Ah for this the most accursed, unendurable of ills!
Nigh two months a fevered fancy for a maid my bosom fills.
Fair she is, as other damsels: but for what the simplest swain
Claims from the demurest maiden, I must sue and sue in vain.
Yet doth now this thing of evil my longsuffering heart beguile,
Though the utmost she vouchsafes me is the shadow of a smile:
And I soon shall know no respite, have no solace e'en in sleep.
Yesterday I watched her pass me, and from down-dropt eyelids peep
At the face she dared not gaze on--every moment blushing more--
And my love took hold upon me as it never took before.
Home I went a wounded creature, with a gnawing at my heart;
And unto the soul within me did my bitterness impart.
"Soul, why deal with me in this wise? Shall thy folly know no bound?
Canst thou look upon these temples, with their locks of silver crowned,
And still deem thee young and shapely? Nay, my soul, let us be sage;
Act as they that have already sipped the wisdom-cup of age.
Men have loved and have forgotten. Happiest of all is he
To the lover's woes a stranger, from the lover's fetters free:
Lightly his existence passes, as a wild-deer fleeting fast:
Tamed, it may be, he shall voyage in a maiden's wake at last:
Still to-day 'tis his to revel with his mates in boyhood's flowers.
As to thee, thy brain and marrow passion evermore devours,
Prey to memories that haunt thee e'en in visions of the night;
And a year shall scarcely pluck thee from thy miserable plight."
Such and divers such reproaches did I heap upon my soul.
And my soul in turn made answer:--"Whoso deems he can control
Wily love, the same shall lightly gaze upon the stars of heaven
And declare by what their number overpasses seven times seven.
Will I, nill I, I may never from my neck his yoke unloose.
So, my friend, a god hath willed it: he whose plots could outwit Zeus,
And the queen whose home is Cyprus. I, a leaflet of to-day,
I whose breath is in my nostrils, am I wrong to own his sway?"