Emblems of Love

Lascelles Abercrombie 1881 (Ashton upon Mersey) – 1938 (London)


ONLY to be twin elements of joy  
In this extravagance of Being, Love,  
Were our divided natures shaped in twain;  
And to this hour the whole world must consent.  
Is it not very marvellous, our lives          
Can only come to this out of a long  
Strange sundering, with the years of the world between us?  

 Shall life do more than God? for hath not God  
Striven with himself, when into known delight  
His unaccomplisht joy he would put forth,—         
This mystery of a world sign of his striving?  
Else wherefore this, a thing to break the mind  
With labouring in the wonder of it, that here  
Being—the world and we—is suffered to be!—  
But, lying on thy breast one notable day,        
Sudden exceeding agony of love  
Made my mind a trance of infinite knowledge.  
I was not: yet I saw the will of God  
As light unfashion’d, unendurable flame,  
Interminable, not to be supposed;        
And there was no more creature except light,—  
The dreadful burning of the lonely God’s  
Unutter’d joy. And then, past telling, came  
Shuddering and division in the light:  
Therein, like trembling, was desire to know         
Its own perfect beauty; and it became  
A cloven fire, a double flaming, each  
Adorable to each; against itself  
Waging a burning love, which was the world;—  
A moment satisfied in that love-strife         
I knew the world!—And when I fell from there,  
Then knew I also what this life would do  
In being twin,—in being man and woman!  
For it would do even as its endless Master,  
Making the world, had done; yea, with itself         
Would strive, and for the strife would into sex  
Be cloven, double burning, made thereby  
Desirable to itself. Contrivèd joy  
Is sex in life; and by no other thing  
Than by a perfect sundering, could life         
Change the dark stream of unappointed joy  
To perfect praise of itself, the glee that loves  
And worships its own Being. This is ours!  
Yet only for that we have been so long  
Sundered desire: thence is our life all praise.—        
But we, well knowing by our strength of joy  
There is no sundering more, how far we love  
From those sad lives that know a half-love only,  
Alone thereby knowing themselves for ever  
Sealed in division of love, and therefore made        
To pour their strength always into their love’s  
Fierceness, as green wood bleeds its hissing sap  
Into red heat of a fire! Not so do we:  
The cloven anger, life, hath left to wage  
Its flame against itself, here turned to one        
Self-adoration.—Ah, what comes of this?  
The joy falters a moment, with closed wings  
Wearying in its upward journey, ere  
Again it goes on high, bearing its song,  
Its delight breathing and its vigour beating        
The highest height of the air above the world.  

 What hast thou done to me!—I would have soul,  
Before I knew thee, Love, a captive held  
By flesh. Now, inly delighted with desire,  
My body knows itself to be nought else        
But thy heart’s worship of me; and my soul  
Therein is sunlight held by warm gold air.  
Nay, all my body is become a song  
Upon the breath of spirit, a love-song.  

 And mine is all like one rapt faculty,         
As it were listening to the love in thee,  
My whole mortality trembling to take  
Thy body like heard singing of thy spirit.  

 Surely by this, Beloved, we must know  
Our love is perfect here,—that not as holds         
The common dullard thought, we are things lost  
In an amazement that is all unware;  
But wonderfully knowing what we are!  
Lo, now that body is the song whereof  
Spirit is mood, knoweth not our delight?        
Knoweth not beautifully now our love,  
That Life, here to this festival bid come  
Clad in his splendour of worldly day and night,  
Filled and empower’d by heavenly lust, is all  
The glad imagination of the Spirit?        

 Were it not so, Love could not be at all:  
Nought could be, but a yearning to fulfil  
Desire of beauty, by vain reaching forth  
Of sense to hold and understand the vision  
Made by impassion’d body,—vision of thee!        
But music mixt with music are, in love,  
Bodily senses; and as flame hath light,  
Spirit this nature hath imagined round it,  
No way concealed therein, when love comes near,  
Nor in the perfect wedding of desires        
Suffering any hindrance.  

 Ah, but now,  
Now am I given love’s eterna
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

3:47 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,341
Words 756
Stanzas 7
Stanza Lengths 7, 54, 8, 4, 12, 11, 2

Lascelles Abercrombie

Lascelles Abercrombie was a British poet and literary critic, one of the "Dymock poets". more…

All Lascelles Abercrombie poems | Lascelles Abercrombie Books

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