Convict Once - Part Fourth.

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"I HAVE no heart and no time to go forth to the world, there to choose me
One who may be to my children a mother in room of the dead.
Soil-rooted, I am no more of society. I should but lose me
In its mad vortex. And yet, it behoves me to choose, and to wed.
"No more for love. As thou seest, I am old, and my summer is over.
Yet 'tis for love, too, the love of a father who fears for his own.
It is for them. Mark, I plead not in guise of a passionate lover.
Plain in my speech, what I offer are honour and duty alone.
"Beauteous I see thee; yet 'tis not thy beauty that tempts me to sue thee:
'Tis that I've noted thee faithful in many things, weighty and small.
Gifted I know thee; yet not thy attainments could tempt me to woo thee:
Nought I behold save that thou lovest them, and they thee — this is all.
"If I should say I am rich and thou poor, this were little to claim thee.
If not for love of my little ones, let my poor quest be as nought.
Cast it aside as unseemly, incongruous: I shall not blame thee.
Better my children left motherless than a false motherhood bought.
"Ponder it. Give me thine answer in peace. Be it joyous or grievous,
Thou hast my blessing: thy will shall be sacred as heaven's decree.
If thou rebukest my haste, 'tis because thou art purposed to leave us,
Therefore I speak ere thou goest; and what are the world's ways to me?"

THOU then declinest to answer me openly, till thou hast pleaded
(Well, too, thou pleadest) the cause of my child. Would my will were my power!
Mightier things than all words for the same have in vain interceded —
Her dim sad eyes, and the cheeks that are blanching from hour unto hour.
"But, from my youth up, my word has been sacred. The roots of mine honour
Must be uptorn ere I yield to the breaking of covenant vow.
Yet my heart weeps for my darling, yea, bleeds to have mercy upon her!
And I have pleaded with heaven that a way might be shown, even as thou.
"Yes, were the brand of the law on thy name — shall the mere words offend thee? —
As I have done, even thus would I do, for the love of my child.
Could thou but show me a way, it were token that heaven did send thee
That my pledged faith and her heart-wish should meet and embrace — reconciled."

DOTH the excess of joy kill? When the chalice of pleasure o'erfloweth,
Is it the time of the end? I am sick unto death of delight.
Why should I tarry when life is fulfilled, and no longer bestoweth
Anything better than that which hath been. Let me sleep. It is night.
No sleep for joy! When he brought them together, and blessed them in union,
There was a note in my heart that rang death. As I write, once again
Quivers the welcome vibration that rings in the heavenly communion.
Oh Thou that comest, come quickly, triumphant o'er death and o'er pain!
'Tis but the heart of my flesh that doth flutter. Thine infinite merit
Helpeth me mightily o'er the dark mountains that Thou too hast trod.
Into Thy hands I commend me, eternal and merciful Spirit.
Come Euthanasia! Let it be kneeling. . . . My Lord and my God!

© James Brunton Stephens