In Notre Dame

Charles G.D. Roberts

When first did I perceive you, when take heed
Of what is now so deep in heart and brain
That tears shall not efface it, nor the greed
Of time or fate destroy, nor scorn, nor pain?

Long summers back I trembled to the vision
Of your keen beauty,—a delirious sense
That he you loved might hold in like derision
Or Hell or Heaven, or sin or innocence.

This in my heart of hearts, while outwardly
Nor speech nor guarded glance my dream betrayed;
Till one day, so past thought you maddened me,
My dream escaped my lips, glad and afraid.

Afraid, where no fear was. For lo, the gift
(Worlds could not purchase it) was mine, was mine!
And oh, my Sweet, how swift we went adrift
On wild sweet waters, warmer-hued than wine!

My very eyes are dizzy with delight
At your recalled caresses. Peace, my heart!
She whom you beat so wild for lies to-night
From you too many bitter leagues apart.

Be calm, and I will talk to you of her;
And you shall listen, passionately still;
And as the pauses in my verse recur,
Think, heart, all this does fealty to your will!

All this,—a lithe and perfect-moulded form,
Instinct with subtle gesture, soft, intense.
Head small and queenlike, dainty feet that warm
Even the dull world's ways into rapturous sense.

Clear, broad, white forehead, crowned low down with hair
Darker than night, more soft than sleep or tears.
Nose neither small nor great, but straight, and fair.
Like naught but smooth sea-shells her delicate ears.

But how to tell about her mouth and eyes!
Her strange, sweet, maddening eyes, her subtle mouth!
Mouth in whose closure all love's sweetness lives,—
Eyes with the warm gleam of the lustrous south!

Fathomless dusk by night, the day lets in
Glimmer of emerald,—thus those eyes of hers!
Above the firm sweep of the moulded chin
The lips, than whose least kiss Heaven's gifts were worse.

Her bosom,—ah that now my head were laid!
Warm in that resting-place! But, heart, be still!
I will refrain, and break my dreams, afraid
To stir the yearning I can not fulfil.

Love, in the northern night of Brittany
Hear you no voice divide the night like flame?
In these gray walls the inmost soul of me
Is swooning with the music of your name.

From In Divers Tones.

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Added 22 November 2008.
Updated 22 November 2008.