And Love Has Changed To Kindliness
By Rupert Brooke
When love has changed to kindliness --
Oh, love, our hungry lips, that press
So tight that Time's an old god's dream
Nodding in heaven, and whisper stuff
Seven million years were not enough
To think on after, make it seem
Less than the breath of children playing,
A blasphemy scarce worth the saying,
A sorry jest, "When love has grown
To kindliness -- to kindliness!" . . .
And yet -- the best that either's known
Will change, and wither, and be less,
At last, than comfort, or its own
Remembrance. And when some caress
Tendered in habit (once a flame
All heaven sang out to) wakes the shame
Unworded, in the steady eyes
We'll have, -- that day, what shall we do?
Being so noble, kill the two
Who've reached their second-best? Being wise,
Break cleanly off, and get away.
Follow down other windier skies
New lures, alone? Or shall we stay,
Since this is all we've known, content
In the lean twilight of such day,
And not remember, not lament?
That time when all is over, and
Hand never flinches, brushing hand;
And blood lies quiet, for all you're near;
And it's but spoken words we hear,
Where trumpets sang; when the mere skies
Are stranger and nobler than your eyes;
And flesh is flesh, was flame before;
And infinite hungers leap no more
In the chance swaying of your dress;
And love has changed to kindliness.
And if Kindliness Stoops To Love?
And if kindliness once stoops again to love
Will love not find it pain? Once more to move
Ixion’s turning wheel in vast distress
Whose cycle long has stilled, and been balked
With timbers ‘gainst the floods -
Powerful as winter storms that yet may come.
Gods may awake refreshed in heaven, and then shout
For there will be none then to ‘hold, enough’.
What is mere seven million of earth’s years
Cupid can blink - a decade’s dozing tears -
Until, you seem to think, at a certain hour:
Kindliness to love again, may briefly flower.
And yet – if as you say, the future’s set
In slow insidious decay – fire entering emberhood.
Then, when, after ten years, of being told:
That no time can abide, that it’s mature
Like solid English oak, thus to endure
Passionless, without that keyed caress
That you imagine in mere habit giving,
Then I will feel no shame – or not the shame,
That you envisage – the shamed, sudden, shock
Of being lessened day by day, until the scales
Are stripped away and we are seen, plump,
Nervous, at each other’s throats, in flannelled wintergreen.
My shame will be this, that all, every long second of
That while, while you thought passion locked
And fettered down, by adulthood, and time -
By that cold lie, that says if all things falter, so must we:
So must the heartstrings of the cosmos fray -
I did reject that lie unutterably, yet fear to flee.
I could not then fly forth, but my heart’s wish flew
In the long solitary grind of barren time
How dare you speak of it, as if it was:
Achievement to be, brutal, cold as ignorance.
And call it ‘Kindliness’, and give it praise.
Simon BJ after Rupert Brooke.