Between the Courses.
The dinner drags — Oh, dear! Why do we dine,
Attack the menu gravely, line by line?
Outside, the moon shines like an opal hoop,
While we, poor fools, are occupied with soup!
Outside, the buttercups sleep in the grass,
The breezes stop to kiss them as they pass.
Outside — but never mind, I will not fret,
I see there’s turkey to console me yet.
Once on a time — how long is it ago? —
You scoffed at dinner-parties — called them slow,
You used to say — but times are changed — Ah, me!
I must invest in a new memory,
This old one knows too much, will not be still,
Complains of hopes that time did not fulfil,
Remembers dewy gloamings long ago,
Gone — no more claret — where all good things go,
Yes; pity my grotesque and awful fate,
I’m haunted by a memory out of date!
A poor, benighted, antiquated thing
That will keep harping on one worn-out string,
That babbles on of rides through twilight glooms
Beneath the heavy scents of wattle blooms
Dwells, like a dotard, on a strand of hair
That hid your ear— and, yes, I do declare
Reiterates again, and yet again,
As if it mattered! that a crimson stain
Leapt up into your cheek, when, stooping low,
I laid my hand upon your saddle-bow,
Insists, as if it mattered! that there came
A lovely light, half shadow and half flame,
Into your eyes when — Yes, the grapes are fine! —
When I had — Pardon, did you ask for wine?
Allow me, pray — when I had told you all,
Poor, blundering idiot! being in a thrall,
Spellbound, bewildered by that phantom thing,
That dear delusion that the poets sing,
Called — Heaven help it! — by the name of Love,
And kissing, like a child, your doeskin glove,
Its very buttons, and the milk-white wrist
That lent itself in dimples to be kissed.
And this was I — the self-same I, whose lips
Would scorn, to-night, to touch your finger-tips,
This self-same I, who scarce would pause to hear
If one should pour whole love-songs in his ear,
This I, who — “Hush, in mercy cease!” I will
Because, oh, cruel love! I love you still.
No, do not rise, nor lose that well-bred charm,
That suits you as these opals suit your arm,
I have not raised my voice a single tone,
I have not been so stupid as to groan,
If you would only lift your eyes to mine
You’d see with what sang-froid I sip my wine,
How all my mental force is brought to bear
Upon the peeling of a duchess pear.
Look up, dear heart! — one little glance will do,
Are those sweet eyes I wonder still as blue
As I remember them two years ago?
Two years! — two centuries! How could you know
That when I left you, pale and passion-torn,
Meeting your pride with pride, your scorn with scorn,
To wander over God’s good, patient earth,
With eyes that saw not, heart that found no worth,
Nor any pleasant thing beneath the sun,
Because of one dear face denied me — one
That haunted all my days, and silent drew
My heart across the continents to you,
How could you know I hungered for your eyes?
Look up! — look up! Ah! what? the ladies rise,
How white you are! and will I kindly tell
Your hostess you are leaving — are not well?
And will I call your husband, Captain Dare?
Your husband! — your — your husband! Ah, take care!
Here, help! — a lady faints. Be quick! that glass!
So, thanks! You have her? Kindly let me pass.
Agnes L. Storrie. Poems, J. W. Kettlewell, Sydney, 1909, pages 154-156