The Face at the Casement


      If ever joy leave
An abiding sting of sorrow,
So befell it on the morrow
      Of that May eve....

      The travelled sun dropped
To the north-west, low and lower,
The pony's trot grew slower,
      And then we stopped.

      'This cosy house just by
I must call at for a minute,
A sick man lies within it
      Who soon will die.

      'He wished to marry me,
So I am bound, when I drive near him,
To inquire, if but to cheer him,
      How he may be.'

      A message was sent in,
And wordlessly we waited,
Till some one came and stated
      The bulletin.

      And that the sufferer said,
For her call no words could thank her;
As his angel he must rank her
      Till life's spark fled.

      Slowly we drove away,
When I turned my head, although not
Called; why I so turned I know not
      Even to this day.

      And lo, there in my View
Pressed against an upper lattice
Was a white face, gazing at us
      As we withdrew.

      And well did I divine
It to be the man's there dying,
Who but lately had been sighing
      For her pledged mine.

      Then I deigned a deed of hell;
It was done before I knew it;
What devil made me do it
      I cannot tell!

      Yes, while he gazed above,
I put my arm about her
That he might see, nor doubt her
      My plighted Love.

      The pale face vanished quick,
As if blasted, from the casement,
And my shame and self-abasement
      Began their prick.

      And they prick on, ceaselessly,
For that stab in Love's fierce fashion
Which, unfired by lover's passion,
      Was foreign to me.

      She smiled at my caress,
But why came the soft embowment
Of her shoulder at that moment
      She did not guess.

      Long long years has he lain
In thy garth, O sad Saint Cleather:
What tears there, bared to weather,
      Will cleanse that stain!

      Love is long-suffering, brave,
Sweet, prompt, precious as a jewel;
But O, too, Love is cruel,
      Cruel as the grave.


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