Page:The torrent and The night before.djvu/48

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Or seems to stop,—till it comes to cheer them
Again with a larger sound. The curtain
Of life just then is lifted a little
To give to their sight new joys—new sorrows—
Or nothing at all, sometimes.—I was watching
The slow sweet scenes of a golden picture,
Flushed and alive with a long delusion
That made the murmur of home, when I shuddered
And felt like a knife that awful silence
That comes when the music goes—forever.
The truth came over my life like a darkness
Over a forest where one man wanders,
Worse than alone. For a time I staggered
And stumbled on with a weak persistence
After the phantom of hope that darted
And dodged like a frightened thing before we,
To quit me at last, and vanish. Nothing
Was left me then but the curse of living
And bearing through all my days the fever
And thirst of a poisoned love.—Were I stronger,
Or weaker, perhaps my scorn had saved me—
Given me strength to crush my sorrow
With hate for her and the world that praised her—
To have left her, then and there,—to have conquered
That old false life with a new and a wiser;—
Such things are easy in words. . . . You listen,
And frown, I suppose, that I never mention
That beautiful word, forgive!—I forgave her
First of all; and I praised kind heaven
That I wan a brave clean man to do it;
And then I tried to forget.—Forgiveness! . . .
What does it mean when the one forgiven
Shivers and weeps and clings and kisses
The credulous fool that holds her, and tells him
A thousand things of a good man's mercy,
And then slips off with a laugh and plunges
Back to the sin she has quit for a season