Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SOUVENIR, by ALFRED DE MUSSET



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SOUVENIR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I weep, but with no bitterness I weep
Last Line: My soul to god shall bear.
Subject(s): Death; Gethsemane; Grief; Nature; Souvenirs; Tears; Time; Dead, The; Sorrow; Sadness


I weep, but with no bitterness I weep,
To look again upon thee, hallowed spot,
O dearest grave, and most of men forgot,
Where buried love doth sleep.

What witchcraft think you that this desert hath,
Dear friends, who take my hand and bid me stay,
Now that the gentle wont of many a day
Would lead me down this path?

Here are the wooded slopes, the flowering heath,
The silver footprints on the silent sand,
The loitering lanes, alive with lovers' breath,
Where first I kissed her hand.

I know these fir-trees, and this mossy stone,
And this dep gorge, and all its winding ways;
These friendly giants, whose primeval moan
Hath rocked my happy days.

My footsteps' echo in this tangled tree
Gives back youth's music, like a singing bird;
Dear haunts, fair wilderness her presence stirred,
Did you not watch for me?

I will not dry these tear-drops: let them flow,
And soothe a bitterness that yet might last,
And o'er my waking-weary eyelids throw
The shadow of the past.

My useless plainings shall not make to cease
The happy echoes of the vows we vowed:
Proud is this forest in its noble peace,
And my heart too is proud.

Give o'er to hopeless grief the bitter hours
You kneel to pray upon a brother's tomb:
Here blows the breath of love, and graveyard flowers
Not in this garden bloom.

See! The moon rides athwart a bank ofcloud.
Thy veils, fair Queen of Night, still cling to thee,
But soon thou loosenest thy virgin shroud
And smilest to be free.

As the rich earth, still dank with April rain,
Beneath thy rays exhales day's captive balm,
So from my purged soul, as pure, as calm,
The old love breathes again.

Where are they gone; those ghosts of sorrow pale,
Where fled the passion that my heart defiled?
Once in the bosom of this friendly vale
I am again a child.

O might of time, O changes of the year,
Ye undo sorrow and the tears we shed,
But, touched with pity, on our blossoms sere
Your light feet never tread.

Heavenly solace, be for ever blest!
I had not thought a sword could pierce so far
Into the heart, and leave upon the breast
So sweet and dear a scar.

Far from me the sharp word, the thankless mind,
Of vulgar sorrow customary weed,
Shroud that about the corse of love they wind
Who never loved indeed.

Why, Dante, dost thou say the saddest curse
Is joy remembered in unhappy days?
What grief compelled thee to this bitter verse
In sorrow's harsh dispraise?

O'er all the worlds is light bereft of gladness
When sad eclipses cast their blight on us?
Did thy great soul, in its immortal sadness,
Speak to thee, Dante, thus?

No, by this sacred light upon me cast!
Not in thy heart this blasphemy had birth.
It is the truest happiness on earth
To have a happy past.

What! When the soul forlorn finds yet a spark
'Mid the hot ashes of her stifled sighs,
And doth that flame, her only treasure, mark
With captivated eyes,

Bathing her wounds in the delicisous past
That mirrors brokenly her loves again,
Thy cruel word her feeble joy would blast
And turn to bitter pain?

And couldst thou wrong thine own Francesca so,
Wrong thy bright angel with a word like this,
Her whose lips, parting to rehearse her woe,
Broke an eternal kiss?

What, righteous Heaven, is our human thought,
And to the love of truth who yet will cling,
If every pain or joy e'er shunned or sought
Turns to a doubtful thing?

How can you live, strange souls that nothing awes?
In midst of haste and passion, song and mirth,
Nor all the stars of heaven give you pause,
Nor all the sins of earth;

But when upon your fated way you meet
Some dumb memorial of a passion dead,
That little pebble stops you, and you dread
To bruise your tender feet.

You cry aloud that life is but a dream,
And, to the truth awaking, wring your hands,
And grieve your bubble but a moment stands
Upon time's foaming stream.

Poor fools! That moment when your soul could shake
The numbing fetters off that it enthrall,
That fleeting moment was your all in all --
Oh, mourn not for its sake!

But rather mourn your weight of earthly dross,
Your joyless toil, your stains of blood and mire,
Your sunless days, your nights without desire;
In these was utter loss.

What profit have you of your late lament,
And what from heaven do your murmurs crave,
The plaints you sow upon the barren grave
Of every pleasure spent?

Life is a dream, and all things pass, I know:
If some fair splendour we be charmed withal,
We pluck the flower, and at the breath we blow
Its withered petals fall.

Ay, the first kiss and the first virgin vow
That ever mortals upon earth did swear,
That whirlwind caught which strips the frozen bough
And stones to sand doth wear.

A witness to the lovers' troth was night,
With changeful skies, o'ercast with mystery,
And stars unnumbered, that an inward light
Devours unceasingly.

They saw death hush the song bird in the glade,
Blast the pale flower, and freeze the torpid worm,
And choke the fountain where the image played
Of their forgotten form.

Yet they joined hands above the mouldering clod,
Blind with love's light that flashed across the sky,
Nor felt the cold eye of the changeless God
Who watches all things die.

Fools! says the sage: thrice blest! the poet says.
What wretched joy is to the faint heart dear
Whom noise of torrents fills with weak amaze
And the wind fills with fear?

I have seen beneath the sun more beauties fail
Than white sea foam or leaves of forest sere;
More than the swallows and the roses frail
Desert the widowed year.

Mine eyes have gazed on sights of deeper woe
Than Juliet dead within the gorged tomb,
And deadlier than the cup that Romeo
Drank to his love and doom.

I have seen my love, when all I loved had perished,
Who to a whited sepulchre is turned;
Seen the thin dust of all I ever cherished
In her cold heart inurned, --

Dust of that faith which, in our bosoms furled,
The gentle night had warded well from doubt.
More than a single life, alas! a world
Was that day blotted out.

Still young I found her, and, men said, more fair;
In heaven's light her eyes could still rejoice,
And her lips opened, and a smile was there,
And sound as of a voice.

But not that gentle voice, that tender grace
Those eyes I worshipped when they looked their prayer:
My heart, still full of her, searched, searched her face
And could not find her there.

And still I could have gone to her, and cast
My arms about that chill and lifeless stone,
And cried, Where hast thou left it, faithless one,
Where hast thou left the past?

But no: it rather seemed as if by chance
Some unknown woman had that voice and eye;
I looked up into heaven; with cold glance
I passed that statue by.

Not without pangs of shame and bitterness
I watched her smiling shadow glide away;
But what of that? Immortal nature, say,
Have I loved therefore less?

On me the gods may now their lightnings fling,
They cannot undo truth, nor kill the past.
Like a wrecked sailor to a broken mast
To my dead love I cling.

I make no question of what flowers may bloom,
What virtue from the seasons man may borrow,
What heavenly lamp may flood with light to-morrow
The vault of this great tomb.

I only say: Here at this hour, one day,
I loved, and I was loved, and she was fair.
This treasure which no death can filch away
My soul to God shall bear.




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