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WHAT can I give thee back, O liberal And princely giver, who hast brought the gold

And purple of thine heart, unstained, untold,

And laid them on the outside of the wall

For such as I to take or leave withal,
In unexpected largesse? am I cold,
Ungrateful, that for these most manifold
High gifts, I render nothing back at all?
Not so; not cold,-but very poor instead.
Ask God who knows. For frequent

tears have run
The colors from my life, and left so dead
And pale a stuff, it were not fitly done
To give the same as pillow to thy head.
Go farther! let it serve to trample on.

1 With this Sonnet and the next, compare the Letters, I, 183-5.

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A melancholy music,-why advert
To these things? O Beloved, it is plain
I am not of thy worth nor for thy place!
And yet, because I love thee, I obtain
From that same love this vindicating

To live on still in love, and yet in vain,To bless thee, yet renounce thee to thy face.


INDEED this very love which is my boast, And which, when rising up from breast to brow,

Doth crown me with a ruby large enow To draw men's eyes and prove the inner cost,

This love even, all my worth, to the uttermost,

I should not love withal, unless that thou Hadst set me an example, shown me how,

When first thine earnest eyes with mine were crossed,

And love called love. And thus, I cannot speak

Of love even, as a good thing of my own: Thy soul hath snatched up mine all faint and weak,

And placed it by thee on a golden throne,

And that I love (O soul, we must be meek!)

Is by thee only, whom I love alone.


AND wilt thou have me fashion into speech

The love I bear thee, finding words enough,

And hold the torch out, while the winds are rough,

Between our faces, to cast light on each ?

I drop it at thy feet. I cannot teach My hand to hold my spirit so far off From myself-me-that I should bring thee proof

In words, of love hid in me out of reach. Nay, let the silence of my womanhood Commend my woman-love to thy be


Seeing that I stand unwon, however wooed,

And rend the garment of my life, in brief,

By a most dauntless, voiceless fortitude, Lest one touch of this heart convey its



If thou must love me, let it be for nought Except for love's sake only. Do not say "I love her for her smile-her look-her way

Of speaking gently,-for a trick of thought

That falls in well with mine, and certęs brought

A sense of pleasant ease on such a day"

For these things in themselves, Beloved,


Be changed, or change for thee,-and love, so wrought,

May be unwrought so. Neither love me


Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry.

A creature might forget to weep, who bore

Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!

But love me for love's sake, that ever


Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.


ACCUSE me not, beseech thee, that I


Too calm and sad a face in front of thine;

For we two look two ways, and cannot shine

With the same sunlight on our brow and hair.

On me thou lookest with no doubting


As on a bee shut in a crystalline; Since sorrow hath shut me safe in love's divine,

And to spread wing and fly in the outer air

Were most impossible failure, if I strove
To fail so. But I look on thee-on thee-
Beholding, besides love, the end of love,
Hearing oblivion beyond memory;
As one who sits and gazes from above,
Over the rivers to the bitter sea.


AND yet, because thou overcomest so, Because thou art more noble and like a


1 Compare the Letters, 1, 256, 274-5, 506, 508. 'Compare the Letters, 1, 515.

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Thy purple round me, till my heart shall grow

Too close against thine heart henceforth to know

How it shook when alone. Why, conquering

May prove as lordly and complete a thing

In lifting upward, as in crushing low! And as a vanquished soldier yields his sword

To one who lifts him from the bloody earth,

Even so, Beloved, I at last record, Here ends my strife. If thou invite me forth,

I rise above abasement at the word. Make thy love larger to enlarge my worth.


MY poet, thou canst touch on all the


God set between His After and Before, And strike up and strike off the general


Of the rushing worlds a melody that floats

In a serene air purely. Antidotes
Of medicated music, answering for
Mankind's forlornest uses, thou canst


From thence into their ears. God's will devotes

Thine to such ends, and mine to wait on thine.

How, Dearest, wilt thou have me for

most use?

A hope, to sing by gladly? or a fine Sad memory, with thy songs to interfuse?

A shade, in which to sing-of palm or pine?

A grave, on which to rest from singing? Choose.


I NEVER gave a lock of hair away
To a man, Dearest, except this to thee,
Which now upon my fingers thought

I ring out to the full brown length and


"Take it." My day of youth went yesterday:

My hair no longer bounds to my foot's glee,

Nor plant I it from rose or myrtle-tree,
As girls do, any more; it only may
Now shade on two pale cheeks the mark
of tears,

Taught drooping from the head that hangs aside

Through sorrow's trick. I thought the funeral-shears

Would take this first, but love is justified,

Take it thou, finding pure, from all those years,

The kiss my mother left here when she died.


THE Soul's Rialto hath its merchandise; I barter curl for curl upon that mart, And from my poet's forehead to my heart

Receive this lock which outweighs ar


As purply black, as erst to Pindar's eyes The dim purpureal tresses gloomed athwart

The nine white Muse-brows. For this counterpart,

The bay-crown's shade, Belovèd, I surmise,

Still lingers on thy curl, it is so black! Thus, with a fillet of smooth-kissing breath,

I tie the shadows safe from gliding back, And lay the gift where nothing hindereth;

Here on my heart, as on thy brow, to lack

No natural heat till mine grows cold in death.

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Some prescience of thee with the blossoms white

Thou sawest growing! Atheists are as dull,

Who cannot guess God's presence out of sight.


SAY over again, and yet once over again, That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated

Should seem "a cuckoo-song," as thou dost treat it,

Remember, never to the hill or plain, Valley and wood, without her cuckoostrain

Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.

Beloved, I, amid the darkness greeted By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt's pain

Cry, "Speak once more-thou lovest!" Who can fear

Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,

Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year? love me

Say thou dost love me, love me, -toll


silver iterance! - only minding, Dear,

To love me also in silence with thy soul.


WHEN our two souls stand up erect and strong,

Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,

Until the lengthening wings break into fire

At either curvèd point,-what bitter wrong

Can the earth do to us, that we should not long

Be here contented? Think. In mounting higher,

The angels would press on us and aspire To drop some golden orb of perfect song Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay Rather on earth, Beloved,-where the


Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the death-hour round
ing it.

1 Compare the Letters, 1, 336.

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