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Henry Van Dyke Poems
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Nepenthe by Henry Van Dyke
Yes, it was like you to forget,
And cancel in the welcome of your smile
My deep arrears of debt,
And with the putting forth of both your hands
To sweep away the bars my folly set
Between us -- bitter thoughts, and harsh demands,
And reckless deeds that seemed untrue
To love, when all the while
My heart was aching through and through
For you, sweet heart, and only you.

Yet, as I turned to come to you again,
I thought there must be many a mile
Of sorrowful reproach to cross,
And many an hour of mutual pain
To bear, until I could make plain
That all my pride was but the fear of loss,
And all my doubt the shadow of despair
To win a heart so innocent and fair;
And even that which looked most ill
Was but the fever-fret and effort vain
To dull the thirst which you alone could still.

But as I turned the desert miles were crossed,
And when I came the weary hours were sped!
For there you stood beside the open door,
Glad, gracious, smiling as before,
And with bright eyes and tender hands outspread
Restored me to the Eden I had lost.
Never a word of cold reproof,
No sharp reproach, no glances that accuse
The culprit whom they hold aloof, --
Ah, 't is not thus that other women use
The power they have Won!
For there is none like you, belov├Ęd, -- none
Secure enough to do what you have done.
Where did you learn this heavenly art, --
You sweetest and most wise of all that live, --
With silent welcome to impart
Assurance of the royal heart
That never questions where it would forgive?

None but a queen could pardon me like this!
My sovereign lady, let me lay
Within each rosy palm a loyal kiss
Of penitence, then close the fingers up,
Thus -- thus! Now give the cup
Of full nepenthe in your crimson mouth,
And come -- the garden blooms with bliss,
The wind is in the south,
The rose of love with dew is wet --
Dear, it was like you to forget!
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