Cristina and Monaldeschi
Ah, but how each loved each, Marquis!
Here's the gallery they trod
Both together, he her god,
She his idol, — lend your rod,
Chamberlain! — ay, there they are — "Quis
Separabit?" — plain those two
Touching words come into view,
Apposite for me and you!
Since they witness to incessant
Love like ours: King Francis, he —
Diane the adored one, she —
Prototypes of you and me.
Everywhere is carved her Crescent
With his Salamander-sign —
Flame-fed creature: flame benign
To itself or, if malign,
Only to the meddling curious,
— So, be warned, Sir! Where's my head?
How it wanders! What I said
Merely meant — the creature, fed
Thus on flame, was scarce injurious
Save to fools who woke its ire,
Thinking fit to play with fire.
'Tis the Crescent you admire?
Then, be Diane! I'll be Francis.
Crescents change, — true! — wax and wane.
Woman-like: male hearts retain
Heat nor, once warm, cool again.
So, we figure — such our chance is —
I as man and you as . . . What?
Take offence? My Love forgot
He plays woman, I do not?
I — the woman? See my habit.
Ask my people! Anyhow,
Be we what we may, one vow
Binds us, male or female. Now, —
Stand, Sir! Read! "Quis separabit?"
Half a mile of pictured way
Past these palace-walls to-day
Traversed, this I came to say.
You must needs begin to love me;
First I hated, then, at best,
— Have it so! — I acquiesced;
Pure compassion did the rest.
From below thus raised above me,
Would you, step by step, descend,
Pity me, become my friend,
Like me, like less, loathe at end?
That's the ladder's round you rose by!
That — my own foot kicked away,
Having raised you: let it stay,
Serve you for retreating? Nay.
Close to me you climbed: as close by,
Keep your station, though the peak
Reached proves somewhat bare and bleak!
Woman's strong if man is weak.
Keep here, loving me forever!
Love's look, gesture, speech, I claim;
Act love, lie love, all the same —
Play as earnest were our game!
Lonely I stood long: 'twas clever
When you climbed, before men's eyes,
Spurned the earth and scaled the skies,
Gained my peak and grasped your prize.
Here you stood, then, to men's wonder;
Here you tire of standing? Kneel!
Cure what giddiness you feel,
This way! Do your senses reel?
Not unlikely! What rolls under?
Yawning death in yon abyss
Where the waters whirl and hiss
Round more frightful peaks than this.
Should my buffet dash you thither. . . .
But be sage! No watery grave
Needs await you: seeming brave
Kneel on safe, dear timid slave!
You surmised, when you climbed hither,
Just as easy were retreat
Should you tire, conceive unmeet
Longer patience at my feet?
Me as standing, you as stooping, —
Who arranged for each the pose?
Lest men think us friends turned foes,
Keep the attitude you chose!
Men are used to this same grouping —
I and you like statues seen.
You and I, no third between,
Kneel and stand! That makes the scene.
Mar it — and one buffet . . . Pardon!
Needless warmth — wise words in waste!
'Twas prostration that replaced
Kneeling, then? A proof of taste.
Crouch, not kneel, while I mount guard on
Prostrate love — become no waif,
No estray to waves that chafe
Disappointed — love's so safe!
Waves that chafe? The idlest fancy!
Peaks that scare? I think we know
Walls enclose our sculpture: so
Grouped, we pose in Fontainebleau.
Up now! Wherefore hesitancy?
Arm in arm and cheek by cheek,
Laugh with me at waves and peak!
Silent still? Why, pictures speak.
See, where Juno strikes Ixion,
Primatice speaks plainly! Pooh —
Rather, Florentine Le Roux!
I've lost head for who is who —
So it swims and wanders! Fie on
What still proves me female! Here,
By the staircase! — for we near
That dark "Gallery of the Deer."
Look me in the eyes once! Steady!
Are you faithful now as erst
On that eve when we two first
Vowed at Avon, blessed and cursed
Faith and falsehood? Pale already?
Forward! Must my hand compel
Entrance — this way? Exit — well.
Somehow, somewhere. Who can tell?
What if to the self-same place in
Rustic Avon, at the door
Of the village church once more,
Where a tombstone paves the floor
By that holy-water basin
You appealed to — "As, below,
This stone hides its corpse, e'en so
I your secrets hide"? What ho!
Friends, my four! You, Priest, confess him!
I have judged the culprit there:
Execute my sentence! Care
For no mail such cowards wear!
Done, Priest? Then, absolve and bless him!
Now — you three, stab thick and fast,
Deep and deeper! Dead at last?
Thanks, friends — Father, thanks! Aghast?
What one word of his confession
Would you tell me, though 1 lured
With that royal crown abjured
Just because its bars immured
Love too much? Love burst compression,
Fled free, finally confessed
All its secrets to that breast
Whence . . . let Avon tell the rest!