Philip Bourke Marston (1850-1887)

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Not Thou but I

It must have been for one of us, my own,
To drink this cup and eat this bitter bread.
Had not my tears upon thy face been shed,
Thy tears had dropped on mine; if I alone
Did not walk now, thy spirit would have known
My loneliness; and did my feet not tread
This weary path and steep, thy feet had bled
For mine, and thy mouth had for mine made moan:

And so it comforts me, yea, not in vain,
To think of thine eternity of sleep;
To know thine eyes are tearless though mine weep:
And when this cup's last bitterness I drain,
One thought shall still its primal sweetness keep,--
Thou hadst the peace and I the undying pain.

(Text above from The Book of Sorrow)

Youth and Nature

Is this the sky, and this the very earth
I had such pleasure in when I was young?
And can this be the identical sea-song,
Heard once within the storm-cloud's awful girth,
When a great cloud from silence burst to birth,
And winds to whom it seemed I did belong
Made the keen blood in me run swift and strong
With irresistible, tempestuous mirth?

Are these the forests loved of old so well,
Where on May nights enchanted music was?
Are these the fields of soft, delicious grass,
These the old hills with secret things to tell?
O my dead youth, was this inevitable,
That with thy passing, Nature, too, should pass?

A Dream

Here--where last night she came, even she, for whom
I would so gladly live or lie down dead,
Came in the likeness of a dream and said
Some words that thrilled this desolate ghost-thronged room--
I sit alone now in the absolute gloom.
Ah! surely on her breast was leaned my head,
Ah! surely on my mouth her kiss was shed,
While all my life broke into scent and bloom.
Give thanks, heart, for thy rootless flower of bliss,
Nor think the gods severe though thus they seem,
Though thou hast much to bear and much to miss,
Whilst thou thy nights and days to be canst deem
One thing, and that thing veritably this--
The imperishable memory of a dream.

Three Sonnets on Sorrow


A child, with mystic eyes and flowing hair,
I saw her first, 'mid flowers that shared her grace;
Though but a boy, I cried, "How fair a face!"
And, coming nearer, told her she was fair.
She faintly smiled, yet did not say "Forbear!"
But seemed to take a pleasure in my praise.
She led my steps through many a leafy place
And pointed where shy birds and sweet flowers were.

At length we stood upon a brooklet's brink--
I seem to hear its sources babbling yet--
She gave me water from her hand to drink,
The while her eyes upon its flow were set.
"Thy name?" I asked; she whispered low, "Regret,"
Then faded as the sun began to sink.


We met again, as I foresaw we should;
Youth flooded all my veins, and she had grown
To woman's height, yet seemed a rose half blown.
Like sunset clouds that o'er a landscape brood
Her eyes were, that they might not be withstood,
And like the wind's voice when it takes the tone
Of pine trees was her voice. I cried "My own!"
And kneeling there I worshipped her and wooed.

O bitter marriage, though inevitable,
Ordained by fate, who wrecks or saves our days!
Lo, the changed bride, no longer fair of face,
And in her eyes the very fires of hell!
"Thy name?" I cried; and these words hissing fell--
"Anguish--and madness comes of my embrace."


What thing may be to come I cannot know.
Her eyes have less of hell in them, meanwhile;
At times she almost smiles a ghastly smile,
I have in all things done her bidding so.
Chill are the rooms wherein no bright fires glow,
Where no fair picture does the eye beguile;
Once awful laughter shook the gloomy pile,
Unholy, riotous shapes went to and fro.

There is no sound, now, in the house at all,
Only outside the wind moans on, alway.
My Lady Sorrow has no word to say,
Seems half content; for well she knows her thrall
Shall not escape from her; that should God call
She would rise with him at the Judgment Day.

(Texts above from Sonnets of This Century)