The Love that Died




"Call it what you please," said the Major.
"One half of it's idleness and the othcr half is liver."
The Confessions of Lieutenant Damking

Look! It was no fault of mine. Read a story plainly writ
Caroline was Caroline: I was—very badly hit.
Caroline alone possessed all the heart within my breast.

So I mused upon her face—ventured into verse of course.
Lay my racket in its place—at his picket stood my horse.
And my shot-gun in its baize slumbered two-and-twenty days.

Yearnings dark and inchoate troubled next my lonely life—
Visions of a future state tempered by a charming wife
Drovc me to a Bank Book, which proved me anything but rich.

Tennyson I read with zeal; Browning's 'Men and Women' eke—
Scoffcd at those who could not feel passion such as paled my cheek.
Thought of Caroline, and so felt exceeding hipped and low.

Down my dexter shoulder ran torment it were vain to hide—
Anguish past the lot of man crumpled up my dexter side.
Sleeping after tiffin lit Tophet in my tummy's pit.

Awful visions came by night; heavy drowsiness by day—
Little specks of coloured light seemed before my eyes to play.
To my door a Doctor drove. 'See,' quoth I, 'a prey to Love.'

He was burly, brutal, plain; (I am slender, love-sick, young)
He to my disgust and pain punched my ribs and saw my tongue.
'Writ above my tomb', I sighed, ' "Twas for Caroline I died." '

Foul prescriptions men made up for a pill as blue as I,
Something in a coffee-cup racked my soul with agony,
But the shoulder I confess seemed to pain a little less.

Then the beefy man and coarse smackt me on my fragile back,
Bade them saddle up my horse, never quite a lady's hack
(Weeks of idleness and gram had not made him more a lamb.)

Heavens! How he scattered dust! Heavens! How I puffed and blew!
There are times when lovers must be in thought to love untrue.
All my heart and soul I own centered on that brute alone.

Knees were flayed and frame was sore, but the shoulder and the side
Ceased from twingeing any more, and my body's torment died;
With it, horrible to say, fled my spirit's gloom away.

Gone the tender thoughts and rare! Gone the yearnings vague and sweet!
Blown to bits by outer air; trampled 'neath a horse's feet.
Yea! the loathsome brew I quaffed seemed a very Lethe's draught.

Was it liver? Was it love? In another, better land
I may yet the skein unrove; but, at present, as we stand,
Caroline is Caroline. I am Me and Me is Mine.