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Two Wives
Two Wives, by D.H. Lawrence


INTO the shadow-white chamber silts the white
Flux of another dawn. The wind that all night 
Long has waited restless, suddenly wafts 
A whirl like snow from the plum-trees and the pear, 
Till petals heaped between the window-shafts         5
          In a drift die there. 
A nurse in white, at the dawning, flower-foamed pane 
Draws down the blinds, whose shadows scarcely stain 
The white rugs on the floor, nor the silent bed 
That rides the room like a frozen berg, its crest  10
Finally ridged with the austere line of the dead 
          Stretched out at rest. 
Less than a year the fourfold feet had pressed 
The peaceful floor, when fell the sword on their rest. 
Yet soon, too soon, she had him home again  15
With wounds between them, and suffering like a guest 
That will not go. Now suddenly going, the pain 
          Leaves an empty breast. 

A tall woman, with her long white gown aflow
As she strode her limbs amongst it, once more  20
She hastened towards the room. Did she know 
As she listened in silence outside the silent door? 
Entering, she saw him in outline, raised on a pyre 
          Awaiting the fire. 
Upraised on the bed, with feet erect as a bow,  25
Like the prow of a boat, his head laid back like the stern 
Of a ship that stands in a shadowy sea of snow 
With frozen rigging, she saw him; she drooped like a fern 
Refolding, she slipped to the floor as a ghost-white peony slips 
          When the thread clips.  30
Soft she lay as a shed flower fallen, nor heard 
The ominous entry, nor saw the other love, 
The dark, the grave-eyed mistress who thus dared 
At such an hour to lay her claim, above 
A stricken wife, so sunk in oblivion, bowed  35
          With misery, no more proud. 

The stranger’s hair was shorn like a lad’s dark poll
And pale her ivory face: her eyes would fail 
In silence when she looked: for all the whole 
Darkness of failure was in them, without avail.  40
Dark in indomitable failure, she who had lost 
          Now claimed the host, 
She softly passed the sorrowful flower shed 
In blonde and white on the floor, nor even turned 
Her head aside, but straight towards the bed  45
Moved with slow feet, and her eyes’ flame steadily burned. 
She looked at him as he lay with banded cheek, 
          And she started to speak 
Softly: “I knew it would come to this,” she said, 
“I knew that some day, soon, I should find you thus.  50
So I did not fight you. You went your way instead 
Of coming mine—and of the two of us 
I died the first, I, in the after-life 
          Am now your wife.” 

“’Twas I whose fingers did draw up the young
Plant of your body: to me you looked e’er sprung 
The secret of the moon within your eyes! 
My mouth you met before your fine red mouth 
Was set to song—and never your song denies 
          My love, till you went south.”  60
“’Twas I who placed the bloom of manhood on 
Your youthful smoothness: I fleeced where fleece was none 
Your fervent limbs with flickers and tendrils of new 
Knowledge; I set your heart to its stronger beat; 
I put my strength upon you, and I threw  65
          My life at your feet.” 
“But I whom the years had reared to be your bride, 
Who for years was sun for your shivering, shade for your sweat, 
Who for one strange year was as a bride to you—you set me aside 
With all the old, sweet things of our youth;—and never yet  70
Have I ceased to grieve that I was not great enough 
          To defeat your baser stuff.” 

“But you are given back again to me
Who have kept intact for you your virginity. 
Who for the rest of life walk out of care,  75
Indifferent here of myself, since I am gone 
Where you are gone, and you and I out there 
          Walk now as one.” 
“Your widow am I, and only I. I dream 
God bows his head and grants me this supreme  80
Pure look of your last dead face, whence now is gone 
The mobility, the panther’s gambolling, 
And all your being is given to me, so none 
          Can mock my struggling.” 
“And now at last I kiss your perfect face,  85
Perfecting now our unfinished, first embrace. 
Your young hushed look that then saw God ablaze 
In every bush, is given you back, and we 
Are met at length to finish our rest of days 
          In a unity.”  90

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