The Virgin

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Arms that have never held me; lips of himWho should have been for me; hair most beloved,I would have smoothed so gently; steadfast eyes,Half-closed, yet gazing at me through the dusk;And hands.-you sympathetic human hands,I would have everlastingly adored,To which I have so often tendered mineAcross the gulf, O far, far, far awayUnwilling hands; and voice of him I have dreamedSo often in the evening by the fire,Whose step I have heard approaching, at the doorPausing, but never entering: O tallAnd well-beloved imaginary form-I curse you! Is the silence of the nightNot mine, but you must haunt it? Are my dreamsNot mine, but you must fill them? There were daysI had some little beauty for you.-WhyCame you not then? What kept you? Now my lipsAre feverish with longing, and mine eyes,Wanton with expectation. Where are you?In what moon-haunted garden? By what stream?Where whisper you your vows? Among what flowers,(Which bloom though I am barren)? To what maidOf cream and rose in muslin?.-And her handTouches you lightly, while you tremble. SheHad waited also; but you came to her.I would not be revengeful.-yet of lateI dream of every maiden I behold,She may have won you from me. Oh, believe!None other can have loved you as I would.So long, so long have I imagined you;Yea, from my foolish girlhood, every nightHave held you in my arms. Forgive me, love!You seemed so nearly mine; and every morningI cried ."To-day!." And often in my prayersWhen I would try to think of Jesus Christ,It only seemed as if I thought of you.Oh, surely I deserved some better fateThan this black barren destitution. IAm made of flesh, and I have tingling nerves:My blood is always hot, and I desireThe touch of gentle hands upon my faceTo cool it, as the moonlight cools the earth.There is no peace. In spring, the turtle dovesMadden me with their crooning, and the treesWhisper all day together. EverywhereThere is some festival of love. Alas,Men in all places openly declareLove is the world, and maidens, with a blush,Hint beautiful devotion. Know they notI am a woman.-I could too have served?Sometimes (young matrons look upon me so),I laugh aloud in everybody's faceInstead of weeping, for I have to chooseQuickly. That sudden laugh without a causeHas grown into a habitude of late:Thus people stare at me, and shake their heads,And sign to one another with their eyes.Then afterwards I always have to goAlone to drench my pillow with my tears .ÀæYou, you, who have not loved me, who have foundSome other consolation in the world,Who are my cause and complement of woe,Say, what can be achieved through such as I?I cannot change the pattern of my soul.It surely is not evil to desire:Mothers desire their children, and the priestDesires his God; the earth desires the sun;And I lean out in agony for you;So very long I had expected you:I was not wanton till you did not come.Whoever you may be, hear me at last!Faintly, I do implore you for your hands:I grope to find them. Stay! I have becomeSo humble now, that meekly I will followWhatever way you lead me through the world.I have no habitation of my own.Unsacred is my room, mine imagesUnconsecrated, and my lonely bedHaunted with memories of the wakeful nightAll void of love, and of the barren dawn.It is so weary to begin the days,To stir, wake, wonder, rise, and breathe again:O how much longer must I tolerateThe flowerless repetition of the hours,And little occupations without cause?Love! Love! I want to lay my body out,To be all covered over, to receive;I want to hold, and fasten, and be held:I hunger; I am starved .Àæ And I have thoughtSometimes men gazed upon me half in fear,As though they guessed my hunger. Gracious God!I am not vile: I only would obeyThy law, as thine own stars obey.-they rushLove-swift togeher, and a million sunsProceed from that embrace. The stars! IndeedThe filthy worm that feeds upon the corpseObeys thee also.-loves, and is beloved;Yet I must clasp my cold hands desperately,Feed on my strained flesh, and captive soulMust beat against the black bars. I was bornThrough love; I was created by the lawThat makes the low worm equal with the stars:My father held my mother in his arms,And while she trembled with delight of him,I was conceived, and holy was the hour.-But I shall die for want of being loved.Truly it is not just. With my despairI am a creature so lascivious now,That no one anywhere is safe. Mine eyesWander and rest, and wander and devour.I meditate on subtle-hearted plans,And small deceits, and rasping jealousies.My voice is sour or bitter, and I blushSuddenly without reason, or I hangFor reassurance on some trivial wordsSpoken in jest, or suddenly I feelCovered with guilty shame, and swift must goTo drench my lonely pillow with my tears.Or I seek out the mirror, with mine eyesTo gaze in mine own eyes, and smooth my hair,Or sometimes to adorn it with a rose,Imagining I may be beautiful.Indeed, indeed, my hair is very black,My skin most white.-most pallid .Àæ O you powersThat guard the destiny of woman, youHave wronged me somehow: surely you have erred.What consolation have you left for me?Indeed I had been worthy of some love:I cannot keep my thoughts away from that,That always.-for my life is on the leash:I have not ever yet begun to live.But after benediction of warm arms,After delight of consecrative hands,After firm, hot and sympathetic lipsPressed hard upon me.-afterward my fleshHad leapt to vigour; my disjointed thoughtsHad followed one another in stern trainOf consequence. My life would have begun:I should have been beloved .Àæ Alas! Oh God!God! Where has passion led me? To what shame!I have become a harlot in my thoughts.I am no fit companion for myself.I must begin again, must wash my soul,Accept my fate in silence, and be pure.There is some consolation. Have I notNeglected my devotion? I must pray.Will He not help me if I pray to Him?Are there not many virgins in the worldWho yield their spirits to Him, and so remainSilent, reflective, beautiful? But IRage like a wanton. Though the days be long,And God seem always absent, though the nightsBe longer; nevertheless I will be pure .ÀæYet know I many mothers without taint;Silent, reflective, beautiful are they,Being beloved.-and surely they are pure.God! God! You are not just, for you yourselfWere known unto a virgin, and your sonWas born, and you had your delight therein.You are not just, and your Heaven is too far;I cannot fix my countenance on you:I have too much devotion for the earth.You should descend upon me, for I gaspTo hold and to possess some living form.Alas! My life is dragging from its prime.My days are bitter with salt tears. Lo, IShall pass into the shadow, and the gloomWill fold me hard about. I shall decaySlowly like withered flowers. The atmosphereWill sicken all around me. I shall droopTowards that tomb, shall stumble, and shall fall.My body will be covered with rank earth.My nostrils will be stopped. I shall remainAlone and unbeloved for evermore.

© Harold Monro