by Lord Lytton
Found a corpse, with glittering hair,
Of a woman whose face, tho’ dead,
The white death in it had left still fair,
Too fair for an earthly bed!
So I loosened each fold of her bright curls roll’d
From forehead to foot in a rush of red gold,
And kissed her lips till her lips were red,
And warm and light on her eyelids white
I breath’d, and pressed unto mine her breast,
Till the blue eyes ope’d and the breast grew warm,
And this woman, behold! arose up bold,
And lifelike lifting a wilful arm,
With steady feet from the winding sheet
Stepp’d forth to a mutter’d charm.
And now beside me, whatever betide me,
This woman is, night and day.
For she cleaves to me so, that, wherever I go
She is with me the whole of the way.
And her eyes are so bright in the dead of the night,
That they keep me awake with dread;
While my life blood pales in my veins and fails,
Because her red lips are so red
That I fear ’tis my heart she must eat for her food;
And it makes my whole flesh creep
To think she is drinking and draining my blood,
Unawares, if I chance to sleep.
It were better for me, ere I came nigh her,
This corpse,–ere I looked upon her,
Had they burn’d my body with penal fire
With a sorcerer’s dishonour.
For when the devil has made his lair
In the living eyes of a dear dead woman,
(To bind a man’s strength by her golden hair,
And break his heart, if his heart be human),
Is there any penance, or any prayer,
That may save the sinner whose soul he tries
To catch in the curse of the constant stare
Of those heartbreaking bewildering eyes,
Comfortless, cavernous glowworms that glare
From the gaping grave where a dead hope lies?
It is more than the soul of a man may bear.
For the misery worst of all miseries
Is Desire eternally feeding Despair
On the flesh, or the blood, that forever supplies
Life more than enough to keep fresh in repair
The death ever dying, which yet never dies.
† Short Stories