GRIEF POEM by Adelaide Anne Procter
Poetry from Legends and Lyrics First Series.
ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER VERSE: GRIEF POEM
An ancient enemy have I,
And either he or I must die;
For he never leaveth me,
Never gives my soul relief,
Never lets my sorrow cease,
Never gives my spirit peace—
For mine enemy is Grief!
Pale he is, and sad and stern;
And whene’er he cometh nigh,
Blue and dim the torches burn,
Pale and shrunk the roses turn;
While my heart that he has pierced
Many a time with fiery lance,
Beats and trembles at his glance:
Clad in burning steel is he,
All my strength he can defy;
For he never leaveth me—
And one of us must die!
I have said, “Let ancient sages
Charm me from my thoughts of pain!”
So I read their deepest pages,
And I strove to think—in vain!
Wisdom’s cold calm words I tried,
But he was seated by my side:-
Learning I have won in vain;
She cannot rid me of my pain.
When at last soft sleep comes o’er me,
A cold hand is on my heart;
Stern sad eyes are there before me;
Not in dreams will he depart:
And when the same dreary vision
From my weary brain has fled,
Daylight brings the living phantom,
He is seated by my bed,
Bending o’er me all the while,
With his cruel, bitter smile,
Ever with me, ever nigh;—
And either he or I must die!
Then I said, long time ago,
“I will flee to other climes,
I will leave mine ancient foe!”
Though I wandered far and wide—
Still he followed at my side.
And I fled where the blue waters
Bathe the sunny isles of Greece;
Where Thessalian mountains rise
Up against the purple skies;
Where a haunting memory liveth
In each wood and cave and rill;
But no dream of gods could help me—
He went with me still!
I have been where Nile’s broad river
Flows upon the burning sand;
Where the desert monster broodeth,
Where the Eastern palm-trees stand;
I have been where pathless forests
Spread a black eternal shade;
Where the lurking panther hiding
Glares from every tangled glade;
But in vain I wandered wide,
He was always by my side!
Then I fled where snows eternal
Cold and dreary ever lie;
Where the rosy lightnings gleam,
Flashing through the northern sky;
Where the red sun turns again
Back upon his path of pain;—
But a shadowy form was with me—
I had fled in vain!
I have thought, “If I can gaze
Sternly on him he will fade,
For I know that he is nothing
But a dim ideal shade.”
As I gazed at him the more,
He grew stronger than before!
Then I said, “Mine arm is strong,
I will make him turn and flee:”
I have struggled with him long—
But that could never be!
Once I battled with him so
That I thought I laid him low;
Then in trembling joy I fled,
While again and still again
Murmuring to myself I said,
“Mine old enemy is dead!”
And I stood beneath the stars,
When a chill came on my frame,
And a fear I could not name,
And a sense of quick despair,
And, lo! mine enemy was there!
Listen, for my soul is weary,
Weary of its endless woe;
I have called on one to aid me
Mightier even than my foe.
Strength and hope fail day by day;
I shall cheat him of his prey;
Some day soon, I know not when,
He will stab me through and through;
He has wounded me before,
But my heart can bear no more;
Pray that hour may come to me,
Only then shall I be free;
Death alone has strength to take me
Where my foe can never be;
Death, and Death alone, has power
To conquer mine old enemy!