by: Arthur Symons (1865-1945)


      AST night I saw you decked to meet
      The coming of those most reluctant feet:
      The little bonnet that you wear
      When you would fain, for his sake, be more fair;
      The primrose ribbons that so grace
      The perfect pallor of your face;
      The dark gown folded back about the throat,
      The folds of lacework that denote
      All that beneath them, just beneath them, lies,
      Waiting his eyes.
      So the man came and took you; and we lay
      So near and yet so far away,
      You in his arms, awake for joy, and I
      Awake for very misery,
      Cursing a sleepless brain that would but scrawl
      Your image on the aching wall,
      That would but pang me with the sense
      Of that most sweet accursed violence
      Of lovers' hands that weary to caress
      (Those hands!) your unforbidden loveliness.
      And with the dawn that vision came again
      To think your body, warm and white,
      Lay in his arms all night;
      That it was given him to surprise,
      With those unhallowed eyes,
      The secrets of your beauty, hid from me,
      That I may never (may I never?) see:
      I who adore you, he who finds in you
      (Poor child!) a half-forgotten point of view.


      As I lay on the stranger's bed,
      And clasped the stranger-woman I had hired,
      Desiring only memory dead
      Of all that I had once desired;
      It was then that I wholly knew
      How wholly I had loved you, and, my friend,
      While I am I, and you are you,
      How I must love you to the end.
      For I lay in her arms awake,
      Awake and cursing the indifferent night,
      That ebbed so slowly, for your sake,
      My heart's desire, my soul's delight;
      For I lay in her arms awake,
      Awake in such a solitude of shame,
      That when I kissed her, for your sake,
      My lips were sobbing on your name.

"To One in Alienation" is reprinted from Poetica Erotica. Ed. T.R. Smith. New York: Crown Publishers, 1921.




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