Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE QUARREL, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE QUARREL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: They faced each other: topaz
Last Line: Like drowning gems were turned on him.
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Faces; Hate; Quarrels; Sea; Storms; Arguments; Disagreements; Ocean


THEY faced each other: Topaz-brown
And lambent burned her eyes and shot
Sharp flame at his of amethyst. --
"I hate you! Go, and be forgot
As death forgets!" their glitter hissed
(So seemed it) in their hatred. Ho!
Dared any mortal front her so? --
Tempestuous eyebrows knitted down --
Tense nostril, mouth -- no muscle slack, --
And black -- the suffocating black --
The stifling blackness of her frown!

Ah! but the lifted face of her!
And the twitched lip and tilted head!
Yet he did neither wince nor stir, --
Only -- his hands clenched; and, instead
Of words, he answered with a stare
That stammered not in aught it said,
As might his voice if trusted there.

And what -- what spake his steady gaze? --
Was there a look that harshly fell
To scoff her? -- or a syllable
Of anger? -- or the bitter phrase
That myrrhs the honey of love's lips,
Or curdles blood as poison-drips?
What made their breasts to heave and swell
As billows under bows of ships
In broken seas on stormy days?
We may not know -- nor they indeed --
What mercy found them in their need.

A sudden sunlight smote the gloom;
And round about them swept a breeze,
With faint breaths as of clover-bloom;
A bird was heard, through drone of bees, --
Then, far and clear and eerily,
A child's voice from an orchard-tree --
Then laughter, sweet as the perfume
Of lilacs, could the hearing see.
And he -- O Love! he fed thy name
On bruised kisses, while her dim
Deep eyes, with all their inner flame,
Like drowning gems were turned on him.





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