Cristina

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Cristina
by Robert Browning

;I
She should never have looked at me
      If she meant I should not love her!
There are plenty...men, you call such,
      I suppose...she may discover
All her soul to, if she pleases,
      And yet leave much as she found them:
But I'm not so, and she knew it
      When she fixed me, glancing round them.

;II
What? To fix me thus meant nothing?
      But I can't tell (there's my weakness)        10
What her look said!—no vile cant, sure,
      About "need to strew the bleakness
Of some lone shore with its pearl-seed
      That the sea feels"—no "strange yearning
That such souls have, most to lavish
      When there's chance of least returning."

;III
Oh, we're sunk enough here, God knows!
      But not quite so sunk that moments,
Sure tho' seldom, are denied us,
      When the spirit's true endowments        20
Stand out plainly from its false ones,
      And apprise it if pursuing
Or the right way or the wrong way,
      To its triumph or undoing.

;IV
There are flashes struck from midnights,
      There are fire-flames noondays kindle,
Whereby piled-up honors perish,
      Whereby swollen ambitions dwindle,
While just this or that poor impulse,
      Which for once had played unstifled,        30
Seems the sole work of a life-time
      That away the rest have trifled.

;V
Doubt you if, in some such moment,
      As she fixed me, she felt clearly,
Ages past the soul existed,
      Here an age 'tis resting merely,
And hence fleets again for ages,
      While this true end, sole and single,
It stops here for is, this love-way,
      With some other soul to mingle?        40

;VI
Else it loses what it lived for,
      And eternally must lose it;
Better ends may be in prospect,
      Deeper blisses (if you choose it),
But this life's end and this love-bliss
      Have been lost here. Doubt you whether
This she felt as, looking at me,
      Mine and her souls rushed together?

;VII
Oh, observe! Of course, next moment,
      The world's honors, in derision,        50
Trampled out the light forever:
      Never fear but there's provision
Of the devil's to quench knowledge
      Lest we walk the earth in rapture!
—Making those who catch God's secret
      Just so much more prize their capture!

;VIII
Such am I: the secret's mine now!
      She has lost me, I have gained her;
Her soul's mine: and thus, grown perfect,
      I shall pass my life's remainder.        60
Life will just hold out the proving
      Both our powers, alone and blended:
And then, come next life quickly!
      This world's use will have been ended.

This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.