Black Eyes

William_Wetmore_Story
William Wetmore Story

Those black eyes I once so praised
Now are hard and sharp and cold;
Where ‘s the love that through them blazed?
Where ‘s the tenderness of old?
All is gone—how utterly—
From its stem the flower has dropped.
Ah! how ugly Life can be
After Love from it is lopped!

Do we hate each other now,
While we call each other dear?
On that faultless mouth and brow
To the world does change appear?
No! your smile is just as sweet,
Just as fair your outward grace;
But I look in vain to greet
The dear ghost behind the face.

That is gone! I look on you
As a corpse from which has fled
All that once I loved and knew,
All that once I thought to wed.
‘T is not your fault, ‘t is not mine;
Yet I still recall a dream
Of a joy almost divine—
‘T was an image in a stream.

Nothing can be sour and sharp
As a love that has decayed—
On the loose strings of the harp
Only discord can be made.
Cold this common friendship seems
After love’s auroral glow;
On the broken stem of dreams
Only disappointments grow.

Do I hate you? No! Not hate?
Hate ‘s a word far too intense,
Too alive, to speak a state
Of supreme indifference.
Once, behind your eyes I thought
Worlds of love and life to see;
Now I see behind them nought
But a soulless vacancy.

Out and out I know you now;
There ‘s no issue of your heart
Where my soul with you may go
To a beauty all apart,
Where the world can never come.
‘T is a little narrow place—
Friendship there might find a home;
Love would die—for want of space.

So we live! The world still says,
“What expression in her eyes!
What sweet manners—graceful ways!”
How it would the world surprise
If I said, “This woman’s soul
Made for love you think, but try;
Plunge therein—how clear and shoal!—
You might drown there—so can’t I?”

William Wetmore Story, 1819-1895

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