The Sanctuary


O could my love devise
A shield for you from envious lips and eyes
That desecrate the sweetness of your days
With tumults of their praise!

O could my love design
A secret, sealed, invulnerable shrine
To hide you, happy and inviolate,
From covetous Time and Fate.

Love, I am drenched with fear
Lest the uncounted avarice of the year
Add to the triumph of all garnered grace
The rapture of your face!

I tremble with despair
Lest the far-journeying winds and sunbeams bear
Bright rumours of your luring brows and breath
Unto the groves of Death.

What sanctuary can I pledge
Whose very love of you is sacrilege?
O I would save you from the ravening fire
Of my own heart's desire!


Beloved, you may be as all men say
Only a transient spark
Of flickering flame set in a lamp of clay —
I care not ... since you kindle all my dark
With the immortal lustres of the day.

And as all men deem, dearest, you may be
Only a common shell
Chance-winnowed by the sea-winds from the sea —
I care not ... since you make most audible
The subtle murmurs of eternity.

And tho' you are, like men of mortal race,
Only a hapless thing
That Death may mar and destiny efface —
I care not ... since unto my heart you bring
The very vision of God's dwelling-place.


Crush me, O Love, betwixt thy radiant fingers
Like a frail lemon leaf or basil bloom,
Till aught of me that lives for thee or lingers
Be but the wraith of memory's perfume,
And every sunset wind that wandereth
Grow sweeter for my death!

Burn me, O Love, as in a glowing censer
Dies the rich substance of a sandal grain,
Let my soul die till nought but an intenser
Fragrance of my deep worship doth remain —
And every twilight star shall hold its breath
And praise thee for my death!


If your fair mind were quenched with dark distress,
Your dear hands stained with fierce blood-guiltiness,
Or your sweet flesh fell rotting from the bone,
Should not my deep unchanging love atone
And shield you from the sore decree of Fate
And the world's storm of horror and of hate?

What were to me your dire disease or crime,
The scorn of men, the cold revenge of Time?
Has life a suffering still I shall not dare,
Love, for your sake to conquer or to bear,
If I might yield you solace, succour, rest,
And hush your awful anguish on my breast?


O Love, is there aught I should fail to achieve for your sake?
Your need would invest my frail hands with invincible power
To tether the dawn and the darkness, to trample and break
The mountains like sea-shells, and crush the fair moon like a flower,
And drain the wide rivers as dew-drops and pluck from the skies
The sunbeams like arrows, the stars like proud impotent eyes.

O Love, is there aught I should fear to fulfil at your word?
Your will my weak hands with such dauntless delight would endow
To capture and tame the wild tempest to sing like a bird,
And bend the swift lightning to fashion a crown for your brow,
Unfurl the sealed triumph of Time like a foot-cloth outspread,
And rend the cold silence that conquers the lips of the dead.


When Time shall cease and the world be ended
And Fate unravel the judgment scroll,
And God shall hear — by His hosts attended —
The secret legend of every soul,

And each shall pass to its place appointed,
And yours to His inmost paradise,
To sit encrowned " mid the peace-anointed,
O my saint with the sinless eyes!

My proud soul shall be unforgiven
For a passionate sin it will ne'er repent,
And I shall be doomed, O Love, and driven
And hurled from Heaven's high battlement,

Down the deep ages, alone, unfrightened,
Flung like a pebble thro' burning space;
But the speed of my fall shall be sweet and brightened
By the memoried joy of your radiant face!

Whirled like a leaf from aeon to aeon,
Tossed like a feather from flame to flame
Love, I shall chant a glorious paean,
And thrill the dead with your deathless name.

So you be safe in God's mystic garden,
Inclosed like a star in His ageless skies,
My outlawed spirit shall crave no pardon, —
O my saint with the sinless eyes!


Stoop not from thy proud, lonely sphere,
Star of my Trust!
But shine implacable and pure,
Serene and just;
And bid my struggling spirit rise
Clean from the dust!

Still let thy chastening wrath endure.
O be thou still
A radiant and relentless flame,
A crucible
To shatter and to shape anew
My heart and will.

Still be thy scorn the burning height
My feet must tread,
Still be thy grief the bitter crown
That bows my head,
Thy stern, arraigning silences
My daily bread!

So shall my yearning love at last
Grow sanctified,
Thro' sorrow find deliverance
From mortal pride,
So shall my soul, redeemed, re-born,
Attain thy side.


Take my flesh to feed your dogs if you choose,
Water your garden-trees with my blood if you will,
Turn my heart into ashes, my dreams into dust —
Am I not yours, O Love, to cherish or kill?

Strangle my soul and fling it into the fire!
Why should my true love falter or fear or rebel?
Love, I am yours to lie in your breast like a flower,
Or burn like a weed for your sake in the flame of hell.
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