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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Stolen Soul

By George Edgar Montgomery (1855–1898)

[Born in New York, N. Y., 1856. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.]

DEAD, dead!—the nights glide swiftly on,

The days fly past in swallow-herds,

And if the sun had never shone,

If there were neither night nor day,

Nor life that speaks in thrilling words,

Nor song to carol grief away:

The world could not be darker now,

Darker to me, who sit alone

With my despair. For she is dead,

Like the last breath of summer flown,

She whom I taught to disavow

The God whose mystery she had read.

’Twas I who robbed her of her wings,

And while her spirit soared and sang,

Dragged her from heaven; ’twas I who sprang

Thief-like upon her, thief-like stole

Her simple faith in holy things,

The glory of her soul.

And yet I loved her, loved her! She

Gave more than woman’s love to me,

To me who held as light as dreams

The faith by which her soul could see.

I knew her voice in wind and breeze,

In brawls of woodland brooks and streams,

And in the music of the trees;

There were no deeper, starrier skies

Than the dusk splendor of her eyes;

And when she spoke it seemed I heard

The tremulous rapture of a bird.

Why did she love me? Cruel fate

That would not turn her love to hate,

That bound us ever heart to heart!

She was fair

As the wild flowers, and innocent

As youth before its charm is spent.

She was the very gentlest part

Of all things that are sweet and rare.

Oh! she was Nature’s happy child,

Full of the grace of happy years:

For her the world was undefiled,

For her there were no bitter fears,

No mad regrets, no burning tears:

She looked up at the stars and smiled,

And when she bowed in humble prayer

I felt the spot was hallowed where

Her rose-lips whispered to the air.

I was her teacher: day by day

I strove to tear the veil away

Which, like the dust that hides a seed,

Hid all I worshipped as the truth

From the bright vision of her youth.

I taught her to deny the creed

That God is what the preacher saith—

Ruler of life and king of death,

That love, the perfect love of earth,

Shall find in death immortal birth—

And she, who knew not any sin,

Nor any blind desire to win

What a child’s instinct cannot know,

She listened, with a mind distraught,

Because she loved me—till the glow

Of faith had faded from her sight,

And she was wholly mine at last:

My truth became her truth, my thought

Her thought, my knowledge the dim light

Which showed the world’s way from the past.

I triumphed … She is dead … They say

I broke her heart and drove her mad,

As if some frost of winter had

Driven death into the heart of May.

And still I loved her … It may be

That such poor wisdom as men know,

Men who are wisest in their age,

Stops short of truth. Which man is he

That tells the mocker from the sage,

The friend he harbors from the foe?…

God lived for her, yet not for me,

And I the teacher! At the end

God lived for neither: so she died.

And now! Why do I tremble, bend?

Shall a man’s heart undo his pride,

And teach him that his tongue has lied?…

If I spoke falsely when I spoke

What seemed the truth! Ah, then I should

Kneel like a pale priest at his shrine,

Kneel in a ghostly gloom alone,

And pray that she, who was divine,

She whom I robbed of utter good,

Shall be at last God’s very own:

Lost, lost to me, as one unknown

To earth, to such a love as mine.