Songs with Preludes: Wedlock

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The sun was streaming in:  I woke, and said,
“Where is my wife,—­that has been made my wife
Only this year?” The casement stood ajar:
I did but lift my head:  The pear-tree dropped,
The great white pear-tree dropped with dew from leaves
And blossom, under heavens of happy blue.

My wife had wakened first, and had gone down
Into the orchard.  All the air was calm;
Audible humming filled it.  At the roots
Of peony bushes lay in rose-red heaps,
Or snowy, fallen bloom.  The crag-like hills
Were tossing down their silver messengers,
And two brown foreigners, called cuckoo-birds,
Gave them good answer; all things else were mute;
An idle world lay listening to their talk,
They had it to themselves.
  What ails my wife?
I know not if aught ails her; though her step
Tell of a conscious quiet, lest I wake.
She moves atween the almond boughs, and bends
One thick with bloom to look on it.  “O love!
A little while thou hast withdrawn thyself,
At unaware to think thy thoughts alone:
How sweet, and yet pathetic to my heart
The reason.  Ah! thou art no more thine own.
Mine, mine, O love!  Tears gather ’neath my lids,—­
Sorrowful tears for thy lost liberty,
Because it was so sweet.  Thy liberty,
That yet, O love, thou wouldst not have again.
No; all is right.  But who can give, or bless,
Or take a blessing, but there comes withal
Some pain?”
  She walks beside the lily bed,
And holds apart her gown; she would not hurt
The leaf-enfolded buds, that have not looked
Yet on the daylight.  O, thy locks are brown,—­
Fairest of colors!—­and a darker brown
The beautiful, dear, veiled, modest eyes.
A bloom as of blush roses covers her
Forehead, and throat, and cheek.  Health breathes with her,
And graceful vigor.  Fair and wondrous soul!
To think that thou art mine!
  My wife came in,
And moved into the chamber.  As for me,
I heard, but lay as one that nothing hears,
And feigned to be asleep.

The racing river leaped, and sang
  Full blithely in the perfect weather,
All round the mountain echoes rang,
  For blue and green were glad together.

This rained out light from every part,
  And that with songs of joy was thrilling;
But, in the hollow of my heart,
  There ached a place that wanted filling.

Before the road and river meet,
  And stepping-stones are wet and glisten,
I heard a sound of laughter sweet,
  And paused to like it, and to listen.

I heard the chanting waters flow,
  The cushat’s note, the bee’s low humming,—­
Then turned the hedge, and did not know,—­
  How could I?—­that my time was coming.

A girl upon the nighest stone,
  Half doubtful of the deed, was standing,
So far the shallow flood had flown
  Beyond the ’customed leap of landing.

She knew not any need of me,
  Yet me she waited all unweeting;
We thought not I had crossed the sea,
  And half the sphere to give her meeting.

I waded out, her eyes I met,
  I wished the moment had been hours;
I took her in my arms, and set
  Her dainty feet among the flowers.

Her fellow maids in copse and lane,
  Ah! still, methinks, I hear them calling;
The wind’s soft whisper in the plain,
  The cushat’s coo, the water’s falling.

But now it is a year ago,
  But now possession crowns endeavor;
I took her in my heart, to grow
  And fill the hollow place forever.

© Jean Ingelow