A Promise — Ada Cambridge

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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.

2.

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.

3.

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.

4.

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.

 

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To You

Whoever you are, I fear you are walking the walks of
dreams,
I fear these supposed realities are to melt from under your
feet and hands,
Even now your features, joys, speech, house, trade, manners,
troubles, follies, costume, crimes, dissipate away from you,
Your true soul and body appear before me,
They stand forth out of affairs, out of commerce, shops,
work, farms, clothes, the house, buying, selling, eating,
drinking, suffering, dying.

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you
be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear,
I have loved many women and men, but I love none better
than you.

O I have been dilatory and dumb,
I should have made my way straight to you long ago,
I should have blabb’d nothing but you, I should have chanted
nothing but you.

I will leave all and come and make the hymns of you,
None has understood you, but I understand you,
None has done justice to you, you have not done justice to
yourself,
None but has found you imperfect, I only find no
imperfection in you,
None but would subordinate you, I only am he who will
never consent to subordinate you,
I only am he who places over you no master, owner, better,
God, beyond what waits intrinsically in yourself.

Painters have painted their swarming groups and the centre-
figure of all,
From the head of the centre-figure spreading a nimbus of
gold-color’d light,
But I paint myriads of heads, but paint no head without its
nimbus of gold-color’d light,
From my hand from the brain of every man and woman it
streams, effulgently flowing forever.

O I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you!
You have not known what you are, you have slumber’d upon
yourself all your life,
Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of the time,
What you have done returns already in mockeries,
(Your thrift, knowledge, prayers, if they do not return in
mockeries, what is their return?)

The mockeries are not you,
Underneath them and within them I see you lurk,
I pursue you where none else has pursued you,
Silence, the desk, the flippant expression, the night, the
accustom’d routine, if these conceal you from others or
from yourself, they do not conceal you from me,
The shaved face, the unsteady eye, the impure complexion, if
these balk others they do not balk me,
The pert apparel, the deform’d attitude, drunkenness, greed,
premature death, all these I part aside.

There is no endowment in man or woman that is not tallied
in you,
There is no virtue, no beauty in man or woman, but as good
is in you,
No pluck, no endurance in others, but as good is in you,
No pleasure waiting for others, but an equal pleasure waits
for you.

As for me, I give nothing to any one except I give the like
carefully to you,
I sing the songs of the glory of none, not God, sooner than
I sing the songs of the glory of you.

Whoever you are! claim your own at an hazard!
These shows of the East and West are tame compared to you,
These immense meadows, these interminable rivers, you are
immense and interminable as they,
These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of
apparent dissolution, you are he or she who is master or
mistress over them,
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements,
pain, passion, dissolution.

The hopples fall from your ankles, you find an unfailing
sufficiency,
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest,
whatever you are promulges itself,
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided,
nothing is scanted,
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what
you are picks its way.

 

–  Walt Whitman