Charles Stuart Calverley

Here you will find the Poem On The Brink of poet Charles Stuart Calverley

On The Brink

I WATCH?D her as she stoop?d to pluck 
 A wild flower in her hair to twine; 
And wish?d that it had been my luck 
 To call her mine; 
Anon I heard her rate with mad,
 Mad words her babe within its cot, 
And felt particularly glad 
 That it had not. 
I knew (such subtle brains have men!) 
 That she was uttering what she shouldn?t;
And thought that I would chide, and then 
 I thought I would n?t. 
Few could have gaz?d upon that face, 
 Those pouting coral lips, and chided: 
A Rhadamanthus, in my place,
 Had done as I did. 
For wrath with which our bosoms glow 
 Is chain?d there oft by Beauty?s spell; 
And, more than that, I did not know 
 The widow well. 
So the harsh phrase pass?d unreprov?d: 
 Still mute?(O brothers, was it sin?)? 
I drank, unutterably mov?d, 
 Her beauty in. 
And to myself I murmur?d low, 
 As on her upturn?d face and dress 
The moonlight fell, ?Would she say No,? 
 By chance, or Yes?? 
She stood so calm, so like a ghost, 
 Betwixt me and that magic moon, 
That I already was almost 
 A finish?d coon. 
But when she caught adroitly up 
 And sooth?d with smiles her little daughter; 
And gave it, if I ?m right, a sup
 Of barley-water; 
And, crooning still the strange, sweet lore 
 Which only mothers? tongues can utter, 
Snow?d with deft hand the sugar o?er 
 Its bread-and-butter;
And kiss?d it clingingly (ah, why 
 Don?t women do these things in private?)? 
I felt that if I lost her, I 
 Should not survive it. 
And from my mouth the words nigh flew,? 
 The past, the future, I forgat ?em,? 
?Oh, if you ?d kiss me as you do 
 That thankless atom!? 
But this thought came ere yet I spake, 
 And froze the sentence on my lips: 
?They err who marry wives that make 
 Those little slips.? 
It came like some familiar rhyme, 
 Some copy to my boyhood set; 
And that ?s perhaps the reason I?m 
 Unmarried yet. 
Would she have own?d how pleas?d she was, 
 And told her love with widow?s pride? 
I never found out that, because 
 I never tried. 
Be kind to babes and beasts and birds, 
 Hearts may be hard though lips are coral; 
And angry words are angry words: 
 And that ?s the moral.