Menken, Adah Isaacs
YES, yes, dear love! I am dead!
Dead to you!
Dead to the world!
Dead for ever!
It was one young night in May.
The stars were strangled, and the moon was blind with the
flying clouds of a black despair.
Years and years the songless soul waited to drift out
beyond the sea of pain where the shapeless life was
The red mouth closed down the breath that was hard
The mad pulse beat back the baffled life with a low
And so the stark and naked soul unfolded its wings to
the dimness of Death!
A lonely, unknown Death.
A Death that left this dumb, living body as his endless
And left these golden billows of hair to drown the
whiteness of my bosom.
Left these crimson roses gleaming on my forehead to
hide the dust of the grave.
And Death left an old light in my eyes, and old music
for my tongue, to deceive the crawling worms that would
seek my warm flesh.
But the purple wine that I quaff sends no thrill of Love
and Song through my empty veins.
Yet my red lips are not pallid and horrified.
Thy kisses are doubtless sweet that throb out an eternal
passion for me!
But I feel neither pleasure, passion nor pain.
So I am certainly dead.
Dead in this beauty!
Dead in this velvet and lace!
Dead in these jewels of light!
Dead in the music!
Dead in the dance!
Why did I die?
O Love! I waited-- I waited years and years ago.
Once the blaze of a far-off edge of living Love crept up
my horizon and promised a new moon of Poesy.
A soul's full life!
A soul's full love!
And promised that my voice should ring trancing
slivers of rapt melody down the grooves of this dumb
And promised that echoes should vibrate along the people11spheres of unfathomable seas, to the soundless folds
of the clouds.
And promised that I should know the sweet sisterhood
of the stars.
Promised that I should live with the crooked mean in
her eternal beauty.
But a Midnight swooped down to bridegroom the Day.
The blazing Sphynx of that far off, echoless promise,
shrank into a drowsy shroud that mocked the crying stars
of my souls unuttered song.
And so I died.
Died this uncoffined and unburied Death.
Died alone in the young May night.
Died with my fingers grasping the white throat of many
Yes, dear love, I died!
You smile because you see no cold, damp cerements of
a lonely grave hiding the youth of my fair face.
No head-stone marks the gold of my poor unburied
But the flaunting poppy covered her red heart in the
Who can hear the slow drip of blood from a dead soul?
No Christ of the Past writes on my laughing brow His
What is that when I have been dead these long weary
Silver walls of Sea!
Gold and spice laden barges!
White-sailed ships from Indian seas, with costly pearls
and tropic wines go by unheeding!
None pause to lay one token at my feet.
No mariner lifts his silken banner for my answering hail.
No messages from the living to the dead.
Must all lips fall out of sound as the soul dies to be heard?
Shall Love send back no revelation through this interminable
distance of Death?
Can He who promised the ripe Harvest forget the weeping
How can I stand here so calm?
I hear the clods closing down my coffin, and yet shriek
not out like the pitiless wind, not reach my wild arms after
my dead soul!
Will no sum of fire again rise over the solemn East?
I am tired of the foolish moon showing only her haggard
face above the rocks and chasms of my grave.
O Rocks! O Chasms! sink back to your black cradles
in the West!
Leave me dead in the depths!
Leave me dead in the wine!
Leave me dead in the dance!
How did I die?
The man I loved--he--he--ah, well!
There is no voice from the grave.13The ship that went down at sea, with seven times a
thousand souls for Death, sent back no answer.
The breeze is voiceless that saw the sails shattered in
the mad tempest, and heard the cry for mercy as one frail
arm clung to the last spar of the sinking wreck.
Fainting souls rung out their unuttered messages to the
Alas! I died not so!
I dies not so!
How did I die?
No man has wrenched his shroud from his stiffened
corpse to say:
Ye murdered me!"
No woman has died with enough of Christ in her soul
to tear the bandage from her glassy eyes and say:
Ye crucified me!"