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The Imperfect Lover

Siegfried Sassoon 1886 (Matfield) – 1967 (Heytesbury)



I never asked you to be perfect—did I?—
Though often I’ve called you sweet, in the invasion
Of mastering love. I never prayed that you
Might stand, unsoiled, angelic and inhuman,
Pointing the way toward Sainthood like a sign-post.

Oh yes, I know the way to heaven was easy.
We found the little kingdom of our passion
That all can share who walk the road of lovers.
In wild and secret happiness we stumbled;
And gods and demons clamoured in our senses.

But I’ve grown thoughtful now. And you have lost
Your early-morning freshness of surprise
At being so utterly mine: you’ve learned to fear
The gloomy, stricken places in my soul,
And the occasional ghosts that haunt my gaze.

You made me glad; and I can still return
To you, the haven of my lonely pride:
But I am sworn to murder those illusions
That blossom from desire with desperate beauty:
And there shall be no falsehood in our failure;
Since, if we loved like beasts, the thing is done,
And I’ll not hide it, though our heaven be hell.

You dream long liturgies of our devotion.
Yet, in my heart, I dread our love’s destruction.
But, should you grow to hate me, I would ask
No mercy of your mood: I’d have you stand
And look me in the eyes, and laugh, and smite me.

Then I should know, at least, that truth endured,
Though love had died of wounds. And you could leave me
Unvanquished in my atmosphere of devils.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

1:16 min read
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Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, CBE, MC was an eminent English poet, writer, and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches, and satirised the patriotic pretensions of those who, in Sassoon's view, were responsible for a jingoism-fuelled war. He later won acclaim for his prose work, notably his three-volume fictionalised autobiography, collectively known as the "Sherston trilogy". more…

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