John Barlas (1860-1914)
Love Sonnets (complete sequence)
Oblivion! is it not one name of death?
Nay, is not Lethe death's most dismal name,
Death growing hour by hour within our frame,
Death settling slowly in our brain, the breath
Of the soul ebbing, so that he who saith,
I am to-day as yesterday the same,
Lies, for his thoughts are fled like smoke from flame,
And like the dew his sorrow vanisheth.
Changed is the river, though the waves remain,
Which rocks of slowlier-changing circumstance
Plough up in every day of chafing foam.
Changed is the river, gone, gone to the main,
Yesterday's dream and last year's happy chance,
And the heart's thoughts again return not home.
A dagger-hilt crusted with flaming gems:
A queen's rich girdle clasped with tiger's claws;
A lady's glove or a cat's velvet paws;
The whisper of a judge when he condemns;
Fierce night-shade berries purple on their stems
Among the rose's healthsome scarlet haws;
A rainbow-sheathed snake with jagged jaws:
Such are queen Beauty's sovran anadems.
For she caresses with a poisoned hand,
And venom hangs about her moistened lips,
And plots of murder lurk with her eyes
She loves lewd girls dancing a saraband
The murderer stabbing till all his body drips,
And thee, my gentle lady, and thy soft sighs.
Her hair is yellow as sulphur, and her gaze
As brimstone burning blue and odorous:
I know not how her eyes came to be thus
But I do think her soul must be ablaze:
Their pupils wane or wax to blame or praise;
As a cat watches mice, she watches us;
And I am sure her claws are murderous,
So feline are her velvet coaxing ways.
She purrs like a young leopard soothed and pleased
At flattery; so too turns and snarls when teased,
And pats her love like a beast of prey.
I fancy too that over wine and food
Her saffron hair turns tawny and grand her mood--
She broods like a young lioness of play.
The marriage of two murderers in the gloom
Of a dark fane to hymns of blackest night;
Before a priest who keeps his hands from sight
Hidden away beneath his robe of doom,
Lest any see the flowers of blood that bloom
For gems upon the fingers, red on white;
The while far up in domes of dizzy height
The trumpets of the organ peal and boom:
Such is our love. Oh sweet delicious lips
From which I fancy all the world's blood drips!
Oh supple waist, pale cheek, and eyes of fire,
Hard little breasts and white gigantic hips,
And blue-black hair with serpent coils that slips
Out of my hand in hours of red desire.