Should’st thou, in grip of dread disease,
Foresee the day when thou must die,
With no more hope of life or ease,
But only, lingering, to lie
While torturing hours go slowly by;
Thy brain awake, thy nerves alive
To thine extremest agony,
And all in vain to rave or strive: —
O my beloved, if this should be,
Call me — and I will set thee free.
Murder! And thou to judgment hurled —
Cut off from some few days of grace —
Thus will it be to that hard world
Which fits one law to every case,
And dooms all rebels to disgrace.
But to us twain, who stand above
Conventioned rules, unbound, unclassed,
A solemn sacrament of love,
More true than kisses in the past —
Love’s costliest tribute, and the last.
Thy grateful hand, unclenched, shall seek
The hand that gave thee thy release;
Thy darkening eyes shall dumbly speak
Of scorching pangs that sink and cease —
Of anguish drowned in rest and peace.
And I that terrible farewell,
Despairing but content, shall take,
Knowing that I have served thee well —
I, that would dare the rack and stake,
The flames of hell, for thy dear sake.
The law may hang me for my crime,
Just or unjust, I’ll not complain.
‘Twere better than to live my time
Bereaved and broken, and to wane,
Slow inch by inch, in useless pain;
Alone, unhelped, uncomforted,
In mine own last extremity;
No faithful lover by my bed
To do what thou would’st do for me.
And I shall want to die with thee.