Remember, my Beloved, what thing we met
By the roadside on that sweet summer day;
There on a grassy couch with pebbles set,
A loathsome body lay.
The wanton limbs stiff-stretched into the air,
Steaming with exhalations vile and dank,
In ruthless cynic fashion had laid bare
The swollen side and flank.
On this decay the sun shone hot from heaven
As though with chemic heat to broil and burn,
And unto Nature all that she had given
A hundredfold return.
The sky smiled down upon the horror there
As on a flower that opens to the day;
So awful an infection smote the air,
Almost you swooned away.
The swarming flies hummed on the putrid side,
Whence poured the maggots in a darkling stream,
That ran along these tatters of life's pride
With a liquescent gleam.
And like a wave the maggots rose and fell,
The murmuring flies swirled round in busy strife:
It seemed as though a vague breath came to swell
And multiply with life
The hideous corpse. From all this living world
A music as of wind and water ran,
Or as of grain in rhythmic motion swirled
By the swift winnower's fan.
And then the vague forms like a dream died out,
Or like some distant scene that slowly falls
Upon the artist's canvas, that with doubt
He only half recalls.
A homeless dog behind the boulders lay
And watched us both with angry eyes forlorn,
Waiting a chance to come and take away
The morsel she had torn.
And you, even you, will be like this drear thing,
A vile infection man may not endure;
Star that I yearn to! Sun that lights my spring!
O passionate and pure!
Yes, such will you be, Queen of every grace!
When the last sacramental words are said;
And beneath grass and flowers that lovely face
Moulders among the dead.
Then, O Beloved, whisper to the worm
That crawls up to devour you with a kiss,
That I still guard in memory the dear form
Of love that comes to this!