THE VIRGIN - Harold Monro Poems


Poems » harold monro » the virgin


Arms that have never held me; lips of him
Who should have been for me; hair most beloved,
I would have smoothed so gently; steadfast eyes,
Half-closed, yet gazing at me through the dusk;
And hands–you sympathetic human hands,
I would have everlastingly adored,
To which I have so often tendered mine
Across the gulf, O far, far, far away
Unwilling hands; and voice of him I have dreamed
So often in the evening by the fire,
Whose step I have heard approaching, at the door
Pausing, but never entering: O tall
And well-beloved imaginary form—
I curse you! Is the silence of the night
Not mine, but you must haunt it? Are my dreams
Not mine, but you must fill them? There were days
I had some little beauty for you–Why
Came you not then? What kept you? Now my lips
Are feverish with longing, and mine eyes,
Wanton with expectation. Where are you?
In what moon-haunted garden? By what stream?
Where whisper you your vows? Among what flowers,
(Which bloom though I am barren)? To what maid
Of cream and rose in muslin?–And her hand
Touches you lightly, while you tremble. She
Had waited also; but you came to her.
I would not be revengeful–yet of late
I dream of every maiden I behold,
She may have won you from me. Oh, believe!
None other can have loved you as I would.
So long, so long have I imagined you;
Yea, from my foolish girlhood, every night
Have held you in my arms. Forgive me, love!
You seemed so nearly mine; and every morning
I cried “To-day!” And often in my prayers
When I would try to think of Jesus Christ,
It only seemed as if I thought of you.
Oh, surely I deserved some better fate
Than this black barren destitution. I
Am made of flesh, and I have tingling nerves:
My blood is always hot, and I desire
The touch of gentle hands upon my face
To cool it, as the moonlight cools the earth.
There is no peace. In spring, the turtle doves
Madden me with their crooning, and the trees
Whisper all day together. Everywhere
There is some festival of love. Alas,
Men in all places openly declare
Love is the world, and maidens, with a blush,
Hint beautiful devotion. Know they not
I am a woman–I could too have served?
Sometimes (young matrons look upon me so),
I laugh aloud in everybody’s face
Instead of weeping, for I have to choose
Quickly. That sudden laugh without a cause
Has grown into a habitude of late:
Thus people stare at me, and shake their heads,
And sign to one another with their eyes.
Then afterwards I always have to go
Alone to drench my pillow with my tears …
You, you, who have not loved me, who have found
Some other consolation in the world,
Who are my cause and complement of woe,
Say, what can be achieved through such as I?
I cannot change the pattern of my soul.
It surely is not evil to desire:
Mothers desire their children, and the priest
Desires his God; the earth desires the sun;
And I lean out in agony for you;
So very long I had expected you:
I was not wanton till you did not come.
Whoever you may be, hear me at last!
Faintly, I do implore you for your hands:
I grope to find them. Stay! I have become
So humble now, that meekly I will follow
Whatever way you lead me through the world.
I have no habitation of my own.
Unsacred is my room, mine images
Unconsecrated, and my lonely bed
Haunted with memories of the wakeful night
All void of love, and of the barren dawn.
It is so weary to begin the days,
To stir, wake, wonder, rise, and breathe again:
O how much longer must I tolerate
The flowerless repetition of the hours,
And little occupations without cause?
Love! Love! I want to lay my body out,
To be all covered over, to receive;
I want to hold, and fasten, and be held:
I hunger; I am starved … And I have thought
Sometimes men gazed upon me half in fear,
As though they guessed my hunger. Gracious God!
I am not vile: I only would obey
Thy law, as thine own stars obey–they rush
Love-swift togeher, and a million suns
Proceed from that embrace. The stars! Indeed
The filthy worm that feeds upon the corpse
Obeys thee also–loves, and is beloved;
Yet I must clasp my cold hands desperately,
Feed on my strained flesh, and captive soul
Must beat against the black bars. I was born
Through love; I was created by the law
That makes the low worm equal with the stars:
My father held my mother in his arms,
And while she trembled with delight of him,
I was conceived, and holy was the hour–
But I shall die for want of being loved.
Truly it is not just. With my despair
I am a creature so lascivious now,
That no one anywhere is safe. Mine eyes
Wander and rest, and wander and devour.
I meditate on subtle-hearted plans,
And small deceits, and rasping jealousies.
My voice is sour or bitter, and I blush
Suddenly without reason, or I hang
For reassurance on some trivial words
Spoken in jest, or suddenly I feel
Covered with guilty shame, and swift must go
To drench my lonely pillow with my tears.
Or I seek out the mirror, with mine eyes
To gaze in mine own eyes, and smooth my hair,
Or sometimes to adorn it with a rose,
Imagining I may be beautiful.
Indeed, indeed, my hair is very black,
My skin most white–most pallid … O you powers
That guard the destiny of woman, you
Have wronged me somehow: surely you have erred.
What consolation have you left for me?
Indeed I had been worthy of some love:
I cannot keep my thoughts away from that,
That always–for my life is on the leash:
I have not ever yet begun to live.
But after benediction of warm arms,
After delight of consecrative hands,
After firm, hot and sympathetic lips
Pressed hard upon me–afterward my flesh
Had leapt to vigour; my disjointed thoughts
Had followed one another in stern train
Of consequence. My life would have begun:
I should have been beloved … Alas! Oh God!
God! Where has passion led me? To what shame!
I have become a harlot in my thoughts.
I am no fit companion for myself.
I must begin again, must wash my soul,
Accept my fate in silence, and be pure.
There is some consolation. Have I not
Neglected my devotion? I must pray.
Will He not help me if I pray to Him?
Are there not many virgins in the world
Who yield their spirits to Him, and so remain
Silent, reflective, beautiful? But I
Rage like a wanton. Though the days be long,
And God seem always absent, though the nights
Be longer; nevertheless I will be pure …
Yet know I many mothers without taint;
Silent, reflective, beautiful are they,
Being beloved–and surely they are pure.
God! God! You are not just, for you yourself
Were known unto a virgin, and your son
Was born, and you had your delight therein.
You are not just, and your Heaven is too far;
I cannot fix my countenance on you:
I have too much devotion for the earth.
You should descend upon me, for I gasp
To hold and to possess some living form.
Alas! My life is dragging from its prime.
My days are bitter with salt tears. Lo, I
Shall pass into the shadow, and the gloom
Will fold me hard about. I shall decay
Slowly like withered flowers. The atmosphere
Will sicken all around me. I shall droop
Towards that tomb, shall stumble, and shall fall.
My body will be covered with rank earth.
My nostrils will be stopped. I shall remain
Alone and unbeloved for evermore.