The Sacrifice [poem by John Shaw Neilson]

[Editor: This poem by John Shaw Neilson was published in Heart of Spring (1919) and Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson (1934).]

The Sacrifice

White for the grave, strange-eyed and sable-dressed,
Is this my love so quietly doth lie?
The sunlight of her sweetness, her dear grace,
All that she gave . . . falls to the earth to die.
Love’s utter sacrifice — life’s old long pain —
Lost! lost! and shall this ever live again,
O, God of pity!

White for the grave — all grace, all glory gone!
My love was young, my love was sweet and warm,
And so we dreamed as quiet voyagers . .
Most hateful wreck! too cruel strife and storm!
The grave will cry its hunger every hour;
Yet thus to spoil the glory of a flower,
O, God of pity!

Yet in her rest she shall not see gray hairs
Or children trampling on the holy things;
Though every day be dark, still in the dark
Love looks for light, the old hope climbs and clings
Up through all tears . . . In the black gloom and pain
My torn heart cries, “Give me my love again,
O, God of pity!”

Shaw Neilson, Heart of Spring, The Bookfellow, Sydney, 1919, page 57

Also published in:
John Shaw Neilson (editor: R. H. Croll), Collected Poems of John Shaw Neilson, Lothian Publishing Company, Melbourne, 1934 [May 1949 reprint], page 51

Editor’s notes:
sable = a colour that is black, dark, or gloomy (“sables” was an archaic term for garments worn for mourning; “sable” in heraldry refers to black); arising from the colour of dark sable fur, as taken from a sable (a furry mammal, Martes zibellina, which is primarily found in Russia and northern East Asia, and noted for its fur which has traditionally been used for clothing)

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