Classic and Contemporary Poetry
UNSPOKEN, by JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY Poet's Biography
First Line: O he can hold her hand, and full
Last Line: There lives a love unspeakably sub lime.
Alternate Author Name(s): Johnson Of Boone, Benj. F.
Subject(s): Dreams; Happiness; Love; Soul; Nightmares; Joy; Delight
O HE can hold her hand, and full and fair
Look in her face and fling her smile for smile,
And loosen from his lips such words the while
As make him wonder how his tongue may dare
Such dalliance. And when in wordless prayer
His heart lies gasping, he can reconcile
His talk to that glib, recitative style
The silly gossip chatters everywhere.
But O, one utterance -- one stormy word
Is fastened down in silence pitiless;
No struggling murmur of it ever heard --
No echo welling out of his distress
To plead aloud its mission long deferred,
And leap up fountain-like in thankfulness.
Yet he is bold enough in dreams -- last night
He held her in his arms, and in the strands
Of her down-streaming hair he bathed his hands,
And fretted it in golden foam, as bright
And billowy it floated o'er his sight.
Her breath was like a breeze of fairy-lands
That reels above a bed of bloom and fans
Its fragrant life away in sheer delight.
So even did he whisper through the sighs
That quavered as his spirit stayed to drain
The mad intoxication of her eyes;
Then felt a pang of pleasure keen as pain --
A barb of ecstasy, shot arrow-wise,
In such a kiss as cleft his heart in twain.
But waking, when the morning of her face
Shines full upon him, voiceless has he grown,
Save that inanimately mirthful tone
That ripples ever on its foolish race
And finds nor rest nor joyance in the chase.
And so it is a never-ending moan
Wails on unheard, unheeded and unknown
But by the echoes of its hiding-place.
What poverty like this? -- to laugh, and sing,
And babble like a brook in summertime;
To circle o'er the world on airy wing,
Or clamber into Heaven on rounds of rhyme,
When in the soul, forever lingering,
There lives a love unspeakably sub lime.
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