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Love
(1790-1867 / the United States)

Love

……….. The imperial votress passed on
In maiden meditation, fancy free.

Midsummer Night's Dream,
Shall I never see a bachelor of three-score again?

BENEDICT, in Much Ado about Nothing.

I
WHEN the tree of Love is budding first,
Ere yet its leaves are green,
Ere yet, by shower and sunbeam nurst
Its infant life has been;
The wild bee's slightest touch might wring
The buds from off the tree,
As the gentle dip of the swallow's wing
Breaks the bubbles on the sea.

II
But when its open leaves have found
A home in the free air,
Pluck them, and there remains a wound
That ever rankles there.
The blight of hope and happiness
Is felt when fond ones part,
And the bitter tear that follows is
The life-blood of the heart.

III.
When the flame of love is kindled first,
'Tis the fire-fly's light at even,
'Tis dim as the wandering stars that burst
In the blue of the summer heaven.
A breath can bid it burn no more,
Or if, at times, its beams
Come on the memory, they pass o'er
Like shadows in our dreams.

IV
But when that flame has blazed into
A being and a power,
And smiled in scorn upon the dew
That fell in its first warm hour,
'Tis the flame that curls round the martyr's head,
Whose task is to destroy;
'Tis the lamp on the altars of the dead,
Whose light but darkens joy!

V
Then crush, even in their hour of birth,
The infant buds of Love,
And tread his glowing fire to earth,
Ere 'tis dark in clouds above;
Cherish no more a cypress tree
To shade thy future years,
Nor nurse a heart-flame that may be
Quenched only with thy tears.

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