Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PAULO TO FRANCESCA, by FREDERICK GODDARD TUCKERMAN



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PAULO TO FRANCESCA, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: When weary summer had laid down her leaves
Last Line: Sealing her prophet lips, alas, with serpent tongue.
Subject(s): Kisses; Treason; Lust


When weary Summer had laid down her leaves,
And all the autumn fields were brown and bleak,
How often did we, wandering cheek to cheek,
Tread these deserted ways: on those sad eves,

You--clinging to my side how fearfully!--
Would scarcely dare to speak or breathe aloud;
While every gust seemed like a voice to rise,
And Nature's self to mourn; how often we,
Low in the westward, where they stood like eyes,
Saw the Gemelli under brows of cloud!
Or, through dim pineboughs,--now the quick tears start,--
Watched the red beating of the Scorpion's heart,
While winged with love and fear the hours fled by.
O stolen hours of danger and delight!
O lamp of erring passion burned to waste!
O true false heart! even now I seem to taste
The bitter of the kisses that you gave.
You were the traitor,--yes; and more than I,
You were the tempter. Ah! that autumn night,
The hour that seemed a wavering line to mark
'Twixt early sunset and determined dark,
Found us together: menacing and grave,
The night sank down; no lingering gleam allowed,
But in the west one fiery cupreous cloud!
Do you remember, desperate in my mood
Of all things, of myself, and most of you,
Half careless too, whether the worst were known,
So that the storm might split on me alone,
I laughed to think how far we had gone from good?

Then, with a quick revulsion, wept to view
The misery of our lives, for cruel hands
Had digged a gulf between, a gulf of sin
We could not cross, nor dared to plunge within:
And yet, as musing on our fate and fall,
I spoke as one who surely understands,
Of that deep peace that had been found by some,
And good from evil; reasoning like Paul
Of temperance, judgment, and the life to come;
Deeming it better here to weep and fast
Than mourn with those who shall mourn at the last:
And we had wept as ne'er till then before,
And half resolved that we would meet no more;--
In the brush hollow, under the bare skies,
While darker yet the Shadow closed and clung,
You, pausing, turned--do you remember this?--
With clinging arms and die-away sweet eyes,
And kissed me in the mouth with such a kiss
As that Apollo gave Cassandra young,
Sealing her prophet lips, alas, with serpent tongue.





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