Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 340. Emblems of Love
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Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  
340. Emblems of Love
By Lascelles Abercrombie  (b. 1881)
  
She

ONLY to be twin elements of joy
In this extravagance of Being, Love,
Were our divided natures shaped in twain;
And to this hour the whole world must consent.
Is it not very marvellous, our lives        5
Can only come to this out of a long
Strange sundering, with the years of the world between us?
 
He

  Shall life do more than God? for hath not God
Striven with himself, when into known delight
His unaccomplisht joy he would put forth,—       10
This mystery of a world sign of his striving?
Else wherefore this, a thing to break the mind
With labouring in the wonder of it, that here
Being—the world and we—is suffered to be!—
But, lying on thy breast one notable day,       15
Sudden exceeding agony of love
Made my mind a trance of infinite knowledge.
I was not: yet I saw the will of God
As light unfashion’d, unendurable flame,
Interminable, not to be supposed;       20
And there was no more creature except light,—
The dreadful burning of the lonely God’s
Unutter’d joy. And then, past telling, came
Shuddering and division in the light:
Therein, like trembling, was desire to know       25
Its own perfect beauty; and it became
A cloven fire, a double flaming, each
Adorable to each; against itself
Waging a burning love, which was the world;—
A moment satisfied in that love-strife       30
I knew the world!—And when I fell from there,
Then knew I also what this life would do
In being twin,—in being man and woman!
For it would do even as its endless Master,
Making the world, had done; yea, with itself       35
Would strive, and for the strife would into sex
Be cloven, double burning, made thereby
Desirable to itself. Contrivèd joy
Is sex in life; and by no other thing
Than by a perfect sundering, could life       40
Change the dark stream of unappointed joy
To perfect praise of itself, the glee that loves
And worships its own Being. This is ours!
Yet only for that we have been so long
Sundered desire: thence is our life all praise.—       45
But we, well knowing by our strength of joy
There is no sundering more, how far we love
From those sad lives that know a half-love only,
Alone thereby knowing themselves for ever
Sealed in division of love, and therefore made       50
To pour their strength always into their love’s
Fierceness, as green wood bleeds its hissing sap
Into red heat of a fire! Not so do we:
The cloven anger, life, hath left to wage
Its flame against itself, here turned to one       55
Self-adoration.—Ah, what comes of this?
The joy falters a moment, with closed wings
Wearying in its upward journey, ere
Again it goes on high, bearing its song,
Its delight breathing and its vigour beating       60
The highest height of the air above the world.
 
She

  What hast thou done to me!—I would have soul,
Before I knew thee, Love, a captive held
By flesh. Now, inly delighted with desire,
My body knows itself to be nought else       65
But thy heart’s worship of me; and my soul
Therein is sunlight held by warm gold air.
Nay, all my body is become a song
Upon the breath of spirit, a love-song.
 
He

  And mine is all like one rapt faculty,
       70
As it were listening to the love in thee,
My whole mortality trembling to take
Thy body like heard singing of thy spirit.
 
She

  Surely by this, Beloved, we must know
Our love is perfect here,—that not as holds       75
The common dullard thought, we are things lost
In an amazement that is all unware;
But wonderfully knowing what we are!
Lo, now that body is the song whereof
Spirit is mood, knoweth not our delight?       80
Knoweth not beautifully now our love,
That Life, here to this festival bid come
Clad in his splendour of worldly day and night,
Filled and empower’d by heavenly lust, is all
The glad imagination of the Spirit?       85
 
He

  Were it not so, Love could not be at all:
Nought could be, but a yearning to fulfil
Desire of beauty, by vain reaching forth
Of sense to hold and understand the vision
Made by impassion’d body,—vision of thee!       90
But music mixt with music are, in love,
Bodily senses; and as flame hath light,
Spirit this nature hath imagined round it,
No way concealed therein, when love comes near,
Nor in the perfect wedding of desires       95
Suffering any hindrance.
 
She

  Ah, but now,
Now am I given love’s eternal secret!
Yea, thou and I who speak, are but the joy
Of our for ever mated spirits; but now      100
The wisdom of my gladness even through Spirit
Looks, divinely elate. Who hath for joy
Our Spirits? Who hath imagined them
Round him in fashion’d radiance of desire,
As into light of these exulting bodies      105
Flaming Spirit is uttered?
 
He

  Yea, here the end
Of love’s astonishment! Now know we Spirit,
And Who, for ease of joy, contriveth Spirit.
Now all life’s loveliness and power we have      110
Dissolved in this one moment, and our burning
Carries all shining upward, till in us
Life is not life, but the desire of God,
Himself desiring and himself accepting.
Now what was prophecy in us is made      115
Fulfilment: we are the hour and we are the joy,
We in our marvellousness of single knowledge,
Of Spirit breaking down the room of fate
And drawing into his light the greeting fire
Of God,—God known in ecstasy of love      120
Wedding himself to utterance of himself.

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