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The Courtship of the Future

James Brunton Stephens 1835 (Scotland) – 1902

“What is a kiss?”—Why, long ago,
When pairs, as we, a-wooing sat,
They used to put their four lips. . . . so, . . .
And make a chirping noise. . . . like that.
And, strange to say, the fools were pleased;
A little went a long way then:
A cheek lip-grazed, a finger squeezed,
Was rapture to those ancient men.

Ah, not for us the timid course
Of those old-fashioned bill-and-cooers!
One unit of our psychic force
Had squelched a thousand antique wooers.
For us the god his chalice dips
In fountains fiercer, deeper, dearer,
Than purling confluence of lips
That meet, but bring the Souls no nearer.

Well; 'twas but poverty at worst:
Poor beggars, how could they be choosers!
Not yet upon the world had burst
Our Patent Mutual Blood-Transfusers.
Not yet had Science caught the clue
To joy self-doubling, -squaring, -cubing,—
Nor taught to draw the whole soul through
A foot of gutta-percha tubing.

Come, Lulu, bare the pearly arm;—
Now, where the subtle blue shows keenest,
I hang the duplex, snake-like charm,
(The latest, by a new machinist).
And see, in turn above my wrist
I fix the blood-compelling conduits . . .
Ah, this is what the old world missed,
For all the lore of all its pundits!

I turn the tap—I touch the spring—
Hush, Lulu, hush! our lives are blending.
(This new escapement's quite the thing,
And very well worth recommending.)
Oh circuit of commingling bliss!
Oh bliss of mingling circulation!
True love alone can merge like this
In one continuous pulsation.

Your swift life thrills me through and through:
I wouldn't call the Queen my mother:
Now you are I, and I am you,
And each of us is one another.
Reciprocally influent
The wedded love-tide flows between us:—
Ah, this is what the old fables meant,
For surely, love, our love is venous.

Now, now, your inmost life I know,
How nobler far than mine and grander;
For through my breast your feelings flow,
And through my brain your thoughts meander.
I feel a rush of high desires
With sweet domestic uses blending,
As now I think of angel-choirs,
And now of stockings heaped for mending.

And see—myself! in light enshrined!
An aureole my hat replacing!
Now, amorous yearnings half-defined,
With prudish scruples interlacing.
Next, cloudlike floats a snowy veil,
And—heavens above us!—what a trousseau!..
Come, Lulu, give me tale for tale;
I'll keep transfusing till you do so.

Oh, love, this never can be you!
The stream flows turbid, melancholic;
And heavy vapours dull me through,
Dashed with a something alcoholic.
The elective-forces shrink apart,
No answering raptures thrill and quicken;
Strange feelings curdle at my heart,
And in my veins vile memories thicken.

I feel an alien life in mine!
It isn't I! It isn't you, Sir!
This is the mood of Caroline!
Oh, don't tell me! I know the brew, Sir!
Nay, nay,—it isn't “the machine”!
This isn't you—this isn't I, Sir!
It's the old story—you have been
Transfusing elsewhere on the sly, Sir.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:35 min read

James Brunton Stephens

James Brunton Stephens was a Scottish-born Australian poet, author of Convict Once. more…

All James Brunton Stephens poems | James Brunton Stephens Books

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