poem index

Vague à l'âme.

Vague à l'âme.
next
Remember
Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 1894
Remember me when I am gone away,
   Gone far away into the silent land;
   When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
   You tell me of our future that you planned:
   Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
   And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
   For if the darkness and corruption leave
   A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
   Than that you should remember and be sad.
Vague à l'âme.
next
Never give all the heart
W. B. Yeats, 1865 - 1939

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

Vague à l'âme.
next
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)
Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 - 1950
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why, 
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain 
Under my head till morning; but the rain 
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh 
Upon the glass and listen for reply, 
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain 
For unremembered lads that not again 
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry. 
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree, 
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one, 
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before: 
I cannot say what loves have come and gone, 
I only know that summer sang in me 
A little while, that in me sings no more.
Vague à l'âme.
next
The More Loving One
W. H. Auden, 1907 - 1973
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.
Vague à l'âme.
next
He would not stay for me, and who can wonder
A. E. Housman, 1859 - 1936
He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?
  He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.
I shook his hand, and tore my heart in sunder,
  And went with half my life about my ways.
Vague à l'âme.
next
I Do Not Love Thee
Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton
I do not love thee!—no! I do not love thee!
And yet when thou art absent I am sad;
   And envy even the bright blue sky above thee,
Whose quiet stars may see thee and be glad.

I do not love thee!—yet, I know not why,
Whate’er thou dost seems still well done, to me:
   And often in my solitude I sigh
That those I do love are not more like thee!

I do not love thee!—yet, when thou art gone,
I hate the sound (though those who speak be dear)
   Which breaks the lingering echo of the tone
Thy voice of music leaves upon my ear.

I do not love thee!—yet thy speaking eyes,
With their deep, bright, and most expressive blue,
   Between me and the midnight heaven arise,
Oftener than any eyes I ever knew.

I know I do not love thee! yet, alas!
Others will scarcely trust my candid heart;
   And oft I catch them smiling as they pass,
Because they see me gazing where thou art.
Vague à l'âme.
next
When We Two Parted
George Gordon Byron, 1788 - 1824
When we two parted 
   In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted 
   To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold, 
   Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold 
   Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning 
   Sunk chill on my brow-- 
It felt like the warning
   Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken, 
   And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken, 
   And share in its shame.

They name thee before me, 
   A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o'er me--
   Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee, 
   Who knew thee too well--
Long, long shall I rue thee, 
   Too deeply to tell.

In secret we met--
   In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget, 
   Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee 
   After long years,
How should I greet thee?--
   With silence and tears.
Vague à l'âme.
next
Apart (Les Separes)
Louis Simpson, 1923 - 2012
Do not write. I am sad, and want my light put out.
Summers in your absence are as dark as a room.
I have closed my arms again. They must do without.
To knock at my heart is like knocking at a tomb.
                Do not write!

Do not write. Let us learn to die, as best we may.
Did I love you? Ask God. Ask yourself. Do you know?
To hear that you love me, when you are far away,
Is like hearing from heaven and never to go.
                Do not write!

Do not write. I fear you. I fear to remember,
For memory holds the voice I have often heard.
To the one who cannot drink, do not show water,
The beloved one's picture in the handwritten word.
                Do not write!

Do not write those gentle words that I dare not see,
It seems that your voice is spreading them on my heart,
Across your smile, on fire, they appear to me,
It seems that a kiss is printing them on my heart.
                Do not write!

Les Séparés

N'écris pas. Je suis triste, et je voudrais m'éteindre.
Les beaux étés sans toi, c'est la nuit sans flambeau.
J'ai refermé mes bras qui ne peuvent t'atteindre,
Et frapper à mon coeur, c'est frapper au tombeau.
                N'écris pas!

N'écris pas. N'apprenons qu'à mourir à nous-mêmes.
Ne demande qu'à Dieu . . . qu'à toi, si je t'aimais!
Au fond de ton absence écouter que tu m'aimes,
C'est entendre le ciel sans y monter jamais.
                N'écris pas!

N'écris pas. Je te crains; j'ai peur de ma mémoire;
Elle a gardé ta voix qui m'appelle souvent.
Ne montre pas l'eau vive à qui ne peut la boire.
Une chère écriture est un portrait vivant.
                N'écris pas!

N'écris pas ces doux mots que je n'ose plus lire:
Il semble que ta voix les répand sur mon coeur;
Que je les vois brûler à travers ton sourire;
Il semble qu'un baiser les empreint sur mon coeur.
                N'écris pas!
Vague à l'âme.
next
Failing and Flying
Jack Gilbert, 1925 - 2012

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

Vague à l'âme.
next
Love Not
Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton
  Love not, love not! ye hapless sons of clay!  
Hope's gayest wreaths are made of earthly flowers—  
Things that are made to fade and fall away  
Ere they have blossom'd for a few short hours.  
        Love not!
  
Love not! the thing ye love may change:  
The rosy lip may cease to smile on you,  
The kindly-beaming eye grow cold and strange,  
The heart still warmly beat, yet not be true.  
        Love not!
  
Love not! the thing you love may die,  
May perish from the gay and gladsome earth;  
The silent stars, the blue and smiling sky,  
Beam o'er its grave, as once upon its birth.  
        Love not!
  
Love not! oh warning vainly said  
In present hours as in the years gone by;  
Love flings a halo round the dear ones' head,  
Faultless, immortal, till they change or die,  
        Love not!