In my dream, I flew up to a high place,
and a voice came from within me with the strength of the heavens:
“Be good to one another,” it cried.
And you all called to me: “Be good to one another.”
“Do good works,” I cried.
“Do good works!” You called in return.
“And above all, love one another,” I cried.
“Love one another!” you called.
“Love one another,” I whispered as my heart glowed.
O would you were mine!
I would tell you I love you a thousand small ways,
A soft, gentle smile, a lingering glance,
A sudden caught breath on sensing your gaze,
The pulse at my throat now betraying heart’s dance.
A touch on your cheek, a breath in your ear,
Carrying promises fiery and sweet,
Or gaze downcast when passing you near,
A frisson of excitement when eyes at last meet.
Kindling the night-hearth and sharing its fire,
Passion for passion, desire for desire,
Or tender meets tender, a long-burning flame,
Caress for caress as love whispers your name.
A kiss, a caress, a glance, a long look,
A love open wide, no resistance it brook,
A sigh, a shiver, a sweet evening song,
Safekeeping your heart throughout all the years long.
O were you mine!
Is this what I feel?
Love as madness?
When dreams all peace steal,
and torment is gladness?
I move through day,
phantom breath on my skin,
dark eyes meeting mine,
guarded heart in hand,
in outflung realm where ends one heart and another begin,
or in undiscovered country on God’s sacred land
where soul must meet soul, mingle, become one,
the winds of heaven for song and bless’d river run.
Then open the gates,
let loose the stream,
let madness take hold,
let dreamer dream,
for never have hands held so great a treasure
as the heart of beloved and Beloved in one time,
learning true joy,
distressing false pleasure,
knowing at last the truth in full measure:
Love is madness, madness is love
My heart is yours, and love at last is mine.
In youth doth love the haven of peace elude,
O’erbearing its object with wanton, selfish cry,
Preferring tears for drink, despair for food,
Reveling in wretched fearful sigh.
Time doth pass, becomes now love the haven,
of peace and passion blending dreams the heart,
that monstrous fancy slowly tamed and graven
with modest wish to daily care impart.
When I with saddened eyes saw years march on,
Wronged by love, so wronging love in turn,
removed from love, the haven of peace I won,
asylum did seek, and from compassion turn.
But shrewdly did poor heart pretend to cease,
For now doth wake and love the haven of peace.
O lovely Luna, pause in heavn’ly flight,
veiled in shadow, tarry here awhile
and spend a turn in mortal human plight.
Of radiant aspect hint with tiny smile,
lending heaven’s breath while yet thou breathe,
celestial visage move with human face.
In infant laugh we now Divine believe
that through ourselves a Gift brought to this place.
For ours is heaven, and heaven always here,
in every atom Love serenely move,
and one brave presence all the earth doth cheer
for all is Love, and Love doth in you prove
from shining eye doth all grand heaven shine,
your presence here revealing all Divine.
Author’s note: This poem was inspired by the birth of a beautiful baby girl named Luna, the daughter of dear friends, in 2009. You can hear an audio sample of the song setting here (http://www.rebekkahhilgraves.com/opera/)
O God the teller of tales,
Whose story is already writ,
Forgive me, for I fail
To leave you the telling of it.
O God, the mystical Weaver,
Your fabric far richer than gold,
Forgive this importunate fever;
I even one thread cannot hold.
O God, the celestial Painter,
Whose palette no eye can behold,
Forgive me: my colors are fainter
Than shadow when evening enfold.
O God, the heav’nly Composer,
Your music no less than the skies,
Forgive me my poor sound, no closer
Than silence entombed where it lies.
O God, the Creator of Song,
That sounds in celestial hall,
Forgive me this helping along,
I even one note cannot call.
Thou story, thou fabric, thou canvas, thou tune,
Thou brighter than sun, more mysterious than moon;
Thou epic, thou color, thou music sublime,
I kneel at the feet of the Artist Divine.
I awake in the stillness of night,
Reaching for a presence I feel but cannot hold.
My hand touches air,
My heart touches love.
My arms close around nothing,
My soul opens to new joy.
Thus, when hand meet hand
And heart meet heart,
When arms clasp another,
Such love is twice, thrice fulfilled.
What on the surface moves with measured pace,
Below doth run, inspiring heart to leap,
With seeming reserve and seemly manner’d grace,
Doth tremble as a quiet secret keep.
There sparks a tender flame in hidden lamp,
Which shows, once lit, a long and unknown road,
Upon the which two souls may meet and camp,
Of sweetest journey thus companion’d bode.
How easily doth heart, surprisèd, long
For gentle passions, and a richer realm
Where, ruled by laughter, joy and joinèd song,
These two may meet and romance overwhelm;
And I, surpris’d by lover’s siren call,
Do comfortably on this love now fall.
As sleep doth steal o’er thy beloved brow,
As Vespers chime across the steeple tower,
And peaceful rests the restless city now,
I lie awake and, watchful for this hour,
Do gently measure breath for breath and gaze
Through shadow’d dusk upon more shadows there,
And though full dark, the peaceful night ablaze
With silent shout, impassion’d tender care.
Then breathes the shadow with the merest sigh,
And slowly opens sleepy single eye,
“goodnight, my love,” it whispers with a kiss,
To close again, but leaving quiet bliss,
And shadowed hand with shadowed hand now blest,
Two loving hearts sink into loving rest.
In solitude solace, in stillness, content;
The peaceful day with no outcry rent;
For drama the stage, for revels torment;
Comes quiet of night, the day’s motion now spent.
The single note its own company keep,
The plainchant inspiring the prayerful deep,
Or mournful resonance sudden to weep,
The sweet-throated lullaby leading to sleep.
Then quietly stealing its way to the ear
Comes harmony, delicate, lovely to hear,
Its presence enigma until it draws near,
Encircling, ennobling, bestowing new cheer.
Two voices soon raised, to the rafters they ring,
Now major, now minor, to heaven now sing,
As one voice the two to each other now cling,
Diverge for a while and then consonance bring.
Thus do you give to my soul new delight,
Our voices now mingling in harmony bright;
As music does love catch when timing is right,
Sweet friend new-companion’d, my heart set alight.
Lord, who am I?
When I was a child, my heart burst with love;
Arms open to everyone,
I loved generously, without judgement, without reserve.
Over the years, that love was bruised,
Battered, beaten into hiding.
The love I gave, only wishing for such love in return,
Was rebuffed, refused, ridiculed,
Or worse, used against me.
I learned to love in secret, the love I felt aching within my soul.
It struggled and withered, longing for a worthy heart
To love it in the same measure.
Do I love too much?
I do know that such love can be a fearsome thing,
Overwhelming those it touches.
So I narrowed its focus, saving it for fiction,
Loving mythical heroes,
only the stage or my dreams large enough for such love as I felt.
I lost sight of myself.
But still my heart bursts with love!
And here at last is someone who reads my poems, hears my songs…
…Shares my dreams?…
He speaks of romance, of affection and respect.
Ah, but is his heart strong enough,
His soul anchored firmly enough to withstand the tempest?
I am great and terrible, damaged and whole,
Generous and selfish, scarred, yet full of life.
Can he accept what I offer, all this love crying to be free,
who I am, all that I am?
Lord, I know who I am.
When in spring-time all the world awake
From slumber heavy, shedding winter’s cloak,
And new-bloom’d finery all the flowers make,
With faerie-dust the fiery sunsets stroke,
Breathless, restless, wander I the hills,
As melts my once-cold heart in sudden thaw,
Laughing with the sparrow’s frantic trills,
Flooding senses with each breath I draw.
I find myself alone upon a rise
Watching west as darkness inward press,
The evening cool’d as lightning part the skies,
The heart of nature thund’ring heaven bless.
Then comes the rain, its tears upon my face
Of joy and sorrow mingling in this place.
Love it is makes heroes out of men,
And love return’d becomes its own reward,
From heart to treasur’d heart its treasure lend
Such gold a thousand times from trove unbarr’d.
Fie, gold!, such love is like the very air:
To love is to inspire, and thus to live;
And yet, breathe out too much and nothing there,
Expire, for no air life cannot long forgive.
Thus, my dear, did I my love breathe out,
In one unguarded moment share with you
And passion’s flame too soon, too soon blow out,
And wait for love to breathe on me anew.
For loving air my failing breath doth yearn,
For of restraint my heart will never learn.
My heart beats in my breast and bursting, cries,
Each breath I take trails fire along my skin.
Your face before me when I close my eyes,
Your touch imagin’d, conjur’d from within,
My senses all awaken’d, now aflame,
And straining forward, ‘cross the distance call,
Alive with passion, whispering your name,
All reason gone, into your spell I fall.
Now thus invok’d, such magic do I feel
That music to my lips unbidden fly
And sing until you stand before me, real,
Inhabited by love’s eternal cry.
Affection, passion and desire now blend
With love and strength, a restless soul to mend.