- Okay, here is the text of the poem that Kate, Karoline and John have been
I don't know why it has been as overlooked as it has. Probably a comment on
the tunnel vision which the name 'Lewis Carroll" can induce. Florence Becker
Lennon junked it. Someone else called it 'coy', which is frankly crazy.
The title comes from a quotation from the Bible, Proverbs 9, 13-18:
'For she sitteth at the door of her house on a seat in the high places of the
city, to call passengers who go right on their ways: Whoso is simple let him
turn in hither: and as for him that wanted understanding, she saith to him:
Stolen waters are sweet and bread taken in secret is pleasant.
But he knoweth not that the dead are there and that her guests are in the
depths of hell'
Note also that he signs it with his own initials 'CLD', and this is how it
appeared in 'College Rhymes'. This 'personalisation' of the work is very
unusual in him. I don't think he does it anywhere other than with this
handful of serious poetry he produced between 1861 and 1862.
Like it or loathe it, 'Stolen Waters' is a very novel and, for its time,
extraordinarily daring work, and here it is —
(May 9 1862)
The light was faint, and soft the air
That breathed around the place;
And she was lithe and tall and fair,
And with a wayward grace
Her queenly head she bare -
With glowing cheek, with gleaming eye,
She met me on the way;
My spirit owned the witchery
Within her smile that lay;
I followed her, I know not why.
The trees were thick with many a fruit,
The grass with many a flower;
My soul was dead, my tongue was mute
In that accursed hour.
And in my dream, with silvery voice
She said or seemed to say
'Youth is the season to rejoice'-
I could not say her nay,
I could not choose but stay.
She plucked a branch above her head
With rarest fruitage laden.
'Drink of the juice sir Knight', she said,
'Tis good for knight and maiden.'
Oh blind my eyes that would not trace:
Oh deaf my ear that would not heed -
The mocking smile upon her face,
The mocking voice of greed!
I drank the juice and straightway felt
A fire within my brain:
My soul within me seemed to melt
In sweet delirious pain.
'Sweet is the stolen draught' she said:
'Hath sweetness stint or measure?
Pleasant the secret hoard of bread:
What bars us from our pleasure?'
'Yes, take we pleasure while we may,'
I heard myself replying.
In the red sunset far away
My happier life was dying:
My heart was sad, my voice was gay.
And unawares, I know not how,
I kissed her dainty finger tips,
I kissed her on the lily brow,
I kissed her on the false, false lips-
That burning kiss, I feel it now!
'True love gives true love of the best:
Then take', I cried, 'my heart to thee!'
The very heart from out my breast
I plucked, I gave it willingly.
Her very heart she gave to me -
Then died the glory from the west.
In the gray light I saw her face,
And it was withered old and gray:
The flowers were fading in their place
The grass was fading where we lay.
Forth from her, like a hunted deer,
Through all that ghastly night I fled,
And still behind me seemed to hear
Her fierce unflagging tread,
And scarce drew breath for fear.
Yet marked I well how strangely seemed
The heart within my breast to sleep:
Silent it lay, or so I dreamed,
With never a throb or leap
For hers was now my heart, she said,
The heart that once had been my own,
And in my breast I bore instead
A cold cold heart of stone;
So grew the morning overhead.
The sun shone downward throught the trees
His old familiar flame.
All ancient sounds upon the breeze
From copse and meadow came-
But I was not the same
They call me mad: I smile, I weep
Uncaring how or why
Yea, when one's heart is laid asleep,
What better than to die?
To die! To die? And yet,
I drink of Life today
Deep as the thirsty traveller drinks
Of fountain by the way.
My voice is sad, my heart is gay.
When yestereve was on the wane
I heard a clear voice singing
So sweetly that, like summer rain,
My happy tears came springing:
My human heart returned again.
A rosy child -
Sitting and singing in a garden fair;
The joy of hearing, seeing;
The simple joy of being -
Or twining roses in the golden hair
That ripples free and wild
A sweet pale child -
Wearily looking to the purple west -
Waiting the great Forever
That suddeny shall sever
The cruel chains that hold her from her rest -
By earth joys unbeguiled.
An angel-child -
Gazing with living eyes on a dead face -
The mortal form forsaken,
That none may now awaken -
That lieth painless, moveless in her place,
As though in death she smiled.
Be as a child -
So shalt thou sing for very joy of breath.
So shalt thou wait thy dying
In holy transport lying -
So pass rejoicing through the gate of Death
In garment undefiled.
Then call me what they will, I know
That now my soul is glad:
If this be madness, better so:
Far better to be mad,
Weeping or smiling as I go.
For if I weep, it is that now
I see how deep a loss is mine,
And feel how brightly round my brow
The coronal might shine,
Had I but kept my early vow -
And if I smile, it is that now
I see the promise of the years -
The garland waiting for my brow,
That must be won with tears -
With pain - with death - I care not how.
CLD, Christ Church