The Path of Tears


Why did you turn your face away?
Was it for grief or fear
Your strength would fail or your pride grow weak,
If you touched my hand, if you heard me speak,
After a life-long year?

Why did you turn your face away?
Was it for love or hate?
Or the spell of that wild miraculous hour
That hurled our souls with relentless power
In the eddying fires of fate?

Turn not your face from me, O Love!
Shall Sorrow or Death conspire
To set our suffering spirits free
From the passionate bondage of Memory
Or the thrall of the old desire?


Since thus I have endowed you with the whole
Joy of my flesh and treasure of my soul,
And your life debt to me looms so supreme,
Shall my love wax ungenerous as to seem
By sign or supplication to demand
An answering gift from your reluctant hand?

Give what you will ... if aught be yours to give!
But tho' you are the breath by which I live
And all my days are a consuming pyre
Of unaccomplished longing and desire,
How shall my love beseech you or beset
Your heart with sad remembrance and regret?

Quenched are the fervent words I yearn to speak
And tho' I die, how shall I claim or seek
From your full rivers one reviving shower,
From your resplendent years one single hour?
Still for Love's sake I am foredoomed to bear
A load of passionate silence and despair.


How long, O Love, shall ruthless pride avail you
Or wisdom shield you with her gracious wing,
When the sharp winds of memory shall assail you
In all the poignant malice of the spring?

All the sealed anguish of my blood shall taunt you
In the rich menace of red-flowering trees;
The yearning sorrow of my voice shall haunt you
In the low wailing of the midnight seas.

The tumult of your own wild heart shall smite you
With strong and sleepless pinions of desire,
The subtle hunger in your veins shall bite you
With swift and unrelenting fangs of fire.

When youth and spring and passion shall betray you
And mock your proud rebellion with defeat,
God knows, O Love, if I shall save or slay you
As you lie spent and broken at my feet!


Fierce were the wounds you struck me, O My Love,
And bitter were the blows!
Sweeter from your dear hands all suffering
Than rich love-tokens other comrades bring
Of crimson oleander and of rose.

Cold was your cruel laughter, O my Love,
And cruel were your words!
Sweeter such harshness on your lips than all
Love-orisons from tender lips that fall,
And soft love-music of chakora -birds.

You plucked my heart and broke it, O my Love,
And bleeding, flung it down! ...
Sweeter to die thus trodden of your feet,
Than reign apart upon an ivory seat
Crowned in a lonely rapture of renown.


If you were dead I should not weep!
How sweetly would my sad heart rest
Close-gathered in a dreamless sleep
Among the garlands on your breast,
Happy at last and comforted
If you were dead!

For life is like a burning veil
That keeps our yearning souls apart,
Cold Fate a wall no hope may scale,
And pride a severing sword, Sweetheart!
And love a wide and troubled sea
'Twixt you and me.

If you were dead I should not weep —
How sweetly would our hearts unite
In a dim, undivided sleep,
Locked in Death's deep and narrow night,
All anger fled, all sorrow past,
O Love, at last!


Love, it were not such deep unmeasured wrong
To wreck my life of youth and all delight,
Bereave my days of sweetness and to blight
My hidden wells of slumber and of song,
Had your atoning mercy let me keep
For sole and sad possession to assuage
The loss of my heart's radiant heritage,
Power of such blessed tears as mortals weep.

But I, O Love, am like a withered leaf
Burnt in devouring noontides of distress
And tossed upon dim pools of weariness,
Mute to the winds of gladness or of grief.
The changing glory of the earth and skies
Kindles no answering tribute in my breast,
My loving dead go streamwards to their rest
Unhonoured by the homage of mine eyes.

Restore me not the rapture that is gone,
The hope forbidden and the dream denied,
The ruined purpose and the broken pride,
Lost kinship with the starlight and the dawn.
But you whose proud, predestined hands control
My springs of sorrow, ecstasy and power,
Grant in the brief compassion of an hour
A gift of tears to save my stricken soul!


Love, if at dawn some passer-by should say,
" Lo! doth thy garment drip with morning dew?
Thy face perchance is drenched with cold sea-spray,
Thy hair with fallen rain? "
Make answer: " Nay ,
These be the death-drops from sad eyes I slew
With the quick torch of pain. "

And if at dusk a reveller should cry,
" What rare vermilion vintage hast thou spilled,
Or is thy robe splashed with the glowing dye
Of some bruised crimson leaf? "
O Love reply:
" These be the life-drops of a heart I killed
With the swift spear of grief. "


They come, sweet maids and men with shining tribute,
Garlands and gifts, cymbals and songs of praise
How can they know I have been dead, Beloved,
These many mournful days?

Or that my delicate dreaming soul lies trampled
Like crushed ripe fruit, chance-trodden of your feet,
And how you flung the throbbing heart that loved you
To serve wild dogs for meat?
They bring me saffron veils and silver sandals
Rich crowns of honour to adorn my head —
For none save you may know the tragic secret,
O Love, that I am dead!
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