Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 191. The Lover
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Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  
191. The Lover
By Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy  (1844–1881)
  
I WAS not with the rest at play;
  My brothers laughed in joyous mood:
But I—I wandered far away
  Into the fair and silent wood;
  And with the trees and flowers I stood,        5
As dumb and full of dreams as they:
—For One it seemed my whole heart knew,
  Or One my heart had known long since,
Was peeping at me through the dew;
And with bright laughter seemed to woo       10
  My beauty, like a Fairy prince.
 
Oh, what a soft enchantment filled
  The lonely paths and places dim!
It was as though the whole wood thrilled,
  And a dumb joy, because of him,       15
  Weighed down the lilies tall and slim,
And made the roses blush, and stilled
The great wild voices in half fear:
  It was as though his smile did hold
  All things in trances manifold;       20
And in each place as he drew near
  The leaves were touched and turned to gold…
 
But more and more he seemed to seek
  My heart: till, dreaming of all this,
I thought one day to hear him speak,       25
  Or feel, indeed, his sudden kiss
  Bind me to some great unknown bliss:
Then there would stay upon my cheek
  Full many a light and honied stain,
  That told indeed how I had lain       30
Deep in the flowery banks all day;
  And round me too there would remain
Some strange wood-blossom’s scent alway.…
 
—O, the incomparable love
  Of him, my Lover!—O, to tell       35
Its way and measure were above
  The throbbing chords of speech that swell
  Within me!—Doth it not excel
All other, sung or written of?
Yea now, O all ye fair mankind—       40
  Consider well the gracious line
Of those your lovers; call to mind
Their love of you, and ye shall find
  Not one among them all like mine.
 
It seems as though, from calm to calm,       45
  A whole fair age had passed me by,
Since first this Lover, through a charm
  Of flowers, wooed so tenderly,
  I had no fear of drawing nigh,
Nor knew, indeed, that—with an arm       50
Closed round and holding me—he led
  My eager way from sight to sight
  Of all the summer magic—right
To where himself had surely spread
  Some pleasant snare for my delight.       55
 
And now, in an eternal sphere,
  Beneath one flooding look of his—
Wherein, all beautiful and dear,
  That endless melting gold that is
  His love, with flawless memories       60
Grows ever richer and more clear—
  My life seems held, as some faint star
  Beneath its sun: and through the far
Celestial distances for miles,
  To where vast mirage futures are,       65
I trace the gilding of his smiles.…
 
For, one by one, e’en as I rise,
  And feel the pure Ethereal
Refining all before my eyes:
  Whole beauteous worlds material       70
  Are seen to enter gradual
The great transparent paradise
Of this my dream; and, all revealed,
  To break upon me more and more
Their inward singing souls, and yield       75
A wondrous secret half concealed
  In all their loveliness before.
 
And so, when, through unmeasured days,
  The far effulgence of the sea
Is holding me in long amaze,       80
  And stealing with strange ecstasy
  My heart all opened silently;—
There reach me, from among the sprays,
Ineffable faint words that sing
  Within me,—how, for me alone,       85
One who is lover—who is King,
  Hath dropt, as ’twere a precious stone,
  That sea—a symbol of his throne.…
 
And, through the long charmed solitude
  Of throbbing moments, whose strong link       90
Is one delicious hope pursued
  From trance to trance, the while I think
  And know myself upon the brink
Of His eternal kiss,—endued
With part of him, the very wind       95
  Hath power to ravish me in sips
Or long mad wooings that unbind
My hair,—wherein I truly find
  The magic of his unseen lips.
 
And, so almighty is the thrill      100
  I feel at many a faintest breath
Or stir of sound—as ’twere a rill
  Of joy traversing me, or death
  Dissolving all that hindereth
My thought from power to fulfil      105
Some new embodiment of bliss,—
  I do consume with the immense
Delight as of some secret kiss,
  And am become like one whose sense
  Is used with raptures too intense!…      110
 
Yea, mystic consummation! yea,
  O wondrous suitor,—whosoe’er
Thou art; that in such mighty way,
  In distant realms, athwart the air
  And lands and seas, with all things fair      115
Hast wooed me even till this day;—
It seems thou drawest near to me;
Or I, indeed, so nigh to thee,
  I catch rare breaths of a delight
From thy most glorious country, see      120
  Its distant glow upon some height.…
 
O thou my Destiny! O thou
  My own—my very Love—my Lord!
Whom from the first day until now
  My heart, divining, hath adored      125
  So perfectly it hath abhorred
The tie of each frail human vow—
O I would whisper in thine ear—
  Yea, may I not, once, in the clear
Pure night, when, only, silver shod      130
  The angels walk?—thy name, I fear
And love, and tremble saying—GOD!

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