He bends his travel-tarnished feet To where she wastes in clay: From day-dawn until eve he fares Along the wintry way; From day-dawn until eve repairs Unto her mound to pray.
"Are these the gravestone shapes that meet My forward-straining view? Or forms that cross a window-blind In circle, knot, and queue: Gay forms, that cross and whirl and wind To music throbbing through?" -
"The Keeper of the Field of Tombs Dwells by its gateway-pier; He celebrates with feast and dance His daughter's twentieth year: He celebrates with wine of France The birthday of his dear." -
"The gates are shut when evening glooms: Lay down your wreath, sad wight; To-morrow is a time more fit For placing flowers aright: The morning is the time for it; Come, wake with us to-night!" -
He grounds his wreath, and enters in, And sits, and shares their cheer. - "I fain would foot with you, young man, Before all others here; I fain would foot it for a span With such a cavalier!"
She coaxes, clasps, nor fails to win His first-unwilling hand: The merry music strikes its staves, The dancers quickly band; And with the damsel of the graves He duly takes his stand.
"You dance divinely, stranger swain, Such grace I've never known. O longer stay! Breathe not adieu And leave me here alone! O longer stay: to her be true Whose heart is all your own!" -
"I mark a phantom through the pane, That beckons in despair, Its mouth all drawn with heavy moan - Her to whom once I sware!" - "Nay; 'tis the lately carven stone Of some strange girl laid there!" -
"I see white flowers upon the floor Betrodden to a clot; My wreath were they?"--"Nay; love me much, Swear you'll forget me not! 'Twas but a wreath! Full many such Are brought here and forgot."
* * *
The watches of the night grow hoar, He rises ere the sun; "Now could I kill thee here!" he says, "For winning me from one Who ever in her living days Was pure as cloistered nun!"
She cowers, and he takes his track Afar for many a mile, For evermore to be apart From her who could beguile His senses by her burning heart, And win his love awhile.
A year: and he is travelling back To her who wastes in clay; From day-dawn until eve he fares Along the wintry way, From day-dawn until eve repairs Unto her mound to pray.
And there he sets him to fulfil His frustrate first intent: And lay upon her bed, at last, The offering earlier meant: When, on his stooping figure, ghast And haggard eyes are bent.
"O surely for a little while You can be kind to me! For do you love her, do you hate, She knows not--cares not she: Only the living feel the weight Of loveless misery!
"I own my sin; I've paid its cost, Being outcast, shamed, and bare: I give you daily my whole heart, Your babe my tender care, I pour you prayers; and aye to part Is more than I can bear!"
He turns--unpitying, passion-tossed; "I know you not!" he cries, "Nor know your child. I knew this maid, But she's in Paradise!" And swiftly in the winter shade He breaks from her and flies.