C Day-Lewis: The Album, 1943



I see you, a child
In a garden sheltered for buds and playtime,
Listening as if beguiled
By a fancy beyond your years and the flowering maytime.
The print is faded: soon there will be
No trace of that pose enthralling,
Nor visible echo of my voice distantly calling
‘Wait! Wait for me!’

Then I turn the page
To a girl who stands like a questioning iris
By the waterside, at an age
That asks every mirror to tell what the heart’s desire is.
The answer she finds in that oracle stream
Only time could affirm or disprove,
Yet I wish I was there to venture a warning, ‘Love
Is not what you dream.’

Next, you appear
As if garlands of wild felicity crowned you –
Courted, caressed, you wear
Like immortelles the lovers and friends around you.
‘They will not last you, rain or shine,
They are but straws and shadows,’
I cry: ‘Give not to those charming desperadoes
What was made to be mine.’

One picture is missing –
The last. It would show me a tree stripped bare
By intemperate gales, her amazing
Noonday of blossom spoilt which promised so fair.
Yet scanning those scenes at your heyday taken,
I tremble, as one who must view
In the crystal a doom he could never deflect- yes, I too
Am fruitlessly shaken.

I close the book;
But the past slides out its leaves to haunt me
And it seems, wherever I look,
Phantoms of irreclaimable happiness taunt me.
Then I see her, petalled in new-blown hours,
Beside me – ‘All you love most there
Has blossomed again,’ she murmurs, ‘all that you missed there
Has grown to be yours.’

Written in the early 1940s when Day-Lewis, then married to his first wife, Mary, met and fell in love with the novelist, Rosamond Lehmann. It appears in Word Over All (1943), a collection dedicated to Lehmann who was his mistress throughout the decade.

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