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The May Night
by [?]

Dear sister, if thou ask but this,
From friendly lips a gentle kiss,
Or one soft tear from kindly eyes,
These will I gladly give to thee.
Our love remember tenderly,
If thou remountest to the skies.
No longer I of hope shall sing,
Of fame or joy, of love or art,
Alas, not even of suffering,
My lips are locked–I lean and cling,
To hear the whisper of my heart.

What! am I like the autumn breeze for you,
Which feeds on tears even to the very grave,
For whom all grief is but a drop of dew?
O poet, but one kiss–‘t was I who gave.
The weed I fain would root from out this sod
Is thine own sloth–thy grief belongs to God.
Whatever sorrow thy young heart have found,
Open it well, this ever-sacred wound
Dealt by dark angels–give thy soul relief.
Naught makes us nobler than a noble grief.
Yet deem not, poet, though this pain have come,
That therefore, here below, thou mayst be dumb.
Best are the songs most desperate in their woe–
Immortal ones, which are pure sobs I know.
When the wave-weary pelican once more,
Midst evening-vapors, gains his nest of reeds,
His famished brood run forward on the shore
To see where high above the surge he speeds.
As though even now their prey they could destroy,
They hasten to their sire with screams of joy,
On swollen necks wagging their beaks, they cry;
He slowly wins at last a lofty rock,
Shelters beneath his drooping wing his flock,
And, a sad fisher, gazes on the sky.
Adown his open breast the blood flows there;
Vainly he searched the ocean’s deepest part,
The sea was empty and the shore was bare,
And for all nourishment he brings his heart.
Sad, silent, on the stone, he gives his brood
His father-entrails and his father-blood,
Lulls with his love sublime his cruel pain,
And, watching on his breast the ruddy stain,
Swoons at the fatal banquet from excess
Of horror and voluptuous tenderness.
Sudden amidst the sacrifice divine,
Outworn with such protracted suffering,
He fears his flock may let him live and pine;
Then up he starts, expands his mighty wing,
Beating his heart, and with a savage cry
Bids a farewell of such funereal tone
That the scared seabirds from their rock-nests fly,
And the late traveller on the beach alone
Commends his soul to God–for death floats by.
Even such, O poet, is the poet’s fate.
His life sustains the creatures of a day.
The banquets served upon his feasts of state
Are like the pelican’s–sublime as they.
And when he tells the world of hopes betrayed,
Forgetfulness and grief, of love and hate,
His music does not make the heart dilate,
His eloquence is as an unsheathed blade,
Tracing a glittering circle in mid-air,
While blood drips from the edges keen and bare.

O Muse, insatiate soul, demand
No more than lies in human power.
Man writes no word upon the sand
Even at the furious whirlwind’s hour.
There was a time when joyous youth
Forever fluttered at my mouth,
A merry, singing bird, just freed.
Strange martyrdom has since been mine,
Should I revive its slightest sign,
At the first note, my lyre and thine
Would snap asunder like a reed.