Odi Et Amo

I love and hate, Alas, the why
I know not: but I love, and die.
CATULLUS
I

A wreathed altar was this pagan heart.
In sad denial dressed and high intent,
And amid ruins fed its flame apart,
Heedless of shadows as they came and went.
Till the poor soul, enticed by what she saw,
Forsook her grief's eternal element,
Filled with her tears a well from which to draw,
And flooded heaven with a light she lent.
A thousand times that mirrored glory fled,
By ravished eyes a thousand times pursued;
Yet loving hope outlived all beauties dead,
And hunger turned the very stones to food.
Insensate love, wilt thou then never tire,
Breeding the fuel of thy proper fire?

II

What gleaming cross rebukes this infidel?
What lion groans, awakened in his lair?
Angel or demon, what unearthly spell
Returns, divinely false like all things fair,
To mock this desolation? Fleeting vision,
Frail as a smoke-wreath in the sunlit air,
Indomitable hope or vain derision,
Madness or revelation, sin or prayer,
What art thou? Is man's sum of wisdom this,
That he believe denying, and blaspheme
Worshipping still, and drink eternal bliss
Out of the maddening chalice of a dream?
Strange sweetness that embitterest content,
Art thou a poison or a sacrament?
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