Men and Women

In a Year

Robert Browning

NEVER any more,
    While I live,
Need I hope to see his face
    As before.
Once his love grown chill,
    Mine may strive—
Bitterly we re-embrace,
    Single still.

Was it something said,
    Something done,
Vexed him? was it touch of hand,
    Turn of head?
Strange! that very way
    Love begun:
I as little understand
    Love’s decay.

When I sewed or drew,
    I recall
How he looked as if I sung,
    —Sweetly too.
If I spoke a word,
    First of all
Up his cheek the colour sprang,
    Then he heard.

Sitting by my side,
    At my feet,
So he breathed but air I breathed,
I, too, at love’s brim
    Touched the sweet:
I would die if death bequeathed
    Sweet to him.

“Speak, I love thee best!”
    He exclaimed:
“Let thy love my own foretell!”
    I confessed:
“Clasp my heart on thine
    Now unblamed,
Since upon thy soul as well
    Hangeth mine!”

Was it wrong to own,
    Being truth?
Why should all the giving prove
    His alone?
I had wealth and ease,
    Beauty, youth—
Since my lover gave me love,
    I gave these.

That was all I meant,
    —To be just,
And the passion I had raised,
    To content.
Since he chose to change
    Gold for dust,
If I gave him what he praised
    Was it strange?

Would he loved me yet,
    On and on,
While I found some way undreamed
    —Paid my debt!
Gave more life and more,
    Till, all gone,
He should smile “She never seemed
    Mine before.

“What, she felt the while,
    Must I think?
Love’s so different with us men!”
    He should smile:
“Dying for my sake—
    White and pink!
Can’t we touch these bubbles then
    But they break?”

Dear, the pang is brief,
    Do thy part,
Have thy pleasure! How perplext
    Grows belief!
Well, this cold clay clod
    Was man’s heart:
Crumble it—and what comes next?
    Is it God?

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