The Well-Beloved

I went by star and planet shine
Towards the dear one's home
At Kingsbere, there to make her mine
When the next sun upclomb.

I edged the ancient hill and wood
Beside the Ikling Way,
Nigh where the Pagan temple stood
In the world's earlier day.

And as I quick and quicker walked
On gravel and on green,
I sang to sky, and tree, or talked
Of her I called my queen.

— " O faultless is her dainty form,
And luminous her mind;
She is the God-created norm
Of perfect womankind!"

A shape whereon one star-blink gleamed
Slid softly by my side,
A woman's; and her motion seemed
The motion of my bride.

And yet methought she'd drawn erstwhile
Out from the ancient leaze,
Where once were pile and peristyle
For men's idolatries.

— " O maiden lithe and lone, what may
Thy name and lineage be
Who so resemblest by this ray
My darling? — Art thou she?"

The Shape: " Thy bride remains within
Her father's grange and grove."
— " Thou speakest rightly," I broke in,
" Thou art not she I love."

— " Nay: though thy bride remains inside
Her father's walls," said she,
" The one most dear is with thee here,
For thou dost love but me."

Then I: " But she, my only choice,
Is now at Kingsbere Grove?"
Again her soft mysterious voice:
" I am thy only Love."

Thus still she vouched, and still I said,
" O sprite, that cannot be!" . . .
It was as if my bosom bled,
So much she troubled me.

The sprite resumed: " Thou hast transferred
To her dull form awhile
My beauty, fame, and deed, and word,
My gestures and my smile.

" O fatuous man, this truth infer,
Brides are not what they seem;
Thou lovest what thou dreamest her;
I am thy very dream!"

— " O then," I answered miserably,
Speaking as scarce I knew,
" My loved one, I must wed with thee
If what thou sayest be true!"

She, proudly, thinning in the gloom:
" Though, since troth-plight began,
I have ever stood as bride to groom,
I wed no mortal man!"

Thereat she vanished by the lane
Adjoining Kingsbere town,
Near where, men say, once stood the Fane
To Venus, on the Down.

— When I arrived and met my bride
Her look was pinched and thin,
As if her soul had shrunk and died,
And left a waste within.
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