Martin Robertson

Now and Then

Eugénie de Guérin

She hung out of her window to watch the stars.

They hustled her back to bed with cries and prayers

and nailed the window shut.

A man in the woven hanging reached for a nest.

Each morning when she woke she could bear it less

—found scissors and cut

the offending hand away.  More punishment.

They loved her though (as she loved them) and meant

well.  She grew up dévote

but kind and wise, with the wisdom of innocence,

total faith in an ordered universe

breathed from the will of God

which set the peasant to labour and not question

and her to tread, and equally not question,

her narrow barren road.

Loves children, could have been a loving wife.

Would have been bride, with greater love, of Christ,

but stays with her father

who needs her, loves her, whom she loves too; stays

with sister and brother she loves too in their ways

but not with the brother

she loves above all the world, though not above

God—God for her is truly Love—

but above all others:

the baby brother she first was jealous of,

but they were knitted together in lasting love

before their mother

died, when he was eight, she was thirteen.

And now the loved brother lives in Babylon,

Paris, leagues away.  And further.

He has left the walled garden of Faith, walks

anywhere wilful thought may lead.  She looks

out from the green shade

passionately fearing for his soul’s health (fearing

for his body’s too, mortally sick) yet sharing

still with warm loving pride

his thoughts and hopes, sharing with him her hopes

(few in this world), her thoughts, giving them shape

in clear, beautiful words.

For this they share, as well as their love: love

of the expressive, the living word, of

poetry.  She made

—of sewing, cooking, correspondence, the road to the mill

with its flowers, birds in the garden—made her journal

a sampler that does not fade.