nor speech nor guarded glance my dream betrayed;

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Till one day, so past thought you maddened me,
   My dream escaped my lips, glad and afraid.

Afraid, where no fear was. For lo, the gift
   (Worlds could not purchase it) was mine, was mine!
And oh, my Sweet, how swift we went adrift

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   On wild sweet waters, warmer-hued than wine!

My very eyes are dizzy with delight
   At your recalled caresses. Peace, my heart!
She whom you beat so wild for lies to-night
   From you too many bitter leagues apart.

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Be calm, and I will talk to you of her;
   And you shall listen, passionately still;
And as the pauses in my verse recur,
   Think, heart, all this does fealty to your will!

All this,—a lithe and perfect-moulded form,

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   Instinct with subtle gesture, soft, intense.
Head small and queenlike, dainty feet that warm
   Even the dull world’s ways into rapturous sense.

Clear, broad, white forehead, crowned low down with hair
   Darker than night, more soft than sleep or tears.

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Nose neither small nor great, but straight, and fair.
   Like naught but smooth sea-shells her delicate ears.

But how to tell about her mouth and eyes!
   Her strange, sweet, maddening eyes, her subtle mouth!
Mouth in whose closure all love’s sweetness lives,—

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   Eyes with the warm gleam of the lustrous south!

Fathomless dusk by night, the day lets in
   Glimmer of emerald,—thus those eyes of hers!
Above the firm sweep of the moulded chin
   The lips, than whose least kiss Heaven’s gifts were worse.

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Her bosom,—ah that now my head were laid
   Warm in that resting-place! But, heart, be still!
I will refrain, and break my dreams, afraid
   To stir the yearning I can not fulfill.

Love, in the northern night of Brittany

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   Hear you no voice divide the night like flame?
In these gray walls the inmost soul of me
   Is swooning with the music of your name.