A Man’s Heart [poem by Menie Parkes]

[Editor: This poem by Menie Parkes was published in Poems (1867). This poem is written from a man’s viewpoint.]

A Man’s Heart.

I bear no malice, child: I would not lay
One pin-point’s prick of all my pain
On your young bliss; no, not if that would stay
The anguish I cannot restrain,
And smoothe the wrinkles from my brow,
Which, cut there by your laughter low,
Men call the lines of wisdom now.

I would not soil your life’s pure way
With even a look’s reproachful stain:
I’d bless you ever, and when I do pray
(And what but prayers to men like me remain?)
Your name goes foremost in the van
Of the deep prayers of a heart-broken man;—
’Tis long since it to lead my prayers began!

Flown are the years since you and I
Stood, on that waning evening, in the shade
Of white acacias, which drooped o’er us with a sigh
Of odourous pity for the wreck you made:
We stood together, you and I,
And traced the stars across the sky,
And sighed for joy, and drank in sorrow at each sigh.

You stood, in your white beauty, like a bird,
Too dimly visible; your blue eyes
Upturned, as answering thoughts they heard —
For ears too subtle is the language of the skies! —

And all the eddying ripples of your hair
Swelled brownly on the evening air,
That fluttered proudly round its burthen rare.

Your voice came to me, soft and distant seeming
As comes the murmur of the swamp-oak’s tone,
It came — a dream-voice in my dreaming —
And blent its music with my own,
That rougher fell, but passion-weighted,
Grew deep and holy when ’twas mated
With yours, whose tune its harsh discord abated.

’Twas then I said I loved; and, from their nests,
The very birds chirped down a refrain;
And Nature rustled closer, with a sigh of rest,
To hear that “good old tale” told o’er again:
You laughed out wildly for your part,
Laughed, with a ringing silver start,
Shocking calm Nature, and my murdered heart.

We parted then; you to your rest,
And I to ride to my lone home:
Perchance with peace your sleep was blest,
And just a fluttering thought would come
Sweetly, to waken your blue eyes
That all who knew you must but prize:—
But I that night had sleepless eyes.

And, later, Annie darling, you were wed
To one who did not barely say “I love:”
But wreathed it with a mask of flowery words,
Which words diluted meaning I could prove.
Annie, my Annie, did that man, whose soul
Was doubly chained beneath the world’s control,
Make with thy tender heart a perfect whole?

And I — men said I’d sown my “wild oats” then! —
With business threaded all my days,
In dismal sequence, and with men
Was one “whose close attention to his firm’s to praise.”
My heart slept then, I fear, perhaps died;
It lay too low for any mortal pride,
And mortal griefs and gladness it defied.

Now I am older, happier now,
Yet somewhat stern, men say, alack!
My hair hoar-frosted on my brow,
And Death grows beautiful before my track;
But still the thought of Annie can suffice
To bring a pang up to my eyes,
And waken all the old heart-cries.

Annie, God bless thee! smile on, dear,
And never miss the deeper life
Of nobler love thou once wast near,
When I besought thee “be my wife.”
Oh, since thou choosest earth, may earth content thee;
Mayst thou ne’er mourn for gifts she has not sent thee;
And Heaven — Oh, Heaven will have thee, for God only lent thee.

Menie Parkes, Poems, F. Cunninghame, Sydney, [1867], pages 39-41

Editor’s notes:
alack = alas (an expression of sorrow, regret, or alarm)

blent = blended

blest = blessed

burthen = (archaic) burden

hoar = someone with grey or white hair; very old

smoothe = smooth

wast = (archaic) was; a singular form of the past tense of “be”

[Editor: Corrected “words’ diluted” to “words diluted”, with regard to the “Errata” corrections.]

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