This is her picture as she was: It seems a thing to wonder on, As though mine image in the glass Should tarry when myself am gone. I gaze until she seems to stir,— Until mine eyes almost aver That now, even now, the sweet lips part To breathe the words of the sweet heart:— And yet the earth is over her. Alas! even such the thin-drawn ray That makes the prison-depths more rude,— The drip of water night and day Giving a tongue to solitude. Yet only this, of love's whole prize, Remains; save what in mournful guise Takes counsel with my soul alone,— Save what is secret and unknown, Below the earth, above the skies. In painting her I shrin'd her face Mid mystic trees, where light falls in Hardly at all; a covert place Where you might think to find a din Of doubtful talk, and a live flame Wandering, and many a shape whose name Not itself knoweth, and old dew, And your own footsteps meeting you, And all things going as they came. A deep dim wood; and there she stands As in that wood that day: for so Was the still movement of her hands And such the pure line's gracious flow. And passing fair the type must seem, Unknown the presence and the dream. 'Tis she: though of herself, alas! Less than her shadow on the grass Or than her image in the stream. That day we met there, I and she One with the other all alone; And we were blithe; yet memory Saddens those hours, as when the moon Looks upon daylight. And with her I stoop'd to drink the spring-water, Athirst where other waters sprang; And where the echo is, she sang,— My soul another echo there. But when that hour my soul won strength For words whose silence wastes and kills, Dull raindrops smote us, and at length Thunder'd the heat within the hills. That eve I spoke those words again Beside the pelted window-pane; And there she hearken'd what I said, With under-glances that survey'd The empty pastures blind with rain. Next day the memories of these things, Like leaves through which a bird has flown, Still vibrated with Love's warm wings; Till I must make them all my own And paint this picture. So, 'twixt ease Of talk and sweet long silences, She stood among the plants in bloom At windows of a summer room, To feign the shadow of the trees. And as I wrought, while all above And all around was fragrant air, In the sick burthen of my love It seem'd each sun-thrill'd blossom there Beat like a heart among the leaves. O heart that never beats nor heaves, In that one darkness lying still, What now to thee my love's great will Or the fine web the sunshine weaves? For now doth daylight disavow Those days,—nought left to see or hear. Only in solemn whispers now At night-time these things reach mine ear; When the leaf-shadows at a breath Shrink in the road, and all the heath, Forest and water, far and wide, In limpid starlight glorified, Lie like the mystery of death. Last night at last I could have slept, And yet delay'd my sleep till dawn, Still wandering. Then it was I wept: For unawares I came upon Those glades where once she walk'd with me: And as I stood there suddenly, All wan with traversing the night, Upon the desolate verge of light Yearn'd loud the iron-bosom'd sea. Even so, where Heaven holds breath and hears The beating heart of Love's own breast,— Where round the secret of all spheres All angels lay their wings to rest,— How shall my soul stand rapt and aw'd, When, by the new birth borne abroad Throughout the music of the suns, It enters in her soul at once And knows the silence there for God! Here with her face doth memory sit Meanwhile, and wait the day's decline, Till other eyes shall look from it, Eyes of the spirit's Palestine, Even than the old gaze tenderer: While hopes and aims long lost with her Stand round her image side by side, Like tombs of pilgrims that have died About the Holy Sepulchre.
Painting: Ophelia by Arthur Hughes 1863 (Public Domain)