Love’s Pain and Healing


Here you see a picture of a dream of despair,
The torch of youth and life quench’d in despair;
What do you seek so pensive and silent?
What do you need camerado?
Dear son do you think it is love?
Are you solitary and without love?
Or is it unsatisfied love?
Is your love unrequited?

The lovers I recklessly love—lo! how they master me!
Lo! me, ever open and helpless, bereft of my strength, utterly abject!
Grovelling on the ground before the real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love.

Shake out carols!
Solitary here, the night’s carols,
Carols of lonesome love,
From privacy, from frequent repinings alone,
From plenty of persons near and yet the right person not near.
I wish I was on yonder hill,
It’s there I’d sit and cry my fill,
So every tear should turn a mill.

As if a phantom caress’d me, I thought I was not alone walking here by the shore;
But the one I thought was with me as now I walk by the shore,
The one I loved that caress’d me,
As I lean and look through the glimmering light, that one has utterly disappeared,
My love soothes not me, not me.
O past! O happy life! O songs of joy!
But my mate no more, no more with me! we two together no more.

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing, all alone,
Uttering joyous leaves of dark green.
Though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana solitary in a wide, flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend, a lover, near,
I know very well I could not,
Who was not proud of his songs, but of the measureless ocean of love within him—O latent ocean, fathomless ocean of love!—and freely pour’d it forth,
Who often walk’d lonesome walks thinking of his dear friends, his lovers,
Who pensive away from one he lov’d often lay sleepless and dissatisfied at night,
Who knew too well the sick, sick dread lest the one he lov’d might secretly be indifferent to him.

I am not glad tonight,
I am sick after the friendship of him who, I fear, is indifferent to me,
(Ah smarts from dissatisfied friendships, wounds the sharpest of all!)
I am very sick and sorrowful, heart most full of sorrow because most full of love.
Gloom has gathered round me like a mantle, tightly folded,
The oppression of my heart is a torpor, like that of some stagnant pool,
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love attempted to be hid.
You break your arm, and a good surgeon sets it and cures it complete,
But no cure ever avails for a disease of the heart.

Again we wander, we love, we separate again,
I cannot bear the thought of being separated from you.
Must you sting me most even at parting?
Will you struggle even at the threshold with spasms more delicious than all before?
Do you wish to show me that even what you did before was nothing to what you can do?
Or have you and all the rest combined to see how much I can endure?
Pass as you will, pass to someone else,
Take drops of my life, the tears of my soul, if that is what you are after.

Hours discouraged, distracted—for the one I cannot content myself without, soon I saw him content himself without me,
Hours of the dusk, when I withdraw to a lonesome and unfrequented spot, seating myself, leaning my face in my hands,
Hours sleepless, deep in the night,
Hours when I am forgotten,
Hours continuing long, sore and heavy-hearted,
(O weeks and months are passing, but I believe I am never to forget!)
Hours of my torment—sullen and suffering hours!
I am ashamed—but it is useless—I am what I
am.

I wonder if other men, all the hapless silent lovers, ever have the like feelings?
Is there even one other like me—distracted—his friend, his lover, lost to him?
Is he too as I am now? Does he still rise in the morning, dejected, thinking who is lost to him? and at night, awaking, think who is lost?
Does he too harbor his friendship silent and endless? harbor his anguish and passion?
Does some stray reminder, or the casual mention of a name, bring the fit back upon him, taciturn and deprest?
Does he see himself reflected in me?

Land! land! O land!
Whichever way I turn, O I think you could give me my mate back again if you only would,
For I am almost sure I see her dimly whichever way I look.
O throat! O trembling throat!
Sound clearer through the atmosphere!
Pierce the woods, the earth,
Somewhere listening to catch you must be the one I want.

But soft! let me just murmur,
For somewhere I believe I heard my mate responding to me,
O night! do I not see my love fluttering out among the breakers?

Sea-winds, I wait and I wait till you blow my mate to me,
O rising stars! perhaps the one I want so much will rise with some of you—
O throat! O throbbing heart!
O darkness! O in vain!
And I singing uselessly, uselessly all the night—
Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse unreturn’d love.

But now I think there is no unreturn’d love, the pay is certain one way or another,
The love is to the lover, and comes back most to him,
(I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not return’d,
Yet out of that I have written these songs.)
Never more the cries of unsatisfied love be absent from me.

Let others sing whom they may,
Him I sing, for a thousand years—
O go forth little song,
Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all folded,
And find in his palace the youth I love, and drop these lines at his feet:
Two together!
Winds blow south, or winds blow north,
While we bask, we two together,
Singing all time, minding no time,
While we two keep together.

I do not think one night has passed when I have been at the theatre or opera, but what amid the play or the singing, I would perhaps suddenly think of you, and the same at the gayest supper party or carouse, where all was fun and noise and laughing and drinking; I would see your face before me in my thought, and my amusement or drink would be all turned to nothing, and I would realize how happy it would be if I could leave all the fun and noise and the crowd and be with you.

I think of you very often, dearest comrade, and with more calmness,
I never dreamed that you made so much of having me with you, nor that you could feel so downcast at losing me. I foolishly thought it was all on the other side. But I now see clearly, that was all wrong.
If you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing,
Where I may feel the throbs of your heart or rest upon your hip,
Carry me when you go forth over land or sea. 

Now we have met, we have look’d, we are safe,
Return in peace to the ocean my love.
As for me, for you, the irresistible sea is to separate us,
As for an hour carrying us diverse, yet cannot carry us diverse
forever—
I too am part of that ocean my love—we are not so much separated—
Yet a moment, O tender waiter, and I return.
I find it first rate to think of you, and to know that you are there, all right, and that I shall return, and we will be together again. When I come back I will get a good room or two in some quiet place, and we will live together. I don’t know what I should do if I hadn’t you to think of and look forward to.
Be not impatient—a little space—know you I salute the air, the ocean, and the land,
Every day at sundown for your dear sake my love.

I love you, before long I die,
I have travel’d a long way merely to look on you to touch you,
For I could not die till I once look’d on you,
For I fear’d I might afterward lose you.
Dear comrade, you must not forget me, for I never shall you,
My love you have in life or death; my love for you is indestructible,
My soul could never be entirely happy, even in the world to come, without you.

O here I last saw him that tenderly loves me, and returns again never to separate from me,
Again he holds me by the hand, I must not go,
I see him close beside me with silent lips sad and tremulous,
We never separate again.

O I think it is not for life I am chanting here my chant of lovers,
I think it must be for death,
For how calm, how solemn it grows to ascend to the atmosphere of lovers.
O what shall I hang on the chamber walls,
To adorn the burial-house of him I love?
O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?
What shall my perfume be for the grave of him I love?

Sea-winds blown from east and west,
With these I’ll perfume the grave of him I love,
And with the breath of my chant, the carol of death, and a verse for him I love.
Through me shall the words be said to make death exhilarating,
For I see that love and death are folded inseparably together;
What indeed is finally beautiful except death and love?
Death or life I am then indifferent, my soul declines to prefer,
(I am not sure but the high soul of lovers welcomes death most.)

It is a painful thing to love a man or woman to excess, and yet it satisfies, it is great,
Great is emotional love, even in the order of the rational universe.
But I am clear there is something else very great, something greater,
It makes the whole coincide,
It, magnificent, beyond materials, with continuous hands sweeps and provides for all.

NEXT: HAPPINESS