After Ten Years.


Come out beyond this house and garden pale,1
Where I have lived and walked these hopeless years ;2
These lonely longsome years, whose only tale3
Has been of hope deferr’d, and whose sick tears,4
Slow-dropping on my heart, have deadened it,5
Till even dreaded pain has lost his sting,6
And grown familiar, us’d all day and night,7
Beside me close to sit,8
And lay his leaden hand on everything9
That once was young and quick and warmly bright.10
Come out, away ;  here I am ever bound,11
And only half-alive ;  close-clinging weeds12
Stifle and wrap my brain ;  my heart is wound13
In a shroud of ten years’ patience ;  here it feeds14
On mem’ry’s bitter rind, it cannot wake15
To understand your coming, and the life16
You say is yet before us ;  here each tree,17
Each leaf and flower-flake,18
Speaks to me of the past, and, like a knife,19
The faint sweet smell of lilac pierces me !20
How have I spent these years you ask ?  Soon told,21
The story of my springtime !  Eight years pass’d22
In tending him who parted us of old,23
Using a father’s right ;  and these two last,24
After he died (died palsied, mindless, blind),25
Have crept by sadly in grey silent days26
Free from all care or burden, but alone :27
Voices cold or kind28
I shrank from ; all too old to change my ways,29
For two long years now I have lived alone !30
The summers came with tender lilacs twin’d,31
And went in rain of rose-leaves falling fast32
Upon the sighing, sobbing, autumn wind ;33
They killed me with the thought of summers past !34
In winter I could better bear my life ;35
I took fierce pleasure in the icy snow,36
The sullen sky, and dead hard-frozen shore,37
And windy moan and strife.38
But summer, with its thrill and murm’rous flow,39
Its languor of delight—I shrank before !40
Come—I remember a deep wood—come quick !41
Which for this many a year I have not seen,42
So ’tis not poisoned with my fancy sick43
Here through this gate—Oh !  the cool, the green,44
Soothes me to quiet, as a mother’s hand45
Hushes her restless child ;  this quiv’ring light,46
And sigh of beechen leaves, this mossy thyme,47
The distant purple land48
Crowning the long low hills, is like the sight49
Of half-forgotten faces ;  for that time50
When we walked here together, ere you went,51
That was the last : then I was young and fair,52
And you not grave as now, and gray and bent.53
A weary woman, sorrow-touch’d, with hair54
And face and form time-changéd, such I’ve grown55
No, no! you cannot want me as you say ;56
You say so out of pity ;  let me die57
As I have liv’d—alone !58
How can I share your life? a shadow gray,59
To harass and to haunt you—no—not I !60
You have had liberty, and change, and choice,61
All a man’s part, although beyond the sea,62
While I have had to live with my own voice63
And face and fancies, and have had to see64
My life to autumn fading ere its spring.65
Faithful you call me ?  Faithful ?  Oh, love, no !66
Here let me tell you, kneeling at your feet,67
Nay, let me weeping cling !68
I have been faithless, hard ;  and even so,69
Of such black doubt I glean the harvest meet !70
The day you went youth died. Was it then strange71
That faith died too, and tender hope and trust,72
And all that keeps us young ?  I said, no change73
Can henceforth come for me. I basely thrust74
Your promise and your solemn oath aside.75
For ten long years I have dishonour’d you,76
Dishonouring your word, with dark despair77
And bitter doubting pride !78
You have been faithful—(God reward you !) —true.79
But I ?— my love! my love! how could I dare !80


You poor woman, hush !  I will not hear81
Another word against yourself. I know82
Your loveless life of constant care and fear83
Spent serving him who laid our love-hopes low.84
Hush, listen, for us both I best can speak ;85
Rise from your lowly kneeling. By my side,86
Close to my heart, sweet wife (for wife you’ll be87
Before another week),88
Must be your place henceforth !  Long-chosen bride !89
Among all women, you alone for me !90
I know you better than you know yourself ;91
You cannot but be happy with my love,92
So strong, so patient. I, who trust myself,93
Will make you trust me, and great God above94
Will give his blessing, and will make our life95
A ceaseless song of joy ;  and I shall make96
A golden radiance of your eventide ;97
So you will trust me, wife !98
Poor face, each line is sacred for love’s sake,99
I would not wish these ten years’ marks to hide !100
Weeping for me has made those eyes so sad ;101
Thinking of me has traced that careworn brow !102
Now, love, I mean to teach you to be glad,103
Now gay and restful, and light-hearted now.104
So we will spend our peaceful wedded life,105
And in that better life above, believe106
That we shall have our spring-time’s green delight !107
Give me your hand, my wife ;108
Look at the future through my eyes, and weave109
Your sad thoughts with my hopes and visions bright !110