The Rack

By George Sterling

In Hell a voice awoke,
And slowly spoke.

"Not for God's vengeance met,
Not for my torment-sweat,
Not for these agonies
Break I our silences:
Behold their pain excelled
By rapture once unheld.

In Earth's benignest land
We wandered hand in hand.
All beauty and all woe
Were hers awhile to know;
All griefs were given her,
And I sole comforter.
Slowly her love awoke
And like a lily broke;
But ah! to me more dear
The roses of the year,
And I would wander far
Below the crimson star.
Slow as the jasmine grows
I won her from her snows,
Telling with word and deed
My hunger and her need,
Till, all the stream unbarred,
Her blood flowed passionward.
Awhile she recked of shame,
And spoke her Saviour's name;
Awhile her saints did call,
Then promised all.

That night there could not be
The Bliss for her and me;
But soon her lord must go
Beyond the flooded Po;
And soon, in steel arrayed
Went forth his cavalcade;
Then turned my Sweet to me
Telling when all could be—
Ah! God of hate! who heard
Her swiftly spoken word?

'Mid unseen flowers a-bloom
We came across the gloom,
But in that garden-close
Was dark, O Death! thy rose;
And ere mad lips caressed
Or breast was hurled to breast,—
Ere broke her last appeal,
I felt his bravos' steel—
O stealthy hounds that crept
Where the low fountains wept!

So fell the eternal night
Upon our lost delight,
And where its horror lies
I think of Paradise;
Yet not as they that crave
The coolness of its wave—
Sweeter than all therein
The sin we could not sin!
Yea! though infernal art
Goad the remorseful heart,
Till primacies of pain
Within this bosom reign,
First of their legion, first,
In that unsated thirst!—The pang of lips unkissed,
The rack of raptures missed!"

Then on that fury fell
The silences of Hell.

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