A Hurried Meeting

It is August moonlight in the tall plantation,
Whose elms, by aged squirrels' footsteps worn,
Outscreen the noon, and eve, and morn.
On the facing slope a faint irradiation
From a mansion's marble front is borne,
Mute in its woodland wreathing.
Up here the night-jar whirrs forlorn,
And the trees seem to withhold their softest breathing.

To the moonshade slips a woman in muslin vesture:
Her naked neck the gossamer-web besmears,
And she sweeps it away with a hasty gesture.
Again it touches her forehead, her neck, her ears,
Her fingers, the backs of her hands.
She sweeps it away again
Impatiently, and then
She takes no notice; and listens, and sighs, and stands.

The night-hawk stops. A man shows in the obscure:
They meet, and passively kiss,
And he says: ‘Well, I've come quickly. About this—
Is it really so? You are sure?’
‘I am sure. In February it will be.
That such a thing should come to me!
We should have known. We should have left off meeting.
Love is a terrible thing: a sweet allure
That ends in heart-outeating!’

‘But what shall we do, my Love, and how?’
‘You need not call me by that name now.’
Then he more coldly: ‘What is your suggestion?’
‘I've told my mother, and she sees a way,
Since of our marriage there can be no question.
We are crossing South—near about New Year's Day
The event will happen there.
It is the only thing that we can dare
To keep them unaware!’
‘Well, you can marry me.’
She shook her head. ‘No: that can never be.

‘'Twill be brought home as hers. She's forty-one,
When many a woman's bearing is not done,
And well might have a son.—
We should have left off specious self-deceiving:
I feared that such might come,
And knowledge struck me numb.
Love is a terrible thing: witching when first begun,
To end in grieving, grieving!’

And with one kiss again the couple parted:
Inferior clearly he; she haughty-hearted.
He watched her down the slope to return to her place,
The marble mansion of her ancient race,
And saw her brush the gossamers from her face
As she emerged from shade to the moonlight ray.
And when she had gone away
The night-jar seemed to imp, and say,
‘You should have taken warning:
Love is a terrible thing: sweet for a space,
And then all mourning, mourning!’
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