Oh, Unforgotten and Only Lover
Oh, unforgotten and only lover,
Many years have swept us apart,
But none of the long dividing seasons
Slay your memory in my heart.
In the clash and clamour of things unlovely
My thoughts drift back to the times that were,
When I, possessing thy pale perfection,
Kissed the eyes and caressed the hair.
Other passions and loves have drifted
Over this wandering, restless soul,
Rudderless, chartless, floating always
With some new current of chance control.
But thine image is clear in the whirling waters -
Ah, forgive - that I drag it there,
For it is so part of my very being
That where I wander it too must fare.
Ah, I have given thee strange companions,
To thee - so slender and chaste and cool -
But a white star loses no glimmer of beauty
In all the mud of a miry pool
That holds the grace of its white reflection;
Nothing could fleck thee, nothing could stain,
Thou hast made a home for thy delicate beauty
Where all things peaceful and lovely reign.
Doubtless the night that my soul remembers
Was a sin to thee, and thine only one.
Thou thinkest of it, if thou thinkest ever,
As a crime committed, a deed ill done.
But for me, the broken, the desert-dweller,
Following Life through its underways, -
I know if those midnights thou hadst not granted
I had not lived through these after days.
And that had been well for me; all would say so,
What have I done since I parted from thee?
But things that are wasted, and full of ruin,
All unworthy, even of me.
Yet, it was to me that the gift was given,
No greater joy have the Gods above, -
That night of nights when my only lover,
Though all reluctant, granted me love.
For thy beauty was mine, and my spirit knows it,
Never, ah, never my heart forgets,
One thing fixed, in the torrent of changing,
Faults and follies and fierce regrets.
Thine eyes and thy hair, that were lovely symbols
Of that white soul that their grace enshrined,
They are part of me and my life for ever,
In every fibre and cell entwined.
Men might argue that having known thee
I had grown faithful and pure as thee,
Had turned at the touch of thy grace and glory
From the average pathways trodden by me.
Hadst thou been kinder or I been stronger
It may be even these things had been -
But one thing is clear to my soul for ever,
I owe my owning of thee to sin.
Had I been colder I had not reached thee,
Besmirched the ermine, beflecked the snow -
It was only sheer and desperate passion
That won thy beauty in years ago.
And not for the highest virtues in Heaven,
The utmost grace that the soul can name,
Would I resign what the sin has brought me,
Which I hold glory, and thou - thy shame.
I talk of sin in the usual fashion,
But God knows what is a sin to me -
We love more fiercely or love more faintly -
But I doubt if it matters how these things be.
The best and the worst of us all sink under -
What I held passion and thou held'st lust -
What name will it find in a few more seasons,
When we both dissolve in an equal dust?
If a God there be, and a God seems needed
To make the beauty of things like thee,
He doubtless also, some careless moment,
Mixed the forces that fashioned me.
Also He, for His own good reason -
Though I care little how these things are -
Gave me thee, in those few brief midnights,
And that one solace He never can mar.
Ah me, the stars of such varying heavens
Have watched me, under such alien skies,
Lay thy beauty naked before me
To soothe and solace my world-worn eyes.
For one good gift to me has been given -
A memory accurate, clear and keen,
That holds the vision, perfect for ever
In charm and glory, of things once seen.
So I hold thee there, and my fancy wanders
To each known beauty and blue-veined place,
I know how each separate eyelash trembles,
And every shadow that sweeps thy face.
And this is a joy of which none can rob me,
This is a pleasure that none can mar -
As sweet as thou wert, in that long past midnight,
Even as lovely my memories are.
Ah, unforgotten and only lover,
If ever I drift across thy thought,
As even a vision unloved, unlovely,
May cross the fancy, uncalled, unsought,
When the years that pass thee have shown, in passing,
That my love, in its strength at least, was rare -
Wilt thou not think - ah, hope of the hopeless -
E'en as thou wouldst not, thou wilt not - care!
Oh, Unforgotten and Only Lover by Laurence Hope (Adela Florence Cory Nicolson)