From: The Bird and the Bell with Other Poems (1875)
Author: Christopher Pearse Cranch
Published: Osgood and Company 1875 Boston


ONCE we called each other friends.
‘T was no formal greeting
When we clasped each other’s hands;
Soul with soul came meeting.
Long ago I loved your books,
(They first drew me to you);
Loved you better than you thought;
Ere I saw you knew you.
Other friends now come between,
Other love outstrips me.
Can my light be then so dull
That they all eclipse me?
Often have I longed for you;
Often have I wondered
Why we two, whose thoughts were one,
Ever should be sundered.

There are those who cling to you
As their lamp and fuel,
Or who wear you on their fronts
Like a glittering jewel;
Those who think to gild their rust
With your fame’s reflection,
Vainly dreaming that they stand
In your best affection;
Happy if they can be seen
With you closely talking,
Proud, if arm in arm with you
In the street, they’re walking.
Though they press so near, and live
In your smiles and glances,
Never are they so near as one
Linked with all your fancies,—
One who reads the Poet’s thought
Through his pages gleaming,
Following him from depth to depth
In his subtlest dreaming;
And who feels in firm accord
Listener and singer,—
Vibrating beneath your touch—
Bell-chimes to the ringer.
Yet I never said how much
All your poems moved me.
Love, I said, must answer love,
For I thought you loved me.

Time and space and circumstance
Barred me from your presence.
Then behind your veils you seemed
Some dim phosphorescence.
Half-transparent window-shades
Told where you were sitting,
And your astral lamp, half blurred,
Threw your shadow flitting
Up against the curtain-folds.
“There,” I said, “his place is.”
Soon came other silhouettes,
But all stranger-faces.
Said I: “He is feasting there
Friends for this night only.
When the guests are gone, he’ll come
Where I’m waiting lonely;—
Waiting, leaning at the door,
While his intonations
Rise and fall for other ears.
So I wait with patience.

For that voice I know so well,
With those merry fellows,
Talks for them, but sings for me:
Can I then be jealous?
When the festal lights are out,
And heaven’s stairs are shining,
He will clasp me by the hand.
Arm in arm entwining,
We will pace his garden-walks,
Of the past discoursing.
All his heart will open, free
From convention’s forcing.
As old friends who feel no cloud
Overcast their greeting,
Such shall be our cordial grasp,
Such our joyous meeting.
Ah, the pleasant dream is o’er!
Now his guests are going,
He but stands upon the step;
And a wind is blowing
Somewhat chill between his words,
Which to me are sorrow.
For he saith, “‘T is very late
Can you come to-rnorrow?”
Ah, to-morrow, dreary word!
When we feel “Now only.”
And the bolt slides in the door,
And the night is lonely.
And not e’en these parting guests
Deign a conversation.
Theirs the warm adieu of love,
Mine its desolation.

“Were we far from fashion’s forms,
In some desert gloomy,
You might learn to know me then;
For you never knew me!
Time and space will now build up
The old wall between us.
Can the sculptor warm to life
His cold marble Venus?
Fate has given one world to you,
And to me another.
We can never cross her bars,
Though you were my brother.
On your hearth the fires will glow,
I shall see the ashes;
All that I shall know of you
Will be distant flashes.
I will read your books again;
They at least will lead me
Into walks where we may meet,
Though you do not need me.
I will fancy you the same
As in that bright weather
Ere this cold estrangement came,—
You and I together.
You and I will speak in dreams
Loves not unrequited,
As we met ten years ago,
Happy and united.”

ROME, 1859.

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