Charles Harpur

Love Sonnets

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I.
HOW beautiful doth the morning rise
O’er the hills, as from her bower a bride
Comes brightened—blushing with the shame-faced pride
Of love that now consummated supplies
All her full heart can wish, and to the eyes
Dear are the flowers then, in their green haunts spied,
Glist ning with dew: pleasant at noon the side
Of shadowy mountains ridging to the skies:
At eve ’tis sweet to hear the breeze advance
Through the responding forest dense and tall;
And sweeter in the moonlight is the dance
And natural music of the waterfall:
And yet we feel not the full charm of all,
Till love be near us with his magic glance.


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II.
WHY tower my spirits, and what means this wild
Commotion at my heart—this dreamy chase
Of possible joys that glow like stars in space?
Now feel I even to all things reconciled,
As all were one in spirit. Rudely up-piled
Brown hills grow beautiful; a novel grace
Exalts the moorland’s once unmeaning face;
The river that, like a pure mind beguiled,
Grows purer for its errors, and the trees
That fringe its margin with a dusky shade,
Seem robed in fairy wonder; and are these
Exalted thus because with me surveyed
By one sweet sould whom well they seem to please
Here at my side—an almost stranger maid?


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III.
NOW sunny, as the noontide heavens, are
The eyes of my sweet friend, and now serene
And chastely shadowy in their maiden mien;
Or dream-power, sparkling like a brilliant star
Fills all their blue depths, taking me afar
To where, in the rich past, through song is seen
Some sovereign beauty, knighthood’s mystic queen,
Pluming with love the iron brows of war!
Bright eyes before, with subtle lightning glance
Have kindled all my being into one
Wild tumult; but a charm thus to enhance
My heart’s love-loyalty till now had none!
And can this witchery be the work of chance?
I know not—I but know my rest is gone.


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IV.
A VAST and shadowy hope breaks up my rest
Unspoken; nor dares even my pen to write
How my pent spirit pineth day and night
For one fair love with whom I might be blest!
And ever with vague jealousies possessed
The more I languish, feeling these may so
Oppress affection that for very woe
She longs at last to die deep buried in my breast!
O for a beaker of the wine of love,
Or a deep draught of the Lethèan wave!
The power a mutual passion to emove,
Or that repose which sealeth up the grave!
Yet these my bonds are blameless; one more wise
Had dreamt away his freedom, dreaming of her eyes.


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V.
HER image haunts me! Lo! I muse at even,
And straight it gathers from the gloom, to make
My soul its mirror; which (as some still lake
Holds pictured in its depths the face of heaven)
Through the hushed night retains it: when ’tis given
To take a warmer presence and incline
A glowing cheek burning with love to mine,
Saying—“The heart for which thou long hast stiven
With looks so fancy-pale, I grant thee now;
And if for ruth, yet more for love’s sweet sake,
My lips shall seal this promise on thy brow. ”
Thus blest in sleep—oh! Who would care to wake,
When the cold real from his belief must shake
Such vows, like blossoms from a shattered bough?


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VI.
SHE loves me! From her own bliss-breathing lips
The live confession came, like rich perfume
From crimson petals bursting into bloom!
And still my heart at the remembrance skips
Like a young lion, and my tongue too trips
As drunk with joy! While very object seen
In life’s diurnal round wears in its mien
A clear assurance that no doubts eclipse.
And if the common things of nature now
Are like old faces flushed with new delight,
Much more the consciousness of that rich vow
Deepens the beauteous, and refines the bright,
While throned I seem on love’s divinest height
Mid all the glories glowing round its brow.


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VII.
FAIR as the day—a genial day serene
Of early summer, when the vital air
Breathes as ’twere God’s own breath, and blossoms rare
Fill many a bush, or nestle in between
The heapy folds of nature’s mantle green,
As they were happier for the joint joy there
Of birds and bees;—so genial, and so fair
And rich in pleasure, is my life’s sole queen.
My spirit in the sunshine of her grace
Glows with intenser being, and my veins
Fill as with nectar! In your pride of place
Ye mighty, boast! Ye rich, heap gold space!
I envy nor your grandeur nor your gains,
Thus gazing at the heaven of her face!


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VIII.
FAIR as the night—when all the astral fires
Of heaven are burning in the clear expanse,
My love is, and her eyes like star-depths glance
Lustrous with glowing thoughts and pure desires,
And that mysterious pathos which inspires
All moods divine in mortal passion’s trance—
All that its earthly music doth enhance
As with the rapture of seraphic lyres!
I gaze upon her till the atmosphere
Sweetens intensely, and to my charmed sight
All fair associated forms appear
Swimming in joy, as swim yon orbs in light—
And all sweet sounds, though common, to mine ear
Chime up like silver-winged dreams in flight.


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IX.
TO-DAY we part! I far away to dwell
From this the scene that saw our bud of love
Bloom into rosehood. The blue heavens above—
These hills and valleys, with each rocky dell,
Echo’s dim hold,—shall these retain no spell
Of foregone passion? Shall they speak no tale
Of grief they shrouded in this shaded vale?
Shall they of all our joy the story tell?
To-morrow—and the sun shall climb yon hill
Bright as before; all winged things shall wake
To song as glad as if we listened still;
The stream as mirthfully its wild way make.
But I, pursuing fortune’s wandering star,
Shall see and hear them not—from thee and them afar.


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X.
ABSENCE
NIGHTLY I watch the moon with silvery sheen
Flaking the city house-tops—till I feel
Thy memory, dear one, like a presence steal
Down in her light; for always in her mien
Thy soul’s similitude my soul hath seen!
And as she seemeth now—a guardian seal
On heaven’s far bliss, upon my future weal
Even such thy truth is—radiantly serene.
But long my fancy may not entertain
These bright resemblances—for lo! A cloud
Blots her away! And in my breast the pain
Of absent love recurring pines aloud!
When shall I look in thy bright eyes again?
O my beloved with like sadness bowed!


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XI.
THERE is a trying spirit in the drift
Of human life, apportioning the prize
(In that true quality wherein it lies)
That each one seeketh, to that seeker’s gift.
Hence must he suffer many a perilous shift
Who unto fame by martial deeds would rise;
Hence look at liberty with lion-eyes
Must he who’d make the march of man more swift:
Hence heaven’s best crown, more glorious than the sun,
Is only gained by dying for our kind;
And hence, too, true love’s highest meed is won
Only through agonies of heart and mind.
Such, dear one, is the fate (and therefore ours)
Of all whom love would crown with faith’s divinest flowers.


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XII.
THE VOYAGE to that haven of true love
Was ever stormy since the world began,
Or story from its earliest fountain ran;
Teaching us truly that the gods approve,
In the superior destinies of man,
Only what most the noblest hearts shall move:
Hence was Leander’s life so brief a span,
Who, weltering a mortal while above
The bursting wave, sent on his soul to where
The Maid of Sestos from her watch-tower’s height
Looked for his coming through the troubled air,
Nor knew that he had died for her that night!
Hence Sappho’s fatal leap! (The cause the same)
Hence too was Petrarch’s heart the martyr of his flame!


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XIII.
LOSS follows gain, and sadness waits on mirth,
And much is wasted where too much is given;
We cannot fully have our joy on earth
Without diminishing our joy in heaven.
Envy dogs merit; madness neighbours wit;
Stale is their gladness who were never sad;
And Dives in this fleshly life, ’tis writ,
Received his good things, Lazarus his bad.
Thus, dearest, o’er the waves of many things
My troubled mind, even like a ship, is tossed,
And from the quest this only inference brings:
That true love in its earthly course is crossed,
Lest by dull worldly usage it should be
Too worldly cramped to soar in large eternity.

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Charles Harpur