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STOLEN WATERS

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  • mikeindex@aol.com
    Okay, here is the text of the poem that Kate, Karoline and John have been discussing. I don t know why it has been as overlooked as it has. Probably a comment
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2000
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      Okay, here is the text of the poem that Kate, Karoline and John have been
      discussing.

      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 —

      STOLEN WATERS
      (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
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