by Adah Isaacs Menken
Adah Isaacs Menken
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 wrecked.
The red mouth closed down the breath that was hard and fierce.
The mad pulse beat back the baffled life with a low sob.
And so the stark and naked soul and unfolded its wings to the dimness of Death!
A lonely, unknown Death.
A Death that left this dumb, living body as his endless mark.
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 shivers of rapt melody down the grooves of this dumb earth.
And promised that echoes should vibrate along the purple spheres 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 moon 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 soul's 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 a prayer.
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 head.
But the flaunting poppy covered her red heart in the sand.
Who can hear the slow drip of blood from a dead soul?
No Christ of the Past writes on my laughing brow His "Resurgam."
What is that when I have been dead these long weary years!
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 Sower?
How can I stand here so calm?
I heard the clods closing down my coffin, and yet shriek not out like the pitiless wind, nor reach my wild arms after my dead soul!
Will no sun 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.
The 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 silent clouds.
Alas! I died not so!
I died 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!"
Last updated July 05, 2015