Antony In Arms

Lo, we are side by side! — One dark arm furls
Around me like a serpent warm and bare;
The other, lifted 'mid a gleam of pearls,
Holds a full golden goblet in the air:
Her face is shining through her cloudy curls
With light that makes me drunken unaware,
And with my chin upon my breast I smile
Upon her, darkening inward all the while.

And thro' the chamber curtains, backward roll'd
By spicy winds that fan my fever'd head,
I see a sandy flat slope yellow as gold
To the brown banks of Nilus wrinkling red
In the slow sunset; and mine eyes behold
The West, low down beyond the river's bed,
Grow sullen, ribb'd with many a brazen bar,
Under the white smile of the Cyprian star.

A bitter Roman vision floateth black
Before me, in my dizzy brain's despite;
The Roman armour brindles on my back,
My swelling nostrils drink the fumes of fight:
But then, she smiles upon me! — and I lack
The warrior will that frowns on lewd delight,
And, passionately proud and desolate,
I smile an answer to the joy I hate.

Joy coming uninvoked, asleep, awake,
Makes sunshine on the grave of buried powers;
Ofttimes I wholly loathe her for the sake
Of manhood slipt away in easeful hours:
But from her lips mild words and kisses break,
Till I am like a ruin mock'd with flowers;
I think of Honour's face — then turn to hers —
Dark, like the splendid shame that she confers.

Lo, how her dark arm holds me! — I am bound
By the soft touch of fingers light as leaves:
I drag my face aside, but at the sound
Of her low voice I turn — and she perceives
The cloud of Rome upon my face, and round
My neck she twines her odorous arms and grieves,
Shedding upon a heart as soft as they
Tears 'tis a hero's task to kiss away!

And then she loosens from me, trembling still
Like a bright throbbing robe, and bids me " go!" —
When pearly tears her drooping eyelids fill,
And her swart beauty whitens into snow;
And lost to use of life and hope and will,
I gaze upon her with a warrior's woe,
And turn, and watch her side long in annoy —
Then snatch her to me, flush'd with shame and joy!

Once more, O Rome! I would be son of thine —
This constant prayer my chain'd soul ever saith —
I thirst for honourable end — I pine
Not thus to kiss away my mortal breath.
But comfort such as this may not be mine —
I cannot even die a Roman death:
I seek a Roman's grave, a Roman's rest —
But, dying, I would die upon her breast!
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