Here alone by the logs in my chamber,
Deserted, decrepit –
Spent flames limning ghosts on the wainscot
Of friends I once knew –
My drama and hers begins weirdly
Its dumb re-enactment,
Each scene, sigh, and circumstance passing
In spectral review.
– Wealth was mine beyond wish when I met her –
The pride of the lowland –
Embowered in Tintinhull Valley
By laurel and yew;
And love lit my soul, notwithstanding
My features’ ill favour,
Too obvious beside her perfections
Of line and of hue.
But it pleased her to play on my passion,
And whet me to pleadings
That won from her mirthful negations
And scornings undue.
Then I fled her disdains and derisions
To cities of pleasure,
And made me the crony of idlers
In every purlieu.
Of those who lent ear to my story,
A needy Adonis
Gave hint how to grizzle her garden
From roses to rue,
Could his price but be paid for so purging
My scorner of scornings:
Thus tempted, the lust to avenge me
Germed inly and grew.
I clothed him in sumptuous apparel,
Consigned to him coursers,
Meet equipage, liveried attendants
In full retinue.
So dowered, with letters of credit
He wayfared to England,
And spied out the manor she goddessed,
And handy thereto,
Set to hire him a tenantless mansion
As coign-stone of vantage
For testing what gross adulation
Of beauty could do.
He laboured through mornings and evens,
On new moons and sabbaths,
By wiles to enmesh her attention
In park, path, and pew;
And having afar played upon her,
Advanced his lines nearer,
And boldly outleaping conventions,
Bent briskly to woo.
His gay godlike face, his rare seeming
Anon worked to win her,
And later, at noontides and night-tides
They held rendezvous.
His tarriance full spent, he departed
And met me in Venice,
And lines from her told that my jilter
Was stooping to sue.
Not long could be further concealment,
She pled to him humbly:
“By our love and our sin, O protect me;
I fly unto you!”
A mighty remorse overgat me,
I heard her low anguish,
And there in the gloom of the calle
My steel ran him through.
A swift push engulphed his hot carrion
Within the canal there –
That still street of waters dividing
The city in two.
– I wandered awhile all unable
To smother my torment,
My brain racked by yells as from Tophet
Of Satan’s whole crew.
A month of unrest brought me hovering
At home in her precincts,
To whose hiding-hole local story
Afforded a clue.
Exposed, and expelled by her people,
Afar off in London
I found her alone, in a sombre
And soul-stifling mew.
Still burning to make reparation
I pleaded to wive her,
And father her child, and thus faintly
My mischief undo.
She yielded, and spells of calm weather
Succeeded the tempest;
And one sprung of him stood as scion
Of my bone and thew . . .
But Time unveils sorrows and secrets,
And so it befell now:
By inches the curtain was twitched at,
And slowly undrew.
As we lay, she and I, in the night-time,
We heard the boy moaning:
“O misery mine! My false father
Has murdered my true!”
She gasped: yea, she heard; understood it.
Next day the child fled us;
And nevermore sighted was even
A print of his shoe.
Thenceforward she shunned me, and languished;
Till one day the park-pool
Embraced her fair form, and extinguished
Her eyes’ living blue.
– So; ask not what blast may account for
This aspect of pallor,
These bones that just prison within them
Life’s poor residue;
But pass by, and leave unregarded
A Cain to his suffering,
For vengeance too dark on the woman
Whose lover he slew.