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COPY tJ. . 1
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Th e story of Abelarci and Heloise has trailed
across the centuries like a humi ng comet ac ross
the hea vens. Seven hundred years ha ve not di-
minished its f ier y splendor .
The tragi c history conta ined in t he five remark --
ihle letters left hy the lovers is as vivid a page in
the Tvorld's literature as though Ahelard and
Heloise had lived, loved and suffered only a
In emhodymg these letters m sonnet form I have
retained to a g r eat degree their identical language.
In no instance has l iherty heen taken with the
origi nal meaning or purport. The son nets are
therefore little more than a rhymi ng paraphrase
of the immortal love-letters of Ahelard and
jy that vast love and pas-
sion wnicn I bore you,
jBy these long years or
i solitude and griei,
By all my vows, I pray
\ and I implore you,
_^ssu3i^e my sorro^vs
i with a sweet relier.
A mong these holy women, sin aDnorring,
\v hose sno"w-^vnite thoughts fly ever to the C ross,
I am a sinner, with my passions "warring,
A. 11 unrepentant, grieving for my loss.
Oh, not through zeal, religion or devotion.
Did I abandon those dear paths ^ve trod;
I rollo'wed only one supreme emotion,
I took the veil for Ao^lard — not God*
O vows, O convent, though you nave estranged
My lover s heart, behold my o^vn unchanged !
^^<i«t to Attem»o Fn
ithin the breast these sa-
cred garments cover.
Tnere is no altar of eel
am a Tvoman ^weeping
or my lover.
The victim of a hunger-
ing heart s desire.
Veiled as I am, behold m what disord
Your Will kas plunged me; and in vain I try.
^y prayer and rite, to reach some tranqu il border,
Wkere virtues blossom and where passions die.
But when I tkink tke conquest gained, some tender
And radiant memory rises from the past;
Again to tkose sweet transports I surrender;
Remembered kisses feed me while I fast.
Tkougk lost my lover, still my love endures;
Tkougk sworn to God, my life is wkolly yours.
^miBfe ttt AitMitim W^
i etore the altar^ even, un-
1 carry that lost dream
'With all its charms;
•^ ^i?? to love s dear over-
1 hear your voice, 1 seek
A. gam 1 kno^v the rapture and the l anguor.
13 y fate forhidden and hy vows deharred;
iSi or can th e thought of Cj od in all -H- is a nger.
Drive from m y heart the though t of Abelard.
My_widowed nights, my da ys of rigorous duty.
my resignati on of the 'world 1 knevy.
My huried youth, my sacrifice of beauty.
yo ur shelt ering arms.
Were all ohlations offered up to you.
O Master, rlusoand. Father, let me move
vv ith those fond names your heart to pitying love.
S^^^SMII iv 'W
I am your -wife. Degpite my sacred calling.
Tnat wrecked two liearts, yet still I am your wife!
May you not, tnen, in pity for my sorro'w^
now t hen t he anguisk of
my sad condition.
And hreak the silence of
ppease me 'with one sen-
tence of contrition.
For that c omman d which
doomed me to these ways.
Despite my vo'ws, my consecrated life.
Despite the fate so tragic and appalling.
Permit me once to look upon your face?
Or, that denied, may I not comfort horro'w
y your aiscourses on tne means o
I ou cast your pearls hefore unheeding swinc:
\\^ould you save souls? Then, Ahelard, save mine.
MBB^^^I V ' W)
X m those nours Tvlien soul
and body mat ed
I n tnat wild passion^whicli
may not end ure —
Arm those hours so fer-
vent and so fated.
1 loved you ^vi th emotions
not all pure.
Y et even then the mortal man -sva s never
S o dear as was the grandeur of his heart.
A nd now I love you, and shall love forever.
1 hough earthly joys no more may play their part.
S mce in the cloister I am shut ^vith reason.
Persuade me with devotion to remain.
In our communion there can lurk no treason;
You caused my sorrovv^s, now- relieve my pain.
At your command I chose this hated lot:
C onsole me sometimes ^vith a spoken thought.
l^iDiae to Atttrnga ^
y an my cnams, my
dens and my fetters.
I plead w^ith you to ease
tneir galling >?v^eignt.
And witk th
solace of your letters.
To teacn me resignation
to my fate.
Since you no more may breatne love s fervent story.
I would le bride of keaven. On, tell me now!
A^vake in me an ardor for tnat glory.
Xne love divine, so lacking m me now!
As once your songs related all love s pleasures.
Relate to me the rapture of your faith.
Unlock tte storekouse of your ne^v-f ound treasures
And lend a radiance to my living death.
Ok, tkink of me, and kelp me tkrougk tke years!
Adieu! — ^I blot tkis message witk my tears.
delignt were past.
And tnose seductive days
no more cou
I sought religion s fetters
to make fast
The sinful heart that
d to b
In this seclusion, to conceal my shame:
In this asylum, to forget. Alas!
rhe very silence shouts aloud your name:
Through every sunheam does your radiance pass.
1 fled, to leave your image far hehind.
1 pictured you the enemy of hope,
Yet still I seek you, seek you in my mind.
And do^vn the aisles of memory I grope.
I hate, I love, I pray, and I despair.
I hlame myself, and grief is everywhere.
TBBSaiHB&SHi] TTm r (^m
i ne altars ^vnere 1 grovel bring no peace;
eligion bias me kolJ
thougnts m cneck.
b mce 1
mce love in me can have
no further part;
13 ut as wild billows JasK
upon a wreck,
bo passions rise and beat
The habit of tne penitent J- \vear.
God gives not need nor answer to my prayer.
ames \vithin me do not cease:
They are but bid witn asbes, and ^ lack
Tbe strengtb to flood them witb a grace divme.
F or memory forever drags me back
And bids me worsbip at the olden sbrme.
Your image rises, sbrouded m its veil.
And all my resolutions droop and fail.
looked into the li
of your eyes.
And dared tke flames of
I w^ould forget, and think tnat you forgot.
nell: 1 neard you speak.
And strove no longer to
be strong and wise —
r!/arth s rapture lay m be-
ing fond and weak.
Oh, paradox! that virtue like your own.
o guilty shame transfo rmed a holy life.
And the entrancing mu sic of your tone
Changed peaceful har monies to jarring strife.
Our wild abandon and the sinful thrall
Of stolen hours of bliss. O h, bid me not
The memory of those vanished days recall!
While you remember, ho"w canl forget?
Or hope's star dawn, till passion s sun has set?
not f (
or me tnose sacrec
A^Q your vocation ruth-
Sucn blaspheniies Go^
will not o erlook,
Nor grant salvation till
your passions v^rane.
Your constancy gives food to vain desires
And your affection adas to my offense;
You do but pour on recollection s fires
Destructive fuel, of tumultuous sense.
Convinced ofsm, of sin I am not cured;
Tbe mind repels it, but tke neart invites.
Ok, give not tken fresk ^voes to be endured.
By new recitals of our old deligkts!
I faint fceneatk tke burdens tkat I bear.
\A/itbout tbe increased weigbt of your despair.
nis mor tal love, when
QT velt upon with joy.
The love of God may not
Oh, 'would you ^;vith old
My piety, m its incipient
And can you near confessions such as tnese.
And tkrust your love between my God and me?
Witkdraw yourself, unhappy jjeloise.
Be Heaven's alone, and let my life go free.
ly v ows to God grow f eehle, in the war
\Vith thoughts of you, and Duty's voices die.
Unanswered, down my soul's dark corridor.
While m my heart is passion's desperate cry.
Drain sorrow's chalice, bravely take your cross;
To win back God, lies through the creature s loss,
ou call me F atner; I was
You call me Master; it
"was sm I taught:
You call me Husbanct,
yet you "were my briae
But after blight and ruin
nad. been "wrought.
j]3lot out those words, and substitute instead,
I The darkest titles "wounded pride can name.
X nrough me your nonor and your peace lie dead;
I took your virtue, and I gave you shame.
N ot ^ve alone in passion s pit "were nurled;
B ecause "we railed, shall otner lives be "weak?
O u*" follies nave set standards for the "world;
O f our "Wild amours shall tne centuries speak.
F or my salvation let your tears be spent;
A dvance in virtue, and repent! repent!
%i&AM,^ M^^^ A A A ,An.
^imflrtltt^^ffllMilBr^itfliltiii ^Biiii 11 ^^iiiii^ii iHliiiiiiiiiiiir-irB ■r^iiiilMiiilli m - lii
mmim to AttftutM r-
y fortune nas been al\vays
Fate loaded me with fa-
vors, ana witn "woe;
Sne lulled me in tne lap
or tender dreams,
1 hen woke me "witn the
anguish or a blow.
Sne flung ner cnoicest blessings at my feet,
Tnen took tnem all, m taking you away:
Ana in proportion as the past was s^v eet.
So IS tne Ditter of my life to-day.
The envied of all \vomen, througn your love
Mty sorro^vs claim compassion from them all;
I "was Lut lifted to fair heignts above,
Tliat men and angels migbt behold my fall. _
Njjw comes tbe last affliction from fate's store — -_
I shall behold my Abclard no more!
DjgiatBtt^ to AtitmMirr
ot mine the right to mur-
mur or comiplain.
For I alone am your mis-
fortune s cause.
I am tne portal to your
house or pain;
For Heloise you Iroke
God s holy laws.
your greatness in my beauty s snare;
You found destruction, gazing in my face;
And Ssinison's fall and Solomon s despair
Are lived again in Abelard's disgrace.
Yet grant me tkis poor comfort, for my dole-
I sought not, like Delilan, to destroy;
Mine -was the passion-blmded woman s role
\Viio gave her virtue for her lover s joy.
Convinced of love, I hastened to pour out
Life 8 dearest treasures, that you might not doubt.
made no use of pretext or
1 valued virtue, onlyjto
Like ^vliite, higli n oon-
tide, glaring and intense,
L ove drowned tke ^v orld
of reason m its glo w.
ITo te beloved by Abelard — tbat tbougbt
Absorbed all otber purposes like flame,
Sucb bavoc passion in my bosom wro ugnt,
1 banisbed bonor, and invited sbame.
I tbrust out duty, and installed des ire;
il aimed at notb^ng but possessing^you.
Ob, God, could I but quencb witb t ears tbe J ire
Of memory of tbose deligbts we knew!
G)uld I forget^or^ grieve for wbat was done.
Divine forgiveness migbt be sougbt, an d wo n.
give tut lip-repentance for
E acli night I see my A
And all of wisJom in your utterance seems.
And no contrition to my
il is k
soul IS known;
Eacli clay my lawless
Recounting pleasures that
^vere once our o^v^n.
lard m dreams.
Entranced -svith love, w^e turn away from books;
And all of rapture in your w^ords and looks.
And I remember that dear place and spot
Where first your passion spoke and kindled mine.
What tide of time can wash away, or hlot
Such mem Vies from the heart? Has love divine.
And your misfortune, brought you into peace.
While I still strive with storms that never cease?
o you, in slumDer, some-
times stretcn your arms
To clasp tne yielding
form of Heloise?
Do you recall my kisses
and my charms?
Or nave those pleasures
lost their poM^er to please?
[Within tnese •walls, I weep and ever ^weep.
Tnis cloister echoes my rebellious cries:
Worn out witn sorroAv I relive m sleep
The unaoating grief that never dies.
Shall AbelarJ, the all-entrancing theme.
Consume tne soul tnat ought to seek *^od s tnrone?
rioTV can I nope tbe Power I so blaspheme,
>Vill grant me pardon, or my sins condone?
On, you "Whose face I never more may see.
Have pity on my pligkt, and pray for me!
rite me no more. Let all
We left tke w^orlJ, to
purify our tnougnt.
But prayer is vain, and
penance comes t o nougnt.
en human passions
livitn our nearts contend.
N o alckemist witkin tke keart can klend
D esire and f aitk; tke peace wkick we kave sougkt^
By crucifixion of tke flesk is kougkt.
Let rites redoukle, and let prayers ascend.
Your letters prove my foes. ^Vkenl w^ould gird
God's armor on, and pinion to tke dust
Regrets tkat kar my patk to Paradise,
I fall inert, kef ore eack kurning vv^ord;
Resolve is slain, as ky a dagger-tkrust;
And Ckrist is kidden ky your ardent eyes.
O Id kalf-tealcd wounds
reopen in my breast,
j A nd tlood-drops stam tLe
young unsullied sod
! Wtere walked tkc feet of F aitli, repentance-skod.
My prayerful tko'ts swerve in tkeir upward quest.
And carnal love is once again tkeir guest—
^ain, in dreams, is pleasure's patkway trod.
Write me no more; you draw me back to eartb.
Moved by your words, I lose tbe better way.
My purpose falters, and my courage taints.
Oti, crusb eacb lawless impulse at its birtb,
l^am tbe large meaning of tbe word ''obey.
And drain tbe bitter cbalice of tbe saints.
rite me no more,
diligent m prayer;
Let God, not Abelard, D(
When mem ries torture.
i and when passions burn.
Look to tke Cross, that
uge ox despair;
Its outstretcKed arms are ever \vaiting t here.
Immortal life is sometking we must earn
By conquest of tke baser self. Oh, turn
Your tkougkts f rom eartb, to \vorlcls divinely fair.
Let silence give our sorrow^ing love true \vorth.
Xo love you, means to leave you witn no sign:
To love me, means to let my life go free.
But w^ken deatk calls our purged souls from ea
Ok, may your senseless clay rest close to mine !
Adieu! adieu! and write no more to me.
'J'-'ly holy meditations are not scarred
ly thoughts fl y unimpeded to tne goal
Detnroned you r image and for ever barred.
On, let my infidelity proclaim
To all tne ^vorld now fickle love can change!
A rival rules tne heart once deemed so true.
t lastCj od sho^ws me proof
of H is regarci,
And tranquil joys re place
grief s uncontrol.
er riots in
d A belard.
yy scalding tears from me mory s brimming bo^wl;
Yet, ere you think me sunk m utter shame.
Hear my disclosure of -wbat seems so strange
'Xis vjod alone takes rXeloise from you.
o more "will 1 endeavor to
B y recollection s aoft, se-
The guilty fondness of
lyour suffering neart;
fTo fate s decree my bro-'
ken spirit bows.
I tkink of you no longer as tlie sjouse^
But as tke f atker, set from men apart.
Insensible to passion s poison dart.
The boly stew^ard in God s sac red house.
My peace >vas bom of anguisb, but it liveg,
A pbenix risen from love's funeral pyre.
Tbe patb to Duty is tbe patb to Hiss:
Tkere is no pleasure save Avbat virtue gives.__
And yet — again to toucb tbat moutb of fire.
To lose tbe world, and find it, in your kiss!
HOV 18 190V
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