To the Noblest and Best of Ladies, the Countess of Denbigh
Persuading her to resolution in religion, and to
Render herself without further delay into the
Communion of the Catholic Church
What Heaven-entreated heart is this,
Stands trembling at the gate of bliss?
Holds fast the door, yet dares not venture
Fairly to open it, and enter;
Whose definition is a doubt
'Twixt life and death, 'twixt in and out.
Say, lingering fair, why comes the birth
Of your brave soul so slowly forth?
Plead your pretenses, O you strong
In weakness, why you choose so long
In labor of yourself to lie,
Not daring quite to live nor die.
Ah, linger not, loved soul! A slow
And late consent was a long no;
Who grants at last, long time tried
And did his best to have denied.
What magic bolts, what mystic bars
Maintain the will in these strange wars!
What fatal, yet fantastic bands
Keep the free heart from its own hands!
So when the year takes cold we see
Poor waters their own prisoners be;
Fettered and locked up fast they lie
In a sad self-captivity.
The astonished nymphs their flood's strange fate deplore,
To see themselves their own severer shore.
Thou that alone canst thaw this cold,
And fetch the heart from its stronghold,
Almighty Love! end this long war,
And of a meteor make a star.
Oh, fix this fair indefinite,
And 'mongst Thy shafts of sovereign light
Choose out that sure decisive dart
Which has the key of this close heart,
Knows all the corners of 't, and can control
The self-shut cabinet of an unsearched soul.
Oh, let it be at last Love's hour;
Raise this tall trophy of Thy power;
Come once the conquering way, not to confute
But kill this rebel-word, 'irresolute,'
That so, in spite of all this peevish strength
Of weakness, she may write, 'Resolved at length.'
Unfold at length, unfold, fair flower,
And use the season of Love's shower;
Meet His well-meaning wounds, wise heart!
And haste to drink the wholesome dart,
That healing shaft, which Heaven till now
Hath in Love's quiver hid for you.
O dart of Love! arrow of light!
O happy you, if it hit right!
It must not fall in vain, it must
Not mark the dry regardless dust.
Fair one, it is your fate, and brings
Eternal worlds upon its wings.
Meet it with wide-spread arms, and see
Its seat your soul's just center be.
Disband dull fears, give faith the day;
To save your life, kill your delay.
It is Love's siege, and sure to be
Your triumph, through His victory.
'Tis cowardice that keeps this field,
And want of courage not to yield.
Yield then, O yield, that Love may win
The fort at last, and let life in;
Yield quickly, lest perhaps you prove
Death's prey, before the prize of Love.
This fort of your fair self, if't be not won,
He is repulsed indeed, but you're undone.
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