Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AT A FAIR, by GEORGE DOUGLAS HOWARD COLE



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AT A FAIR, by            
First Line: There in the quivering, golden light of the sun
Last Line: To know true love for a little before they die.
Alternate Author Name(s): Cole, G. D. H.
Subject(s): Festivals; Oxford University; Fairs; Pageants


THERE in the quivering, golden light of the sun,
On the smitten earth grown bare with the trampling of feet,
When the course of the country dance was almost run,
And the trees gave welcome promise of shade from the heat,
Round and round, forgetful of all, we spun,
Save that my body rejoiced with her body to meet,
And heart in that fierce embrace seemed heart to greet,
And the linking of souls without speech was all but won.

Round and round, till the whole world seemed to reel,
And the mere mechanical motion of feet alone
Guided the whirling dance that we ceased to feel,
Till slowly the hot heart sank and grew as a stone;
And at last we knew the wound that is hard to heal,
And the pent love rose to the lips, and became a moan,
And then for a moment her wild eyes met mine own,
And apart for shame we silently 'gan to steal.

Apart for shame: so soon can the body part,
And the touch for a moment felt in a moment flies;
The feeble eye can serve not the great soul's smart,
Nor restore the vision for which the reft soul cries;
And little availeth the lover the sad soul's art,
To call the vanished pleasures back with its lies,
And people the bosom with tenderest memories;
For the senses alone can fulfil the desire of the heart.

Apart for shame and away through the mirthful crowd
We stole like thieves that fly through the ghostly night,
Though the voice of our love within was crying aloud,
Commanding our spirits to scorn not his offered delight.
We heard not his prayer: for our thoughts were stubborn and proud,
And coward shame forbade us to serve his might,
And fearing the wrong we heavily turned from the right,
And left the hope of delight that the soul had found.
* * * * *
Out in the silence I pray to the lonely sky,
That she may come again with expectant face,
To the lighted glade where the dance is set hard by,
And I am waiting alone in the self-same place,
And then we will dance as of old, and the dancers anigh
Shall mark not how closely we cling in our dear embrace,
Nor how madly the winding coil of the dance we trace,
Nor the fixed look of the unexpressive eye.

And then -- who knows? Shall love be the victor yet?
Or as we severed before shall we sever again?
Either part and remember or part and forget,
But always "part," howsoever our hearts be fain.
Nay, perhaps love will get wisdom and therewith gain
The tyrannous boon whereon he is ever set,
And we may live as we will without fear or let,
And the wild delight in our hearts may still remain.

Aye, but the world goes on, and the moments fly,
And the time is short for a man to compass bliss:
Yet while the spirit is fresh and the heart beats high,
Who can say nay of the dark-robed mysteries?
Once I have suffered the fate to pass me by,
And a lesson learned is a step to delight, I wis,
For the fondest hope that men cherish is only this --
To know true love for a little before they die.





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