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Edgar Lee Masters (1868–1950). Spoon River Anthology. 1916.

199. Caroline Branson

WITH our hearts like drifting suns, had we but walked,

As often before, the April fields till star-light

Silkened over with viewless gauze the darkness

Under the cliff, our trysting place in the wood,

Where the brook turns! Had we but passed from wooing

Like notes of music that run together, into winning,

In the inspired improvisation of love!

But to put back of us as a canticle ended

The rapt enchantment of the flesh,

In which our souls swooned, down, down,

Where time was not, nor space, nor ourselves—

Annihilated in love!

To leave these behind for a room with lamps:

And to stand with our Secret mocking itself,

And hiding itself amid flowers and mandolins,

Stared at by all between salad and coffee.

And to see him tremble, and feel myself

Prescient, as one who signs a bond—

Not flaming with gifts and pledges heaped

With rosy hands over his brow.

And then, O night! deliberate! unlovely!

With all of our wooing blotted out by the winning,

In a chosen room in an hour that was known to all!

Next day he sat so listless, almost cold,

So strangely changed, wondering why I wept,

Till a kind of sick despair and voluptuous madness

Seized us to make the pact of death.

A stalk of the earth-sphere,

Frail as star-light;

Waiting to be drawn once again

Into creation’s stream.

But next time to be given birth

Gazed at by Raphael and St. Francis

Sometimes as they pass.

For I am their little brother,

To be known clearly face to face

Through a cycle of birth hereafter run.

You may know the seed and the soil;

You may feel the cold rain fall,

But only the earth-sphere, only heaven

Knows the secret of the seed

In the nuptial chamber under the soil.

Throw me into the stream again,

Give me another trial—

Save me, Shelley!