That night, which did the dreadful hap ensue
That quite eclips'd, nay, rather did replace
The sun in skies, and me bereave of view,
Did sweetly sprinkle through the airy space
The summer's frost, which, with Tithonus' bride,
Cleareth of dream the dark-confused face,
When, lo, a lady, like unto the tide,
With orient jewels crown'd, from thousands more
Crowned as she, to me I coming spied.
And first her hand, sometime desired so,
Reaching to me, at once she sigh'd and spake,
Whence endless joys yet in my heart do grow:
'And know'st thou her, who made thee first forsake
The vulgar path and ordinary trade,
While her their mark thy youthful thoughts did make?'
Then down she sat, and me sit down she made
(Thought, wisdom, meekness in one grace did strive)
On pleasing bank, in bay and beech's shade.
'My goddess, who me did, and doth, revive,
Can I but know,' I sobbing answered,
'But art thou dead - ah, speak - or yet alive?'
'Alive am I, and thou as yet art dead,
And as thou art shalt so continue still,
Till, by thy ending hour, thou hence be led.
Short is our time to live, and long our will:
Then let with heed thy deeds and speeches go,
Ere that approaching term his course fulfil.'
Quoth I: 'When this our light to end doth grow,
Which we call life, (for thou by proof hast tried)
Is it such pain to die? That, make me know.'
'While thou,' quoth she, 'the vulgar make thy guide,
And on their judgements (all obscurely blind)
Dost yet rely, no bliss can thee betide.
Of loathsome prison to each gentle mind
Death is the end, and only who employ
Their cares on mud therein displeasure find.
Ev'n this my death, which yields thee such annoy,
Would make in thee far greater gladness rise,
Couldst thou but taste least portion of my joy.'
So spake she, with devoutly fixed eyes
Upon the heav'ns, then did in silence fold
Those rosy lips, attending their replies.
'Torments invented by the tyrants old,
Diseases, which each part torment and toss,
Causes that death we most most bitter hold.'
'I not deny,' quoth she, 'but that the cross
Preceding death extremely martyreth,
And more the fear of that eternal loss;
But when the panting soul in God takes breath,
And weary heart affecteth heav'nly rest,
An unrepented sigh, nought else, is death.
With body, but with spirit ready press'd,
Now at the furthest of my living ways,
There sadly utter'd sounds my ear possess'd:
'O hapless he, who counting times and days
Thinks each a thousand years, and lives in vain,
No more to meet her while on earth he stays,
And, on the water now, now on the main,
Only on her doth think, doth speak, doth write,
And in all times one manner still retain!'
Herewith I thither cast my failing sight,
And soon espied, presented to my view,
Who oft did, thee restraining, me incite.
Well I her face, and well her voice I knew,
Which often did my heart reconsolate:
Now wisely grave, then beautifully true.
And sure, when I was in my fairest state,
My years most green, myself to thee most dear
(Whence many much did think, and much debate),
That life's best joy was almost bitter cheer
Compared to that death, most mildly sweet,
Which comes to men, but comes not everywhere.
For I that journey pass'd with gladder feet
Than he, from hard exile, that homeward goes;
(But only ruth of thee) without regret.'
'For that faith's sake time once enough did show,
Yet now to thee more manifestly plain
In face of him who all doth see and know -
Say, lady, did you ever entertain
Motion or thought more lovingly to rue
(Not leaving honour's height) my tedious pain?
For those sweet wraths, those sweet disdains in you,
In those sweet peaces written in your eyes,
Diversely many years my fancies drew.'
Scarce had I spoken but, in lightning wise,
Beaming I saw that gentle smile appear,
Sometimes the sun of my woe-darken'd skies.
Then, sighing, thus she answer'd: 'Never were
Our hearts but one, nor never two shall be;
Only, thy flame I temper'd with my cheer.
This only way could save both thee and me;
Our tender fame did this support require:
The mother had a rod, yet kind is she.
How oft this said my thoughts: 'In love, nay fire,
Is he; now to provide must I begin,
And ill providers are fear and desire.'
Thou saw'st what was without, not what within.
And, as the brake the wanton steed doth tame,
So this did thee from thy disorders win.
A thousand times wrath in my face did flame;
My heart, meanwhile, with love did inly burn;
But never will my reason overcame.
For if, woe-vanquish'd, once I saw thee mourn,
Thy life, our honour, jointly to preserve,
Mine eyes to thee then sweetly did I turn.
But if thy passion did from reason swerve,
Fear in my words, and sorrow in my face,
Did then to thee for salutation serve.
These arts I us'd with thee, thou ran'st this race:
With kind acceptance now, now sharp disdain; now,
Thou know'st, and hast it sung in many a place.
Sometimes thine eyes pregnant with teary rain
I saw, and at the sight, 'Behold, he dies
But if I help,' said I: 'the signs are plain.'
Virtue for aid did then with love advise.
If, spurr'd by love, thou took'st some running toy,
'So soft a bit,' quoth I, 'will not suffice.'
Thus glad, and sad, in pleasure, and annoy,
Hot red, cold pale, thus far I have thee brought,
Weary, but safe, to my no little joy.'
Then I, with tears, and trembling: 'What it sought,
My faith hath found, whose more than equal meed
Were this, if this for truth could pass my thought.'
'Of little faith!' quoth she. 'Should this proceed
If false it were, or if unknown, from me?'
The flames withal seem'd in her face to breed.
'If liking in mine eyes the world did see,
I say not, now. Of this right fain I am:
Those chains that tied my heart well liked me.
And well me likes (if true it be) my fame,
Which far and near by thee related goes.
Nor in thy love could ought but measure blame:
That only fail'd, and while, in acted woes,
Thou needs wouldst show what I could not but see,
Thou didst thy heart to all the world disclose.
Hence sprang my zeal, which yet distemp'reth thee;
Our concord such, in everything beside,
As when united love and virtue be.
In equal flames our loving hearts were tried,
At least when once thy love had notice got,
But one to show, the other sought to hide.
Thou didst for mercy call with weary throat;
In fear and shame I did in silence go:
So, much desire became of little note.
But not the less becomes concealed woe,
Nor greater grows it utter'd than before:
Through fiction truth will neither ebb nor flow.
But clear'd I not the darkest mists of yore
When I thy words alone did entertain,
Singing for thee 'My love dares speak no more'?
With thee my heart, to me I did restrain
Mine eyes, and thou thy share canst hardly brook,
Leasing by me the less, the more to gain!
Not thinking, if a thousand times I took
Mine eyes from thee, I many thousands cast
Mine eyes on thee, and still with pitying look!
Whose shine no cloud had ever overcast,
Had I not fear'd in thee those coals to fire
I thought would burn too dangerously fast.
But to content thee more ere I retire,
For end of this, I something will thee tell
Perchance agreeable to thy desire:
In all things fully bless'd and pleased well,
Only in this I did myself displease -
Born in too base a town for me to dwell.
And much I griev'd that, for thy greater ease
At least, it stood not near thy flow'ry nest;
Else, far enough from whence I did thee please,
So might the heart on which I only rest,
Not knowing me, have fit itself elsewhere,
And I less name, less notice, have possess'd.'
'Oh no,' quoth I, 'for me the heav'n's third sphere
To so high love advanc'd by special grace,
Changeless to me, though chang'd thy dwelling were.'
'Be as it will, yet my great honour was,
And is as yet,' she said. 'But, thy delight
Makes thee not mark how fast the hours do pass.
See from her golden bed Aurora bright,
To mortal eyes returning sun and day,
Breast-high above the ocean, bare to sight.
She, to my sorrow, calls me hence away:
Therefore, thy words in time's short limits bind,
And say in brief, if more thou hast to say.'
'Lady,' quoth I, 'your words most sweetly kind
Have easy made whatever erst I bare.
But what is left of you to live behind?
Therefore to know this is my only care:
If slow or swift shall come our meeting day.'
She parting said: 'As my conjectures are,
Thou without me long time on earth shalt stay.