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The Love Sonnets of Proteus •



THE LARK CLASSICS



The Love Sonnets of
Proteus

BY

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt




Doxey's

AT THE SIGN OF THE LARK
NEW YORK



UNIVERSITY PRESS • JOHN WILSON
AND SON . CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.



Preface to Fourth Edition

No life is perfect that has not been lived, — youth in
feeling, — manhood in battle, — old age in meditation.

Again, no life is perfect that is not sincere.

For these two reasons I have decided to add my name
to the title-page of this the Fourth Edition of the Sonnets
of Proteus.

VV. S. B.

Crabbet Park, Sussex
March i^th, 1885



2057152



Preface

The author of these sonnets, styhng himself Proteus,
acknowledges thereby a natural mood of change. He here
lays bare what was once his heart, to the public, but what
for good or evil is his heart no longer, thus closing for ever
his account with youth. He stands upon the threshold of
middle life, and already his dreams are changed. The gods
of his youth have ceased to be his gods. Yet, while looking
back upon the feelings here portrayed as things now foreign
to his life, and recognizing the many errors and exaggera-
tions of his youth, he finds it impossible wholly to regret
the past, knowing that those only are beyond all hope of
wisdom who have never dared to be fools.

August i^th, 1880



Contents

Page
Preface v

Dedication. To one in a high position xiii



Part I. MANON

To Manon, comparing her to a Falcon 3

To the Same, on his Fortune in loving Her 4

To the Same, in Praise of his Fate 5

To the Same, on the Power of her Beauty 6

To the Same, depreciating her Beauty 7

To the Same, on her Vanity 8

To the Same, as to his Choice of Her 9

To the Same, on her Waywardness 10

To the Same, on her Forgiveness of a Wrong 11

To the Same, on her Lightheartedness 12

He has fallen from the Height of his Love 13

To his Friend, complaining that he had fallen among Thieves . 14

He argues with his Life 15

Joy's Treachery 16

He laments that his Love is dead 17

He protests, notwithstanding, his Love 18

On falling ill through Grief 19

ix



Contents

Part IL JULIET.

Page

To Juliet, on the Nature of Love 23

To Juliet, asking for her Heart 24

The Same, continued 25

To Juliet, asking the Fulfilment of her Love 26

To Juliet, in Answer to a Question 27

To the Same, who would Comfort Him 28

The Religion of Love 29

To One who Loved Him 30

To the Same, exhorting Her to Patience 31

To Juliet, reminding Her of a Promise 32

The Same, continued 33

The Same, continued 34

To JuUet, Fear has cast out Love 35

To One who would " Remain Friends" 36

To One now Estranged 37

Farewell to Juliet 38

The Same, continued 39

The Same, continued 40

The Same, continued 41

The Same, continued 42

The Same, continued 43

The Same, continued 44

The Same, continued 45

The Same, continued 46

The Same, continued 47

The Same, continued 48

The Same, continued 49

The Same, continued 50

The Same, continued 51

The Same, continued 52

X



Contents

Part III. GODS AND FALSE GODS.

Page

He desires the Impossible 55

St. Valentine's Day 56

To One whom he dared not Love 57

On a Lost Opportunity 58

To One on her Waste of Time 59

The Haunted House 60

The Triumph of Love 61

To One Excusing his Poverty 62

To One who would make a Confession 63

The Pleasures of Love 64

He Appeals against his Pond 65

To One who spoke ill of Him 66

The Three Ages of Woman 67

The Same, continued 6S

The Same, continued 69

Sibylline Books 70

On Reading the Memoirs of M. D'Artagnan 71

The Tv.'o Highwaymen 72

From the French of Anvers 73

To One to whom he had been Unjust 74

The Mockery of Life, a Triple Sonnet 75

The Same, continued 76

The Same, continued 77

Who would Live again ? 78

Cold Comfort 79

Amour Oblige 80

To One Unforgotten 81

To One w^hom he had Loved too Long 82

He would lead a better Life 83

xi



Contents

Part IV. VITA NOVA.

Page

A Day in Sussex 87

In Anniversario Mortis 88

The Same, continued 89

The Same, continued 90

The Same, continued 91

The Limit of Human Knowledge 92

The Pride of Unbelief 93

Laughter and Death 94

Written in Distress 95

A Disappointment 96

A Year Ago 97

He is not a Poet 98

On the Shortness of Time 99

Chanclebury Ring 100

Sonnet in Assonance , loi

Youth 102

Age 103

The Same, continued 104

The Venus of Milo 105

Written at Florence 106

The Same, continued 107

Palazzo Pagani 108

The Sublime 109

The Same, continued no

A Forest in Bosnia in

Roumeli Hissar, a Sonnet 112

The Oasis of Sidi Khaled 113

To the Bedouin Arabs 114

Gibraltar 115

xii



DEDICATION

TO ONE IN A HIGH POSITION

TO you, a poet, glorious, heaven-born,
One who is not a poet but a son
Of the earth earthy, sick and travel-worn
And weary with a race already run,
A battle lost e'er yet his day is done.
Comes with this tribute, shattered banners torn
From a defeat. You reign in Macedon,
My Alexander, as at earlier morn
You reigned upon Parnassus, hero, king.
I reign no more, not even in those hearts
For which these songs were made, and if I sing
'Tis with a harsh and melancholy note
At which my own heart like an echo starts.
Yet sometimes I can deem you listening,
And then all else is instantly forgot.



PART I
MANON



TO MANON

COMPARING HER TO A FALCON

BRAVE as a falcon and as merciless,
With bright eyes watching still the world, thy
prey,
I saw thee pass in thy lone majesty,
Untamed, unmated, high above the press.
The dull crowd gazed at thee. It could not guess
The secret of thy proud aerial way.
Or read in thy mute face the soul which lay
A prisoner there in chains of tenderness.
— Lo, thou art captured. In my hand to-day
I hold thee, and awhile thou deignest to be
Pleased with my jesses. I would fain beguile
My foolish heart to think thou lovest me. See,
I dare not love thee quite. A little while
And thou shalt sail back heavenwards. Woe is me !



The Love Sonnets
TO THE SAME

ON HIS FORTUNE IN LOVING HER

1DID not choose thee, dearest. It was Love
That made the choice, not I. Mine eyes were blind
As a rude shepherd's who to some lone grove
His offering brings and cares not at what shrine
He bends his knee. The gifts alone were mine;
The rest was Love's. He took me by the hand,
And fired the sacrifice, and poured the wine.
And spoke the words I might not understand.
I was unwise in all but the dear chance
Which was my fortune, and the blind desire
Which led my foolish steps to love's abode.
And youth's sublime unreasoned prescience
Which raised an altar and inscribed in fire
Its dedication ** to the unknown god."



of Proteus
TO THE SAME

IN PRAISE OF HIS FATE

WHEN I hear others speak of this and that
In our fools' lives which might have better gone,
Complaining idly of too niggard fate
And wishing still their senseless past undone,
I feel a childish tremor through me run.
Stronger than reason, lest by some far chance
Fate's ear to our sad plaints should yet be won
And these our lives be thrown back on our hands.
I tremble when I think of my past years,
My hopes, my aims, my wishes. All these days
I might have wandered far from love and thee.
But kind fate held me, heedless of my prayers,
A prisoner to its wise mysterious ways,
And forced me to thy feet — ah fortunate me !



The Love Sonnets
TO THE SAME

ON THE POWER OF HER BEAUTY

I AM lighthearted now. An hour ago
There was a tempest in my heaven, a flame
Of sullen lightning under a bent brow
And a dull muttering which breathed no name.
Now all is changed. The very winds are tame,
And the birds sing aloud from every bough,
And my heart leaps. What empire dost thou claim,
Child, o'er this earth, that nature serves thee so ?
Sublime magician ! Well may earth and heaven
Change at thy bidding, and the hearts of men.
Didst thou but know the power that beauty hath.
The sea should leave his bed, the rocks be riven.
And wise men, deeming chaos come again,
Should kneel before thee and conjure thy wrath.



of Proteus
TO THE SAME

DEPRECIATING HER BEAUTY

I LOVE not thy perfections. When I hear
Thy beauty blazoned, and the common tongue
Cheapening with vulgar praise a lip, an ear,
A cheek that I have prayed to '; — when among
The loud world's gods my god is noised and sung,
Her wit applauded, even her taste, her dress,
Her each dear hidden marvel lightly flung
At the world's feet and stripped to nakedness —
Then I despise thy beauty utterly,
Crying, " Be these your gods, O Israel ! "
And I remember that on such a day
I found thee with eyes bleared and cheeks all pale.
And lips that trembled to a voiceless cry,
And that thy bosom in my bosom lay.



w



The Love Sonnets
TO THE SAME

ON HER VANITY

HAT are these things thou lovest ? Vanity.
To see men turn their heads when thou dost



pass;
To be the signboard and the looking glass
Where every idler there may glut his eye;
To hear men speak thy name mysteriously,
Wagging their heads. Is it for this, alas,
That thou hast made a placard of a face
On which the tears of love were hardly dry ?
What are these things thou lovest ? The applause
Of prostitutes at wit which is not thine;
The sympathy of shop-boys who would weep
Their shilling's worth of woe in any cause,
At any tragedy. — Their tears and mine,
What difference ? Oh truly tears are cheap !



8



of Proteus
TO THE SAME

AS TO HIS CHOICE OF HER

IF I had chosen thee, thou shouldst have been
A virgin proud, untamed, immaculate,
Chaste as the morning star, a saint, a queen,
Scarred by no wars, no violence of hate.
Thou shouldst have been of soul commensurate
With thy fair body, brave and virtuous
And kind and just; and, if of poor estate.
At least an honest woman for my house.
I would have had thee come of honoured blood
And honourable nurture. Thou shouldst bear
Sons to my pride and daughters to my heart.
And men should hold thee happy, wise, and good,
Lo, thou art none of this, but only fair.
Yet must I love thee, dear, and as thou art.



The Love Sonnets
TO THE SAME

ON HER WAYWARDNESS

THIS is rank slavery. It better were
To till the thankless earth with sweat of brow,
Following dull oxen 'neath a goad of care
To a boor's grave agape behind the plough.
It better were to linger in some slow
Unnatural case, the sport of flood or fire.
To be undone by some inhuman vow
And robbed in youth of youth and its desire.
It better were to perish than thus live
Thy pensioner and bondsman, day by day
Doing fool's service thus for love of thee.
How shall I save thee if thou wilt not grieve
Even for shames like these ^ How shall I slay
The foes thou lovest, thou, their enemy?



10



of Proteus



TO THE SAME

ON HER FORGIVENESS OF A WRONG

THIS is not virtue. To forgive were great
If love were in the issue and not gold.
But wrongs there are 't is treason to forget,
And to forgive before the deed was cold
Was a strange jest. Ah, Manon, you have sold
The keys of heaven at a vulgar rate,
A sum of money for the wealth untold
Of a just anger and the right to hate.
— Well. It is done and the price paid. Now make
Haste to betray them as you me betrayed.
These are no longer foes to be forgiven.
Remember they are friends, that peace is made,
That you are theirs — Then rend them for love's sake.
And let your hatred with your love be even.



II



The Love Sonnets
TO THE SAME

ON HER LIGHTHEARTEDNESS

I WOULD I had thy courage, dear, to face
This bankruptcy of love, and greet despair
With smiHng eyes and unconcerned embrace,
And these few words of banter at *' dull care."
I would that I could sing and comb my hair
Like thee the morning thro*, and choose my dress.
And gravely argue what I best should wear,
A shade of ribbon or a fold of lace.
I would I had thy courage and thy peace,
Peace passing understanding; that mine eyes
Could find forgetfulness like thine in sleep ;
That all the past for me like thee could cease
And leave me cheerfully, sublimely wise,
Like David with washed face who ceased to weep.



12



of Proteus

HE HAS FALLEN FROM THE HEIGHT
OF HIS LOVE

LOVE, how ignobly hast thou met thy doom !
Ill-seasoned scaffolding by which, full-fraught
With passionate youth and mighty hopes, we clomb
To our heart's heaven, fearing, doubting, naught !
Oh love, thou wert too frail for such mad sport,
Too rotten at thy core, designed too high :
And we who trusted thee our death have bought,
And bleeding on the ground must surely die.
— I will not see her. What she now may be
I care not. For the dream within my brain
Is fairer, nobler, and more kind than she —
And with that vision I can mock at pain.
God ! Was there ever woman half so sweet,
Or death so bitter, or at such dear feet ?



13



The Love Sonnets
TO HIS FRIEND

COMPLAINING THAT HE HAD FALLEN AMONG THIEVES

OH, L , I have gambled with my soul,
And, like a spendthrift, pawned my heritage
To pitiless Jews, and paid a monstrous toll
To knaves and usurers, — and all to wage
Fair war with black-legs, men who dared to gauge
My youth's bright honour as an antique thing,
A broadsword to their fencing point and edge.
So the game went. And even yet I cling
To my mad humour, reckoning up each stake.
Each fair coin lost. — O miserable slaves.
Who for the sake of gold, the poorest thing
Man ever won from the earth's bosom, take
To rope or poison, and who labour not
Even to " dig dishonourable graves,"
See one who has lost a pound for every groat,
For every penny of your squandering !

14



of Proteus



HE ARGUES WITH HIS LIFE

MY life, what strange mad garments hast thou on,
Now that I see thee truly and am wise,
Thou wild, lost Proteus, strangling and undone !
What shapes are these, what metamorphoses
Of a god's soul in pain ? I hear thy cries
And see thee writhe and take fantastic forms,
And strike in blindness at the destinies
And at thyself, and at thy brother worms.
Ah, fooUsh worm, thou canst not change thy lot.
And all like thee must perish 'neath the sun.
Why struggle with thy fellows ? Nay, be kind.
Kinder than these. Behold, the flower-pot
Of fate is emptied out, and one by one
The fisher takes you, and his hooks are blind.



15



The Love Sonnets



JOY'S TREACHERY

1HAD a live joy once and pampered her,
For I had brought her from the "golden East,"
To lie when nights were cold upon my breast
And sit beside me the long days and purr,
Until her whole soul should be lapped in fur.
Deep as her claws ; a beautiful sleek beast,
Which I might love. — But, when I deemed it least,
Her topaz eyes were on my stomacher,
Athirst for blood. Thus, for I loathed her since
I learned her guile, one night I had her slain
And thrown upon a dunghill to the flies,
Who bred in her fair limbs a pestilence.
Whereof I sickened. — Thus it ever is :
Dead joys unburied breed us death and pain.



of Proteus



HE LAMENTS THAT HIS LOVE IS DEAD

MY love is dead, dead and in spite of me, —
Dead while I lived, — while yet my blood was rife
With hope and pleasure and the pride of life.
For my love ended unexpectedly
During the winter, stricken like a tree
By a night's cold, and frozen to the blood,
Whose leaves fell off and never were renewed
By any promise of the years to be.
And, when the spring came, and the birds, — to mate
Among its branches, lo ! they found it bare.
Though all around was summer in the wood.
Yet they took heart awhile, incredulous
That such a tree should be for ever dead.
"'Tis early yet," they cried. " The spring is late.
It shall still be as in the days that were."
But summer came and went while the tree stood
Bare in the sun like a deserted house.
— Then the birds suddenly despaired and fled.

2 17



The Love Sonnets

HE PROTESTS, NOTWITHSTANDING,
HIS LOVE

TO be cast forth from the fair light of heaven
Into the outer darkness and there lie,
Through unrecorded years of agony,
Unseen, unheard, unpitied, unforgiven ;
To be forgotten of the earth and sky,
Forgotten of the womb that once did bear,
The eyes that cheered, the voice that comforted.
The very breast where love had laid his head ;
To be alone with darkness and despair,
Alone with endless death, and not to die;
All these be punishments within the hand
Of an avenging deity to deal.
To these I bow in weakness as behoves.
Yet not in anger but in love I stand
'Gainst heaven, a new Prometheus, and appeal
From God to my own soul which ceaseless loves.
His be the wrath, the burning and the rod.
Hell shall not make me traitor to my God.
i8



of Proteus



ON FALLING ILL THROUGH GRIEF

TRUCE to thee, Soul, I have a debt to pay,
Which I acknowledge and without thy pleading.
I like the little that thou barrest my way
With prayers too late for one well past thy heeding.
Truce to these tears ! Thy fellow lieth bleeding,
Wounded by thee ; and thou, forsooth, dost say,
'' I have a servant who is sick and needing
Care at men's hands." The care was thine to pay.
— When this same Soul was sick, a while ago.
The Body watched her, till his eyes grew dim
And his cheeks pale for very sympathy,
Because she grieved. His love has wrought him woe.
For he is sick and she despiseth him.
Poor Body, I must take some thought of thee.



19



PART II
JULIET



TO JULIET

ON THE NATURE OF LOVE

YOU ask my love. What shall my love then be ?
A hope, an aspiration, a desire ?
The soul's eternal charter writ in fire
Upon the earth, the heavens, and the sea ?
You ask my love. The carnal mystery
Of a soft hand, of finger-tips that press,
Of eyes that kindle and of lips that kiss,
Of sweet things known to thee and only thee ?
You ask my love. What love can be more sweet
Than hope or pleasure ? Yet we love in vain.
The soul is more than joy, the life than meat.
The sweetest love of all were love in pain.
And that I will not give. So let it be.
— Nay, give me any love, so it be love of thee.



The Love Sonnets
TO JULIET

ASKING FOR HER HEART

I

GIVE me thy heart, Juliet, give me thy heart!
I have a need of it, an absolute need,
Because my own heart has thus long been dead.
I live but by thy life. The very smart
Of this new pain which has been born of thee
Is thine, thy own great pleasure's counterpart.
I stand before thee naked. Clothe thou me.
Bring out a robe, — thy truth, thy chastity.
Put rings upon my fingers, — honour's meed.
For thou canst give, nor ever reck the cost,
Being the royal creature that thou art,
The fountain of all honour, whose high boast
Is to be greatest when thou givest most.



24



of Proteus

THE SAME

{Continued)

II

GIVE me thy soul, Juliet, give me thy soul !
I am a bitter sea, which drinketh in
The sweetness of all waters, and so thine.
Thou, like a river, pure and swift and full
And freighted with the wealth of many lands,
With hopes, and fears, and death and life, dost roll
Against the troubled ocean of my sin.
Thou doubtest not, though on these desert sands
The billows surge against thee black with brine,
Unwearied. For thy love is fixed and even
And bears thee onward, and thy faith is whole.
Though thou thyself shouldst sin, yet surely heaven
Hath held thee guiltless and thou art forgiven.



25



The Love Sonnets
TO JULIET

ASKING THE FULFILMENT OF HER LOVE

I ASK for love who famished am in plenty,
Not scorning the dear manna of your tears
But being vexed with that too froward twenty
Which heads the sum of my rebellious years.
My soul is fallen " in lust of cucumbers,
Of fish, of melons," through its long abstaining.
Unworthy Egypt yet enslaves my fears.
Ah, love, I thirst, but not for heaven's raining.
Why speak to me, alas, of heavenly joys
Who ask for joys of earth these cannot cheat ?
What are these clouds, these pillars of fire to me?
The wilderness is long. Youth cannot be
For ever fed on these unnatural toys
And needs must murmur if it have not meat.



26



of Proteus
TO JULIET

IN ANSWER TO A QUESTION

WHY should I hate you, love, or why despise
For that last proof of tenderness you gave?
The battle is not always to the brave.
Nor life's sublimest wisdom to the wise.
True courage often is in frightened eyes,
And reason in sweet lips that only rave.
There is a weakness stronger than the grave,
And blood poured out has overcome the skies
— Nay, love, I honour you the more for this,
That you have rent the veil, and ushered in
A fellow soul to your soul's holy place.
And why should either blush that we have been
One day in Eden, in our nakedness ?
— 'T is conscience makes us sinners, not our sin.



27



The Love Sonnets
TO THE SAME

WHO WOULD COMFORT HIM

I DID not ask your pity, dear. Your zeal
I know. It cannot cure me of my woes.
And you, in your sweet happiness, who knows,
Deserve it rather I should pity feel
For what the coming years from you conceal.
I did but cry, thou dear Samaritan,
Out of my bitterness of soul. Each man
Hath his own sorrow treading on his heel,
Ready to strike him, and must keep his shield
To his own back. Fate's arrows thickly fly,
And, if they strike not now, will strike at even.
And so I ask no pity. On life's field
The wounded crawl together, but their cry
Is not to one another but to Heaven.



28



of Proteus



THE RELIGION OF LOVE

SO thou but love me, dear, with thy whole heart
What care I for the rest, for good or ill ?
What for the peace of soul good deeds impart,
What for the tears unholy dreams distil?
These cannot make my joy, nor shall they kill.
Thou only perfect peace and virtue art
And holiness for me and strength and will —
So thou but love me with a perfect heart.
I ask thee now no longer to be wise ;
No longer to be good, but loving me.
I ask thee nothing now but only this.
Henceforth my Bible, dear, shall be thine eyes.
My beads thy lips, my prayers thy constancy,
My heaven thine arms, eternity thy kiss.



29



The Love Sonnets



TO ONE WHO LOVED HIM

1 CANNOT love you, love, as you love me,
In singleness of soul, and faith untried :
I have no faith in any destiny,
In any heaven, even at your side.
Our hearts are all too weak, the world too wide.
You but a woman. If I dare to give
Some thought, some tenderness, a little pride,
A little love, 't is yours, love, to receive.
And do not grieve, though now the gift appear
A drop to your love's ocean. Time shall see.
— Oh, I could prophesy : — That day is sure.
Though not perhaps this week, nor month, nor year,
When your great love shall clean forgotten be
And my poor tenderness shall yet endure.
'T is not the trees that make the tallest show.
Which stand out stoutest when the tempests blow.



30



of Proteus



TO THE SAME

EXHORTING HER TO PATIENCE

WHY do we fret at the inconstancy
Of our frail hearts, which cannot always love?
Time rushes onward, and we mortals move
Like waifs upon a river, neither free
To halt nor hurry. Sweet, if destiny
Throws us together for an hour, a day.
In the back-water of this quiet bay.
Let us rejoice. Before us lies the sea.
Where we must all be lost in spite of love.
We dare not stop to question. Happiness
Lies in our hand unsought, a treasure trove.
Time has short patience of man's vain distress ;
And fate grows angry at too long delay;
And floods rise fast, and we are swept away.



31



The Love Sonnets
TO JULIET

REMINDING HER OF A PROMISE
I

OH, Juliet, we have quarrelled with our fate,
And fate has struck us. Wherefore do we cry?
We prayed for liberty, and now too late
Find liberty is this, to say " good-bye."
The winter which we loved not has gone by,
And spring is come. The gardens, which were bare
When we first wandered through them, you and I,
The prisoners of our own vain wishes, are
Now full of golden flowers. The very lane
Down to the sea is green. The ca6lus hedge
We saw cut down has sprouted new again.
And swallows have their nests on the cliff's edge
Where we so often sat and dared complain
Because our joy was new, and called it pain.



32



of Proteus

THE SAME

(^Continue d^

II

YES, Spring is come, but joy alas is gone, —
Gone ere we knew it, while our foolish eyes,
Which should have watched its motions every one
Were looking elsewhere, at the hill-s, the skies,
Chasing vain thoughts, as children butterflies,
Until the hour struck and the day was done.
And we looked up in passionate surprise
To find that clouds had blotted out our sun.
Our joys are gone — and what is left to us.


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