Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 3/Violet


She stood where I had used to wait
For her, beneath the gaunt old yew,
And near a column of the gate
That open’d on the avenue.

The moss that capp’d its granite ball,
The grey and yellow lichen stains,
The ivy on the old park wall,
Were glossy with the morning rains.

She stood, amid such tearful gloom;
But close behind her, out of reach,
Lay many a mound of orchard bloom,
And trellis’d blossoms of the peach.

Those peaches blooming to the south,
Those orchard blossoms, seem’d to me
Like kisses of her rosy mouth,
Revived on trellis and on tree:

Kisses, that die not when the thrill
Of joy that answer’d them is mute;
But such as turn to use, and fill
The summer of our days with fruit.

And she, impressing half the sole
Of one small foot against the ground,
Stood resting on the yew-tree bole,
A-tiptoe to each sylvan sound:

She, whom I thought so still and shy,
Express’d in every subtle move
Of lifted hand and open eye
The large expectancy of love;

Until, with all her dewy hair
Dissolved into a golden flame
Of sunshine on the sunless air,
She came to meet me as I came.

Violet (Millais).png

But in her face no sunlight shone;
No sunlight, but the sad unrest
Of shade, that sinks from zone to zone
When twilight glimmers in the west.

What grief had touch’d her on the nerve?
For grief alone it is, that stirs
The full ineffable reserve
Of quiet spirits such as hers:

Twas this—that we had met to part;
That I was going, and that she
Had nothing left but her true heart,
Made strong by memories of me.

What wonder then, she quite forgot
Her old repression and control,
And loosed at once and stinted not
The tender tumult of her soul?

What wonder, that she droop’d and lay
In silence, and at length in tears,
On that which should have been the stay
And comfort of her matron years?

But from her bosom, as she leant,
She took a nested violet,
And gave it me—“because ’twas meant
For those who never can forget.”

This is the flower: ’tis dry, or wet
With something I may call my own.
Why did I rouse this old regret?
It irks me, now, to be alone:

Triumphs, indeed! Why, after all,
My life has but a leaden hue:
My heart grows like the heart of Saul,
For hatred, and for madness too.

Why sits that smirking minstrel there?
I hate him, and the songs he sings;
They only bring the fond despair
Of inaccessible sweet things:

I will avoid him once for all,
Or slay him in my righteous ire—
Alas, my javelin hits the wall,
And spares the minstrel and his lyre!

Yea, and the crown upon my head,
The crown of wealth for which I strove,
Shall fall away ere I be dead
To yon slight boy who sings of love!

Why are we captive, such as I,
Mature in age and strong of will,
To one who harps so plaintively?
I struck at him—why lives he still?

Why lives he still? Because the ruth
Of those pure days may never die:
He lives, because his name is Youth;
Because his harp is—Memory.

Arthur J. Munby.