Complete Poetical Works

Lines to a Portrait, by a Superior Person

Bret Harte

WHEN I bought you for a song,
Years ago—Lord knows how long!—
I was struck—I may be wrong—
        By your features,
And—a something in your air
That I couldn’t quite compare
To my other plain or fair
        Fellow creatures.

In your simple, oval frame
You were not well known to fame,
But to me—’twas all the same—
        Whoe’er drew you;
For your face I can’t forget,
Though I oftentimes regret
That, somehow, I never yet
        Saw quite through you.

Yet each morning, when I rise,
I go first to greet your eyes;
And, in turn, you scrutinize
        My presentment.
And when shades of evening fall,
As you hang upon my wall,
You’re the last thing I recall
        With contentment.

It is weakness, yet I know
That I never turned to go
Anywhere, for weal or woe,
        But I lingered
For one parting, thrilling flash
From your eyes, to give that dash
To the curl of my mustache,
        That I fingered.

If to some you may seem plain,
And when people glance again
Where you hang, their lips refrain.
        From confession;
Yet they turn in stealth aside,
And I note, they try to hide
How much they are satisfied
        In expression.

Other faces I have seen;
Other forms have come between;
Other things I have, I ween,
        Done and dared for!
But our ties they cannot sever,
And, though I should say it never,
You’re the only one I ever
        Really cared for!

And you’ll still be hanging there
When we’re both the worse for wear,
And the silver’s on my hair
        And off your backing;
Yet my faith shall never pass
In my dear old shaving-glass,
Till my face and yours, alas!
        Both are lacking!

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