Felo De Se
With Apologies to Mr. Swinburne.
by Amy Levy
For repose I have sighed and have struggled ; have sigh'd and have struggled in vain;
I am held in the Circle of Being and caught in the Circle of Pain.
I was wan and weary with life ; my sick soul yearned for death;
I was weary of women and war and the sea and the wind's wild breath;
I cull'd sweet poppies and crush'd them, the blood ran rich and red:--
And I cast it in crystal chalice and drank of it till I was dead.
And the mould of the man was mute, pulseless in ev'ry part,
The long limbs lay on the sand with an eagle eating the heart.
Repose for the rotting head and peace for the putrid breast,
But for that which is 'I' indeed the gods have decreed no rest;
No rest but an endless aching, a sorrow which grows amain:--
I am caught in the Circle of Being and held in the Circle of Pain.
Bitter indeed is Life, and bitter of Life the breath,
But give me Life and its ways and its men, if this be Death.
Wearied I once of the Sun and the voices which clamour'd around:
Give them me back--in the sightless depths there is neither light nor sound.
Sick is my soul, and sad and feeble and faint as it felt
When (far, dim day) in the fair flesh-fane of the body it dwelt.
But then I could run to the shore, weeping and weary and weak;
See the waves' blue sheen and feel the breath of the breeze on my cheek:
Could wail with the wailing wind; strike sharply the hands in despair;
Could shriek with the shrieking blast, grow frenzied and tear the hair;
Could fight fierce fights with the foe or clutch at a human hand;
And weary could lie at length on the soft, sweet, saffron sand. . .
I have neither a voice nor hands, nor any friend nor a foe;
I am I--just a Pulse of Pain--I am I, that is all I know.
For Life, and the sickness of Life, and Death and desire to die;--
They have passed away like the smoke, here is nothing but Pain and I.