by: George Sylvester Viereck (1884-1962)

      LAY beside you ... on your lips the while
      Hovered, most strange ... the mirage of a smile,
      Such as a minstrel lover might have seen
      Upon the visage of some antique queen--
      Flickering like flame, half choked by wind and dust,
      Weary of all things saving song and lust.
      How many days and years and lovers' lies
      Gave you your knowledge? You are very wise
      And tired, yet insatiate to the last.
      These things I thought, but said not; and there passed
      Before my vision in voluptuous quest,
      The pageant of the lovers who possessed
      Your soul and body even as I possess,
      Who marked your passions in its nakedness
      And all your love-sins when your love was new.
      They saw as I your quivering breast, and drew
      Nearer to the consuming flame that burns
      Deep to the marrow of my bone, and turns
      My heart to love even as theirs who knew
      From head to girdle each sweet curve of you,
      Each little way of loving. No caress,
      But apes the part of former loves. Ah yes,
      Even thus your hand toyed in the locks of him
      Who came before me. Was he fair of limb
      Or very dark? What matter, with such lures
      You snared the hearts of all your paramours!
      To-night I feel the presence of the others,
      Your lovers were they and are now my brothers
      And I have nothing that has not been theirs,
      No single bloom the tree of passion bears
      They have not plucked. Belovèd, can it be?
      Is there no gift that you reserve for me--
      No loving kindness or no subtle sin,
      No secret shrine that none has entered in,
      Whither no mocking memories pursue
      Love's wistful pilgrim? I am weary too,
      With weariness of all your lovers, when
      I follow in the ways of other men,
      I know each spot of your sweet body is
      A cross, the tombstone of some perished kiss.
      A touch ... and an innumerable host
      Of shadows rises ... at each side a ghost.
      Withal its beauty and its faultless grace
      Your body, dearest, is a haunted place.
      When I did yield to passion's swift demand,
      One of your lovers touched me with his hand.
      And in the pangs of amorous delight
      I hear strange voices calling through the night.

"The Haunted House" is reprinted from Nineveh and Other Poems. George Sylvester Viereck. New York: Moffat, Yard & Co., 1907.




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