The Re-Enactment


   Between the folding sea-downs,
      In the gloom
   Of a wailful wintry nightfall,
      When the boom
Of the ocean, like a hammering in a hollow tomb,

   Throbbed up the copse-clothed valley
      From the shore
   To the chamber where I darkled,
      Sunk and sore
With gray ponderings why my Loved one had not come before

   To salute me in the dwelling
      That of late
   I had hired to waste a while in --
      Vague of date,
Quaint, and remote -- wherein I now expectant sate;

   On the solitude, unsignalled,
      Broke a man
   Who, in air as if at home there,
      Seemed to scan
Every fire-flecked nook of the apartment span by span.

   A stranger's and no lover's
      Eyes were these,
   Eyes of a man who measures
      What he sees
But vaguely, as if wrapt in filmy phantasies.

   Yea, his bearing was so absent
      As he stood,    It bespoke a chord so plaintive
      In his mood, That soon I judged he would not wrong my quietude.

   'Ah -- the supper is just ready,'
      Then he said,
   'And the years' -- long binned Madeira
      Flashes red!'
(There was no wine, no food, no supper-table spread.)

   'You will forgive my coming,
      Lady fair?
   I see you as at that time
      Rising there,
The self-same curious querying in your eyes and hair.

   'Yet no. How so? You wear not
      The same gown,
   Your locks show woful difference,
      Are not brown:
What, is it not as when I hither came from town?

   'And the place.... But you seem other --
      Can it be?
   What's this that Time is doing
      Unto me?
You dwell here, unknown woman?... Whereabouts, then, is she?

   'And the house-things are much shifted. --
      Put them where
   They stood on this nights fellow;
      Shift her chair:
Here was the couch: and the piano should be there.'

   I indulged him, verily nerve-strained
      Being alone,
   And I moved the things as bidden.
      One by one,
And feigned to push the old piano where he had shown.

   'Aha -- now I can see her!
      Stand aside:
   Don't thrust her from the table
      Where, meek-eyed,
She makes attempt with matron-manners to preside.

   'She serves me: now she rises,
      Goes to play....
   But you obstruct her, fill her
      With dismay,
And embarrassed, scared, she vanishes away!'

   And, as 'twere useless longer
      To persist,
   He sighed, and sought the entry
      Ere I wist,
And retreated, disappearing soundless in the mist.

   That here some mighty passion
      Once had burned,
   Which still the walls enghosted,
      I discerned,
And that by its strong spell mine might be overturned.

   I sat depressed; till, later,
      My Love came;
   But something in the chamber
      Dimmed our flame, --
An emanation, making our due words fall tame,

   As if the intenser drama
      Shown me there
   Of what the walls had witnessed
      Filled the air,
And left no room for later passion anywhere.

   So came it that our fervours
      Did quite fail
   Of future consummation --
      Being made quail
By the weird witchery of the parlour's hidden tale,

   Which I, as years passed, faintly
      Learnt to trace, --
   One of sad love, born full-winged
      In that place
Where the predestined sorrowers first stood face to face.

   And as that month of winter
      Circles round,
   And the evening of the date-day
      Grows embrowned,
I am conscious of those presences, and sit spellbound.

   There, often -- lone, forsaken --
      Queries breed
   Within me; whether a phantom
      Had my heed
On that strange night, or was it some wrecked heart indeed?


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