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The House of Life

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  A Sonnet is a moment's monument,—  Memorial from the Soul's eternity  To one dead deathless hour. Look that it be,  Whether for lustral rite or dire portent,  Of its own arduous fulness reverent:  Carve it in ivory or in ebony,  As Day or Night may rule; and let Time see  Its flowering crest impearled and orient.

  A Sonnet is a coin: its face reveals  The soul,—its converse, to what Power 'tis due:—  Whether for tribute to the august appeals  Of Life, or dower in Love's high retinue,  It serve; or, 'mid the dark wharf's cavernous breath,  In Charon's palm it pay the toll to Death.


  I marked all kindred Powers the heart finds fair:—  Truth, with awed lips; and Hope, with eyes upcast;  And Fame, whose loud wings fan the ashen Past  To signal-fires, Oblivion's flight to scare;  And Youth, with still some single golden hair  Unto his shoulder clinging, since the last  Embrace wherein two sweet arms held him fast;  And Life, still wreathing flowers for Death to wear.

  Love's throne was not with these; but far above  All passionate wind of welcome and farewell  He sat in breathless bowers they dream not of;  Though Truth foreknow Love's heart, and Hope foretell,  And Fame be for Love's sake desirable,  And Youth be dear, and Life be sweet to Love.


  As when desire, long darkling, dawns, and first  The mother looks upon the new-born child,  Even so my Lady stood at gaze and smiled  When her soul knew at length the Love it nursed.  Born with her life, creature of poignant thirst  And exquisite hunger, at her heart Love lay  Quickening in darkness, till a voice that day  Cried on him, and the bonds of birth were burst.

  Now, shielded in his wings, our faces yearn  Together, as his fullgrown feet now range  The grove, and his warm hands our couch prepare:  Till to his song our bodiless souls in turn  Be born his children, when Death's nuptial change  Leaves us for light the halo of his hair.


  O Thou who at Love's hour ecstatically  Unto my lips dost evermore present  The body and blood of Love in sacrament;  Whom I have neared and felt thy breath to be  The inmost incense of his sanctuary;  Who without speech hast owned him, and intent  Upon his will, thy life with mine hast blent,  And murmured o'er the cup, Remember me!—

  O what from thee the grace, for me the prize,  And what to Love the glory,—when the whole  Of the deep stair thou tread'st to the dim shoal  And weary water of the place of sighs,  And there dost work deliverance, as thine eyes  Draw up my prisoned spirit to thy soul!


  When do I see thee most, beloved one?  When in the light the spirits of mine eyes  Before thy face, their altar, solemnize  The worship of that Love through thee made known?  Or when in the dusk hours, (we two alone,)  Close-kissed and eloquent of still replies  Thy twilight-hidden glimmering visage lies,  And my soul only sees thy soul its own...?