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On The Brink Post by :Brett Category :Poems Author :Charles Stuart Calverley Date :October 2011 Read :3807

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On The Brink

I watch'd her as she stoop'd to pluck
A wildflower in her hair to twine;
And wish'd that it had been my luck
To call her mine.

Anon I heard her rate with mad
Mad words her babe within its cot;
And felt particularly glad
That it had not.

I knew (such subtle brains have men)
That she was uttering what she shouldn't;
And thought that I would chide, and then
I thought I wouldn't:

Who could have gazed upon that face,
Those pouting coral lips, and chided?
A Rhadamanthus, in my place,
Had done as I did:

For ire wherewith our bosoms glow
Is chain'd there oft by Beauty's spell;
And, more than that, I did not know
The widow well.

So the harsh phrase pass'd unreproved.
Still mute--(O brothers, was it sin?) -
I drank, unutterably moved,
Her beauty in:

And to myself I murmur'd low,
As on her upturn'd face and dress
The moonlight fell, "Would she say No,
By chance, or Yes?"

She stood so calm, so like a ghost
Betwixt me and that magic moon,
That I already was almost
A finish'd coon.

But when she caught adroitly up
And soothed with smiles her little daughter;
And gave it, if I'm right, a sup
Of barley-water;

And, crooning still the strange sweet lore
Which only mothers' tongues can utter,
Snow'd with deft hand the sugar o'er
Its bread and butter;

And kiss'd it clingingly--(Ah, why
Don't women do these things in private?) -
I felt that if I lost her, I
Should not survive it:

And from my mouth the words nigh flew -
The past, the future, I forgat 'em:
"Oh! if you'd kiss me as you do
That thankless atom!"

But this thought came ere yet I spake,
And froze the sentence on my lips:
"They err, who marry wives that make
Those little slips."

It came like some familiar rhyme,
Some copy to my boyhood set;
And that's perhaps the reason I'm
Unmarried yet.

Would she have own'd how pleased she was,
And told her love with widow's pride?
I never found out that, because
I never tried.

Be kind to babes and beasts and birds:
Hearts may be hard, though lips are coral;
And angry words are angry words:
And that's the moral.

(The end)
Charles Stuart Calverley's poem: On The Brink

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