I hate this yoke; for the world’s sake here put it on:
Knowing ’twill weigh as much on you till life is gone.
Knowing you love your freedom dear, as I love mine—
Knowing that love unchained has been our life’s great wine:
Our one great wine (yet spent too soon, and serving none;
Of the two cups free love at last the deadly one).
We grant our meetings will be tame, not honey-sweet
No longer turning to the tryst with flying feet.
We know the toil that now must come will spoil the bloom
And tenderness of passion’s touch, and in its room
Will come tame habit, deadly calm, sorrow and gloom.
Oh, how the battle sears the best who enter life!
Each soidier comes out blind or lame from the black strife.
Mad or diseased or damned of soul the best may come—
It matters not how merrily now rolls the drum,
The fife shrills high, the horn sings loud, till no steps lag—
And all adore that silken flame, Desire’s great flag.
We will build strong our tiny fort, strong as we can—
Holding one inner room beyond the sword of man.
Love is too wide, it seems to-day, to hide it there.
It seems to flood the fields of corn, and gild the air—
It seems to breathe from every brook, from flowers to sigh—
It seems a cataract poured down from the great sky;
It seems a tenderness so vast no bush but shows
Its haunting and transfiguring light where wonder glows.
It wraps us in a silken snare by shadowy streams,
And wildering sweet and stung with joy your white soul seems
A flame, a flame, conquering day, conquering night,
Brought from our God, a holy thing, a mad delight.
But love, when all things beat it down, leaves the wide air,
The heavens are gray, and men turn wolves, lean with despair.
Ah, when we need love most, and weep, when all is dark,
Love is a pinch of ashes gray, with one live spark—
Yet on the hope to keep alive that treasure strange
Hangs all earth’s struggle, strife and scorn, and desperate change.
Love? . . . we will scarcely love our babes full many a time—
Knowing their souls and ours too well, and all our grime—
And there beside our holy hearth we’ll hide our eyes—
Lest we should flash what seems disdain without disguise.
Yet there shall be no wavering there in that deep trial—
And no false fire or stranger hand or traitor vile—
We’ll fight the gloom and fight the world with strong sword-play,
Entrenched within our block-house small, ever at bay—
As fellow-warriors, underpaid, wounded and wild,
True to their battered flag, their faith still undefiled!