by Adah Isaacs Menken

Adah Isaacs Menken

Leave me; oh! leave me,
Lest I find this low earth sweeter than the skies.
Leave me lest I deem Faith's white bosom bared to the betraying arms of Death.
Hush your fond voice, lest it shut out the angel trumpet-call!
See my o'erwearied feet bleed for rest.
Loose the clinging and the clasping of my clammy fingers.
Your soft hand of Love may press back the dark, awful shadows of Death, but the soul faints in the strife and struggles of nights that have no days.
I am so weary with this climbing up the smooth steep sides of the grave wall.
My dimmed eyes can no longer strain up through the darkness to the temples and palaces that you have built for me upon Life's summit.
God is folding up the white tent of my youth.
My name is enrolled for the pallid army of the dead.
It is too late, too late!
You may not kiss back my breath to the sunshine.
How can these trembling hands of dust reach up to bend the untempered iron of Destiny down to my woman-forehead.?
Where is the wedge to split its knotty way between the Past and the Future?
The soaring bird that would sing its life out to the stars, may not leave its own atmosphere;
For, in the long dead reaches of blank space in the Beyond, its free wings fall back to earth baffled.
Once gathering all my sorrows up to one purpose- rebel-like-I dared step out into Light, when, lo! Death tied my unwilling feet, and with hands of ice, bandaged my burning lips, and set up, between my eyes and the Future, the great Infinite of Eternity, full in the blazing sun of my Hope!
From the red round life of Love I have gone down to the naked house of Fear.
Drowned in a storm of tears.
My wild wings of thought drenched from beauty to the color of the ground.
Going out at the hueless gates of day.
Dying, dying.
Oh! is there no strength in sorrow, or in prayers?
Is there no power in the untried wings of the soul, to smite the brazen portals of the sun?
Must the black-sandaled foot of Night tramp out the one star that throbs through the darkness of my waning life?
May not the strong arm of "I will," bring some beam to lead me into my sweet Hope again?
Alas, too late! too late!
The power of these blood-dripping cerements sweeps back the audacious thought to emptiness.
Hungry Death will not heed the poor bird that has tangled its bright wing through my deep-heart pulses.
Moaning and living.
Dying and loving.
See the poor wounded snake; how burdened to the ground;
How it lengthens limberly along the dust.
Now palpitates into bright rings only to unwind, and reach its bleeding head up the steep high walls around us.
Now, alas! falling heavily back into itself, quivering with unuttered pain;
Choking with its own blood it dies in the dust.
So we are crippled ever;
Reaching and falling,
Silent and dying.
Gold and gleaming jewel shatter off their glory well in the robes of royalty, but when we strain against the whelming waves, the water gurgling down our drowning throats, we shred them off, and hug the wet, cold rocks lovingly.
Then old death goes moaning back from the steady footing of Life baffled.
Ah! is it too late for me to be wise.
Will my feeble hands fail me in the moveless steppings back to the world?
Oh! if youth were only back!
Oh! if the years would only empty back their ruined days into the lap of the Present!
Oh! if yesterday would only unravel the light it wove into the purple of the Past!
Ah! then might I be vigilant!
Then might the battle be mine!
Nor should my sluggish blood drip down the rocks till the noon-tide sun should draw it up mistily in smoke.
Then should the heaviness of soul have dropped as trees do their weight of rainy leaves.
Nor should the sweet leash of Love have slipped from my hungry life, and left me pining, dying for his strength.
I should have wrapt up my breathing in the naked bosom of Nature, and she would have kissed me back to sweetest comfort, and I would have drawn up from her heart draughts of crusted nectar and promises of eternal joys.
Oh! it is not the glittering garniture of God's things that come quivering into the senses, that makes our lives look white through the windings of the wilderness.
It is the soul's outflow of purple light that clashes up a music with the golden blood of strong hearts.
Souls with God's breath upon them,
Hearts with Love's light upon them.
If my weak puny hand could reach up and rend the sun from his throne to-day, then were the same but a little thing for me to do.
It is the Far Off, the great Unattainable, that feeds the passion we feel for a star.
Looking up so high, worshiping so silently, we tramp out the hearts of flowers that lift their bright heads for us and die alone.
If only the black, steep grave gaped between us, I feel that I could over-sweep all its gulfs.
I believe that Love may unfold its white wings even in the red bosom of Hell.
I know that its truth can measure the distance to Heaven with one thought.
Then be content to let me go, for these pale hands shall reach up from the grave, and still draw the living waters of Love's well.
That is better, surer than climbing with bruised feet and bleeding hands to plead with the world for what is mine own.
Then straighten out the crumpled length of my hair, and loose all the flowers one by one.
God is not unjust.
Oh! in the great strength of thy unhooded soul, pray for my weakness.
Let me go! See the pale and solemn army of the night is on the march.
Do not let my shivering soul go wailing up for a human love to the throne of the Eternal.
Have we not watched the large setting sun drive a column of light through the horizon down into the darkness?
So within the grave's night, O my beloved! shall my love burn on to eternity.
O Death! Death! loose out thy cold, stiff fingers from my quivering heart!
Let the warm blood rush back to gasp up but one more word!
O Love! thou art stronger, mightier than

Last updated July 05, 2015