Friday, 11 December 2009

Lifestyles of Lexicographers, Part 3: Liddell's Lost Love

Lest the lexicographer be deemed to lack passion:

An Elegy, October, 1844.

Ah me! They tell me thou art doomed
To be another's bride!
Ah me! and I must throw all hopes,
All dreams of bliss aside!

Seven years are flown since first I seemed
To know thee as thou art;
Since first the flame arose that soon
Burnt hot within my heart.

It was not only that thy Soul
Was filled with Sympathy,
And Love for all things beautiful
On earth, in air, and sea;

Not only that a lively Wit
Had made thy mind its home;
And shot with arrowy flight o'er ways
Where others slowly comb;

Not only that a love for Art
And poesy was there;
And all thy heart's chords seemed to thrill
In harmony with mine;

It was not these alone that filled
My soul with love for thee;
For then, perchance, the flame had died
And left me fancy-free.

But when by its first storm of grief
My bark of Life was tost;
When all my fond hopes, wishes, dreams
In one blank void were lost;

When one-the fairest, sweetest, best,
That e'er bore Sister's name,
Was ta'en away and left me in
This world of sin and shame;

Oh, then to see thee weep, when I
Had no tears left to flow;
To feel thy hand's kind pressure, and
Thy sympathy to know,

'Twas this that bowed my heart to thee,
And made me feel indeed,
That Love is not an empty name,
No youthful dream, no lambent flame,
But a true freind in need.

And then, within my heart of hearts
I build a Temple fair
And pure, as mortal fane may be,
And set thy image there.

And there each morning when I rose
My orisons I made;
And there each night when I lay down
My vows I duly paid.

Ah, say not 'twas too fondly done-
They err who deem that Love
Is all of earthly mould, and draws
The soul from God above.

True love lifts up the heart to heaven,
Sets free from selfish care,
Lends purity to every thought,
Reality to prayer.

'Tis this that on the student's desk
Still sheds its cheering ray;
And lends a beacon-light of hope
To guide his lonely way.

Yes - when I've sat till midnight hour
Mid books on books high piled;
Oftimes, methought, thy image fair
Stood by in bodily presence there,
And on my labours smiled.

And if, at times, the praise of men
Came flattering on mine ear,
'Twas for thy sake that flattery pleased,
For thee that praise was dear.

For oh! methought, could I have e'er
Won honour fortune fame,
To lay them at thy feet, and dare
My hidden Love proclaim,

Couldst thou have known my Truth, and felt
To me as I to thee,
That had been worth a world of pain,
A world of toil to me!

And yet so frail the hope, so long
The time, that oft I strove
To quell those thoughts; and sometimes deemed
That I could cease to love.

But now the veil is torn; and now
Too well I know the power;
The soft unconscious influence
That reigned in every hour.

Ah me! and now - those thoughts, those hopes
I must throw all aside;
For thou art doomed (oh misery!)
To be another's bride.

Well - God be with thee! Only thus,
Thus only may I dare
To breathe thy still-loved name, and thus
Remember thee in prayer;

So - God be with thee; send thee peace,
And length of days to see;
And make thee happier than I
Can ever think to be.


From Gordon, C. Beyond the Looking Glass: Reflections of Alice and her Family. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1982: pp. 58-61.

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