Love’s Fever

 

O’er the green hedges came the jolly cry
Borne on the breeze of reapers in the wheat,
And all was happy; and not least was I,
Upon my way my darling one to greet:
I hurried on with eager questing feet
And heard, yet heard not, saw yet did not see,
For I heard but darling’s whisper sweet,
And I saw only eyes that smiled at me,
And lips that parted ripely and invitingly.

She came, the goddess of my inward glance,
The music of my secret hymn of praise,
A dairymaid that with her cans did dance,
All flushed of cheek, bright-eyed and sweet of face;
With her a stalwart youth his voice did raise
In merry jest: she laughingly replied:
They were a well-matched pair, so full of grace,
That I could scarce believe that I had tried
To win her, and for me the summer brightness died!

And as I stood and watched the loving two,
Talking and laughing as they came my way,
I wished I might have faded from the view,
Or hidd’n my eyes from seeing their am’rous play.
But I was like an animal at bay,
I could not turn and flee, I could but stare
And slowly walk towards them, hoping they
Would never know that I so much did care
To be by their embraces driven to despair.

That there’s no reason for me to complain
I know, but knowledge will not ease my heart:
Perhaps ‘tis only fair I should explain
I’d only seen her twice, once at the mart
In Ballasalla, and once in a cart
Beside her aged father as they rode
Past where I lodged on holiday, and part
Of me fell then a worshipper and owed
A new and thrilling ecstasy that in me glowed.

The other part bade caution; it did say
“You do not know the girl, but that she’s fair;
And you are only here on holiday.
When homewards you return, what will you care?
‘Twas but a passing vision, thin as air.
Forget that you have seen, for she may be
Bound to another, and you would not dare,
An interloper, to step in where she
May have determined quite; ‘Twill cause you misery.”.

But one part won the day, the part that caught
A word unspoken by her roguish eyes,
And knew then that never to dearly bought
Could be with her an earthly Paradise;
With words discreet and love-led I grew wise,
Discovered where she lived, her father’s farm,
But nothing more, till my heart did advise
That I should walk that way, ‘twould cause no harm,
And if I saw, at least it would my memory warm.

And so, unfortunately so, I went
Upon this summer day with heart aflame,
Just one rare glimpse of her was my intent
And then to go as quietly as I came;
Then this to see — unutterable shame!
Oh, heart, I fear thy rosy dream is fled,
A thing to which I cannot put a name
Is lying there as ponderous as lead,
A tender growth is blighted, withered, dead.

They passed at length, and as I could not have guessed –
Nay, as I knew, or if I knew not prayed,
They passed me by with not a look; my breast
Was seared by a leaping flame that played
About my temples, while its madness bade
Me turn about and stop the shameless pair,
And seize his throat, and see her face dismayed,
And stop his breath, and see her crazed despair,
Then bind her lily throat with all her golden hair.

It sank; and by a winding road that led
Back to the village I returned, my soul
Sick in me. To my house, and on the bed
Flung myself, and let waves of darkness roll
O’er my crazed self, till shortly stillness stole
Into my brain and closed my eyes, and sleep
Of her quick potency gave me a dole
Until my pain was gone, and there did creep
Through all my being then and ocean, smooth and deep.

But not for long, for hideous dreams began
Invading my unconsciousness with sights
Of torment; and foul fiends screamed, “Wretched man,
Take what thou wilt, for every girl delights
In being seized, especially of nights;
If she was faithless unto you, make her
As faithless unto that other, claim his rights
If he have aught to claim, that thievish cur,
Let lust fulfil thy plans where love can only err!”

Nine days my old landlady said I lay
Tossed upon seas of fever, sane and mad,
Babbling deliriously: what did I say
She could not understand, but that I had
Made mention of a name, which made her glad;
For then the doctor said is she could tell
Of anyone so-named ‘twould help the lad.
Were she to come methinks he would get well,
For she his mental storm would still and soon dispel.

So when one morning I at length awoke,
Struggling up through seas of weariness,
I felt how gently her cool hand did stroke
My tortured brow with infinite caress.
Then later, to my question, “Did’st not guess?
That was my brother!” I did weep for joy;
And kindled by her radiant loveliness
My heart burst into flame. “You foolish boy”
She whispered, “when girls love they oft wish to annoy!”

September, 1926