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An Old Love Letter
Richard Le Gallienne


I was reading a letter of yours to-day,
The date - O a thousand years ago!
The postmark is there - the month was May:
How, in God's name, did I let you go?
What wonderful things for a girl to say!
And to think that I hadn't the sense to know - 
What wonderful things for a man to hear!
O still beloved, O still most dear.

"Duty" I called it, and hugged the word
Close to my side, like a shirt of hair;
You laughed, I remember, laughed like a bird,
And somehow I thought that you didn't care.
Duty! - and Love, with her bosom bare!
No wonder you laughed, as we parted there - 
Then your letter came with this last good-by - 
And I sat splendidly down to die.

Nor Duty, nor Death, would have aught of me:
"He is Love's," they said, "he cannot be ours;"
And your laugh pursued me o'er land and sea,
And your face like a thousand flowers.
"Tis her gown!" I said to each rustling tree,
"She is coming!" I said to the whispered showers;
But you came not again, and this letter of yours
Is all that endures - all that endures.

These aching words - in your swift firm hand,
That stirs me still as the day we met - -
That now 'tis too late to understand,
Say "hers is the face you shall ne'er forget;"
That, though Space and Time be as shifting sand,
We can never part - we are meeting yet.
This song, beloved, where'er you be,
Your heart shall hear and shall answer me.

This poem is in the public domain.


Richard Le Gallienne (1866 - 1947) was born in Liverpool, England. A contemporary of Oscar Wilde and W. B. Yeats, he was widely published but tended to be more of a romantic than his counterparts. He moved to the U.S. in 1903, hoping to breathe new life into his writing career, but his continued preference for sentimental styling kept him out of sync with American tastes of that time. He moved to Paris in 1927 and began writing a weekly column for the New York Sun, which was a perfect venue for his romantic style of writing. A compilation of some of those columns won Le Gallienne an award for "best book about France by a foreigner."  In the course of his life, Le Gallienne wrote nearly ninety books and innumerable articles.



Post New Comment:
Powerfully touched my heart. Like any great poem, it made me feel as if it happened to me.
Posted 06/07/2024 10:51 AM
Darrell Arnold:
Powerful feelings, masterfully displayed in rhymed and metered lines. Wonderful work.
Posted 06/07/2024 08:35 AM
Wow! So much emotion and that too in rhyme! Oh to love and be loved! Oh to forget and then again not to forget!
Posted 06/09/2014 08:05 AM
Beautiful. How to comment on this except that I should be there in the midst of it all.
Posted 06/08/2014 12:31 PM
I like this. Thank you for introducing me to a Liverpudlian poet whose work I do not know.
Posted 06/07/2014 08:53 AM

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