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A year ago the moon, as now,
Crossed the sea with a silver shoe;
Along the beach, subdued and slow,
Dusky figures went, two by two.

 

--Two by two with foreheads bare,
Half were women, and half were men;
Half were gallant and half were fair--
Others are here tonight as then.

 

Treacherous, all, O passionless beach?
Earnest ever, O listening shore?
Give your secret nor voice, nor speech,
Be the sea its winding-sheet evermore!

 

Forth from the dazzle, and heat and glare,
Of throng├ęd halls to the wakeful sea,
Strains of waltzes haunting the air,
Floating from window and balcony.

 

Tripped the light feet down full fain,
Out free under the bending sky;
We thought you women, we fond blind men,
We moths, with the fire and pain so nigh!

 

Had we not seen your lips aglow,
And with what seemed a breath dispart?
We thought what shook your jewels so,
Was the beating of a living heart.

 

Were we dazed, demented, that nightly there,
We dreamed of truth by that solemn sea?
Once and for only once, how did you dare
To be other than true to your soul and to me?

* * * * *

Two by two along the sands,
Going tomorrow on separate ways,
Did half of them walk with both white hands
On an arm, as yours in mine, and gaze

 

Wistfully out on the mystic sea,
With broken syllables half confessed?
Vague words meaning so easily
All, or nothing, as suits you best.

 

Did half of them droop their tender eyes,
Dewy and dusk, as yours 'neath mine,
Looking and breathing the sweetest lies,
Dragging us down to the death, in fine?

 

Down, down, down to the death!
Small comfort that others have gone before!
Oh, that all stone were void of breath,
That men might never mistake it more!

* * * * *

Sparks of rubies, diamonds rare,
Burned on bosoms with restless fire,
Under the lovely dishevelled hair,
Maddening men with a strange desire;

 

Till passionate vows were purely said,
With a low beseeching for quick replies;
But women turn cold when love goes mad,
And calm, and mute, with a feigned surprise.

 

So, did half of them glide away,
In spirit, out of the others' reach,
Intangibly as the tide today
Slid from the arms of the longing beach!

 

If like you, they leant and lingered,
Crowned with their fortunate diadems,
Bent low, listening, idle-fingered,
Snapping the slender jessamine stems,

 

Till the brave, brave words had all been spoken--
Till every drop of the cup divine
Was poured--till the seal of each heart lay broken,
Wrenched, and flung at their feet, like mine!

 

Were you and I on the strand, I say,
But types of all who wandered there?
Then half smile on in the sun today,
And half are cursing the life they bear.

* * * * *

O lonely sea! O listening shore!
O bending skies, ye are hollow too!
And the moon is a wraith forevermore,
Crossing the sea with a fiery shoe!