lily_of_the_valley

(See “Theme and Variations” explanation before reading.)

I

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Refrain no longer! Sing of love etern’,
The passions wives and husbands should express,
Forever captive writ the godly learn:
Most beautiful among women! Thy face
Is lovely, how like the tents of Kedar,
Thou lily of vale, thou rose of Sharon!
My King, how like the Lebanese cedar
And rods of gold, the strength of your embrace!
Delight, rejoice in me, O Solomon!

II

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
We shall extol with joyful sound and voice!
Across the stage we dance and speak a word:
Much more than wine, in love thou two rejoice!
Lo, who is this who appears like the dawn?
As fair as the moon? As bright as the sun?
Majestic as the stars in heav’n above?
Come back, come back, O Shulammite, don’t run
Away, come back! To thee our eyes are drawn!
Behold, O lovers, consummate thy love!

III

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Thy warm embrace, thy arms of loveliness!
Thy lips are ribbon softness, scarlet red!
Like royal tapestry thy captive tress!
Like pools thine eyes are waters’ soft caress
That flow in Heshbon, by the Bath Rabbim!
A raging sea cannot expunge these fires!
I charge thee, daughters of Jerusalem!
Gazelles and does of fields, come now to bless:
Arouse not love until it so desires.

IV

Who are these who come to sacrifice?
My King? his court? Nay, merely humble priests.
Apart torment, but with thee paradise!
My lover, come, and let us go where beasts
Are silent, blossoms bud, and ‘granates bloom,
Where mandrakes send their fragrant odors sweet
And at our door is every del’cacy!
Away, my love, with me where love shall meet
In countrysides, in nighted village rooms,
Where I have stored my love up all for thee.

V

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of borders woven ‘round the holy page!
Each word doth plant in men the Spirit’s seed
That blossoms fruits of love’s eternal age.
While time declines and flowers cease to grow,
And man commits his heart to things absurd,
This Word remains a monument of love,
The kind of which on earth is never heard:
“For man to truly know of love below,
He first must know the love of God above.”

Varied from John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn”