by Adah Isaacs Menken
"La patience est amère; mais le fruit en est doux!"
Away down into the shadowy depths of the Real I once lived.
I thought that to seem was to be.
But the waters of Marah were beautiful, yet they were bitter.
I waited, and hoped, and prayed;
Counting the heart-throbs and the tears that answered them.
Through my earnest pleadings for the True, I learned that the mildest mercy of life was a smiling sneer;
And that the business of the world was to lash with vengeance all who dared to be what their God had made them.
Smother back tears to the red blood of the heart!
Crush out things called souls!
No room for them here!
Now I gloss my pale face with laughter, and sail my voice on with the tide.
Decked in jewels and lace, I laugh beneath the gas-light's glare, and quaff the purple wine.
But the minor-keyed soul is standing naked and hungry upon one of Heaven's high hills of light.
Standing and waiting for the blood of the feast!
Starving for one poor word!
Waiting for God to launch out some beacon on the boundless shores of this Night.
Shivering for the uprising of some soft wing under which it may creep, lizard-like, to warmth and rest.
Waiting! Starving and shivering!
Still I trim my white bosom with crimson roses; for none shall see the thorns.
I bind my aching brow with a jeweled crown, that none shall see the iron one beneath.
My silver-sandaled feet keep impatient time to the music, because I cannot be calm.
I laugh at earth's passion-fever of Love; yet I know that God is near to the soul on the hill, and hears the ceaseless ebb and flow of a hopeless love, through all my laughter.
But if I can cheat my heart with the old comfort, that love can be forgotten, is it not better?
After all, living is but to play a part!
The poorest worm would be a jewel-headed snake if she could!
All this grandeur of glare and glitter has its night-time.
The pallid eyelids must shut out smiles and daylight.
Then I fold my cold hands, and look down at the restless rivers of a love that rushes through my life.
Unseen and unknown they tide on over black rocks and chasms of Death.
Oh, for one sweet word to bridge their terrible depths!
O jealous soul! why wilt thou crave and yearn for what thou canst not have?
And life is so long-so long.
With the daylight comes the business of living.
The prayers that I sent trembling up the golden thread of hope all come back to me.
I lock them close in my bosom, far under the velvet and roses of the world.
For I know that stronger than these torrents of passion is the soul that hath lifted itself up to the hill.
What care I for his careless laugh?
I do not sigh; but I know that God hears the life-blood dripping as I, too, laugh.
I would not be thought a foolish rose, that flaunts her red heart out to the sun.
Loving is not living!
Yet through all this I know that night will roll back from the still, gray plain of heaven, and that my triumph shall rise sweet with the dawn!
When these mortal mists shall unclothe the world, then shall I be known as I am!
When I dare be dead and buried behind a wall of wings, then shall he know me!
When this world shall fall, like some old ghost, wrapped in the black skirts of the wind, down into the fathomless eternity of fire, then shall souls uprise!
When God shall lift the frozen seal from struggling voices, then shall we speak!
When the purple-and-gold of our inner natures shall be lighted up in the Eternity of Truth, then will love be mine!
I can wait.
Last updated August 18, 2022