Ah, Memory — that strange deceiver!
Who can trust her? How believe her —
While she hoards with equal care
The poor and trivial, rich and rare;
Yet flings away, as wantonly,
Grave fact and loveliest fantasy?

When I call her — need her most,
Lo, she's in hiding, or is lost!
Or, capricious as the wind,
Brings stalks — and leaves the flowers behind.
Of all existence — as I live —
She can no more than moments give.
Thousands of dew-clear dusks in Spring
Were mine, time gone, to wander in,
But of their fragrance, music, peace,
What now is left my heart to bless?
Oases in a wilderness!
Nor could her tongue tell o'er the tale
Even of one June nightingale.
And what of the strange world that teems —
Where brooding Hypnos reigns — with dreams?
Twenty years in sleep I have spent —
Horror, delight, grief, wonderment;
Through what wild wizard scenes lured on!
Where are they? ... In oblivion.
Told she her all, 'twould reach an end
Ere nodded off the drowsiest friend!

She has, it's true, a sovereign skill
A wounded heart to salve and heal;
Can lullaby to sorrow sing;
Shed balm on grief and suffering;
And guard with unremitting care
Secrets that we alone can share
Ay, so bewitched her amber is
'Twill keep enshrined the tiniest flies —
Instants of childhood, fresh as when
My virgin sense perceived them then —
Daisy or rainbow, a look, a kiss,
As safe as if Eternity's;
And can, with probe as keen, restore
Some fear, or woe, when I was four.
Fleeter than Nereid, plummet-deep,
Enticed by some long-sunken ship,
She, siren-wise, laughs out to see
The treasure she retrieves for me —
Gold foundered when I was a boy,
Now cleansed by Time from all alloy.
And think what priceless boons I owe
Her whimsical punctilio!

Nothing would recognition bring
Should she forsake me. Everything
I will, or want, or plan, or say
Were past conceiving, she away.
Only her exquisite vigilance
Enables me to walk, sing, dance.
Tree and bird would name-less pine
Did she the twain refuse to entwine.
And where, sad dunce, if me she shun,
My A B C? my twice times one?
Fancy her nurseling is; and thought
Can solely in her toils be caught.
Ev'n who and where and what I am
Await her whisper to proclaim.

If only — what the infinite loss! —
I had helped her sever gold from dross!
Since now she is — for better or worse —
The relics of my Universe.
But, ah, how scant a heed she pays
To much well-meaning Conscience says!
And good intentions? Alas for them!
They are left to languish on the stem.
The mort of promises idly made —
Where now their husks, the fickle jade?
Where, too, the jilt so gaily resigned
To out-of-sight being out-of-mind?
And, Love? — I would my heart and she
Were more attuned to constancy!

Musing, she sits, at ease, in peace,
Unchanged by age or time's caprice,
And quietly cons again with me
Some well-loved book of poetry,
Her furtive finger putting by,
With a faint smile, or fainter sigh,
The withered flowers that mark a place
Once over-welled with grief or grace.
Yes, and, as though the wanton tried
Once bitter pangs to gloss, or hide,
She stills a voice fall'n harsh and hoarse
With sudden ill-concealed remorse.
I scan the sphinx-like face, and ask
What still lies hid beneath that mask? —
The sins, the woes, the perfidy —
O murderous taciturnity!
I am the all I have ever been,
Why gild the cage thou keep'st me in?
Sweet, sweet , she mocks me, the siren; and then
Its very bars shine bright again.

Yet, of my life, from first to last,
This wayward mistress of the Past —
Soundless foot, and tarn-dark eyes —
Keeps safe for me what most I prize.
The sage may to the Future give
Their Now , however fugitive;
Mine savours less of rue and myrrh
When spent, in solitude, with her;
When, kingfisher, on leafy spray,
I while the sunshine hours away
In tranquil joy — as in a dream —
Not of its fish, but of the stream;
Whose gliding waters then reflect
Serener skies, in retrospect,
And flowers, ev'n fairer to the eye
Than those of actuality.

And with what grace she has dealt with me —
What patience, insight, sorcery!
Why, every single word here writ
Was hers, till she surrendered it;
And where, without her — I? for lo,
When she is gone I too must go.
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