In A Minor Key

(AN ECHO FROM A LARGER LYRE.)


That was love that I had before
Years ago, when my heart was young;
Ev'ry smile was a gem you wore;
Ev'ry word was a sweet song sung.

You came--all my pulses burn'd and beat.
(O sweet wild throbs of an early day!)
You went--with the last dear sound of your feet
The light wax'd dim and the place grew grey.

And I us'd to pace with a stealthy tread
By a certain house which is under a hill;
A cottage stands near, wall'd white, roof'd red--
Tall trees grow thick--I can see it still!

How I us'd to watch with a hope that was fear
For the least swift glimpse of your gown's dear fold!
(You wore blue gowns in those days, my dear--
One light for summer, one dark for cold.)

Tears and verses I shed for you in show'rs;
I would have staked my soul for a kiss;
Tribute daily I brought you of flow'rs,
Rose, lily, your favourite eucharis.

There came a day we were doomed to part;
There's a queer, small gate at the foot of a slope:
We parted there--and I thought my heart
Had parted for ever from love and hope.

* * * *

Is it love that I have to-day?
Love, that bloom'd early, has it bloom'd late
For me, that, clothed in my spirit's grey,
Sit in the stillness and stare at Fate?

Song nor sonnet for you I've penned,
Nor passionate paced by your home's wide wall
I have brought you never a flow'r, my friend,
Never a tear for your sake let fall.

And yet--and yet--ah, who understands?
We men and women are complex things!
A hundred tunes Fate's inexorable hands
May play on the sensitive soul-strings.

Webs of strange patterns we weave (each owns)
From colour and sound; and like unto these,
Soul has its tones and its semitones,
Mind has its major and minor keys.

Your face (men pass it without a word)
It haunts my dreams like an odd, sweet strain;
When your name is spoken my soul is stirr'd
In its deepest depths with a dull, dim pain.

I paced, in the damp grey mist, last night
In the streets (an hour) to see you pass:
Yet I do not think that I love you--quite;
What's felt so finely 'twere coarse to class.

And yet--and yet--I scarce can tell why
(As I said, we are riddles and hard to read),
If the world went ill with you, and I
Could help with a hidden hand your need;

But, ere I could reach you where you lay,
Must strength and substance and honour spend;
Journey long journeys by night and day--
Somehow, I think I should come, my friend!

by Amy Levy

Comments (10)

Absolutely outrageous, my definition of a beautiful poem
A sad poem well written. The flow carries the poignancy over time creatively. And yet- and yet- ah, who understands? We men and women are complex things! A hundred tunes Fate's inexorable hands May play on the sensitive soul-strings. Thanks for posting.
Years ago! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us.
Intended as such or not, this is a meditation on how romantic feelings change over time—and a finely written one. For myself, I haven’t experienced the excruciating desire of adolescence since then and have no desire to revisit it. But this poem causes us to ask what love is. And what is it within marriage, for example, when over more than four decades, in my case, we go through all the changes that are part of aging. A feeling? A commitment? -GK
TWO: Despite her very busy activities and though she was well educated in literature, Amy Levy suffered from a diagnose of major depression since her early years. Must be noted that she committed suicide at the age of 27. Her era was the Victorian period, remarkable 14 stanzas long to decide whether to go or not, visiting her sick old friend. Oscar Wilde wrote an obituary for her in Women's World in which he praised her gifts. May she R.I.P.
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