Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE DEAD LETTER, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: And can it be? Ah, yes, I see
Last Line: The strongest human passion!
Subject(s): Letters; Love - Loss Of

AND can it be? Ah, yes, I see,
'T is thirty years and better
Since Mary Morgan sent to me
This musty, musky letter.
A pretty hand (she could n't spell),
As any man must vote it;
And 't was, as I remember well,
A pretty hand that wrote it!

How calmly now I view it all,
As memory backward ranges, --
The talks, the walks, that I recall,
And then -- the postal changes!
How well I loved her I can guess
(Since cash is Cupid's hostage), --
Just one-and-sixpence -- nothing less --
This letter cost in postage!

The love that wrote at such a rate
(By Jove! it was a steep one!)
Five hundred notes (I calculate)
Was certainly a deep one;
And yet it died -- of slow decline --
Perhaps suspicion chilled it;
I've quite forgotten if 't was mine
Or Mary's flirting killed it.

At last the fatal message came:
"My letters, -- please return them;
And yours -- of course you wish the same --
I'll send them back or burn them."
Two precious fools, I must allow,
Whichever was the greater:
I wonder if I'm wiser now,
Some seven lustres later?

And this alone remains! Ah, well!
These words of warm affection,
The faded ink, the pungent smell,
Are food for deep reflection.
They tell of how the heart contrives
To change with fancy's fashion,
And how a drop of musk survives
The strongest human passion!

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net