Lovers’ Identity

Erminia.
Is it Zenobio?

Zenobio.
Ay, that’s my body’s name, for my dear soul
Is not so called: when you would speak of that,
Which is myself more than the thing you see,
Only say “Erminia.”—And what readeth she,
Who called Zenobio?

Erminia.
An unhappy tale
Of two who loved, with so unusual faith,
That their affection rose up into heaven,
And there was deified: (for the blind child,
Whom men of this late world invoke and swear by,
Is the usurper of that first love’s name,
Indeed an idol, a false deity:)
—A pedant’s dream!

Zenobio.
We know it to be so.
For not externally this love can live,
But in the soul, as life within the body:
And what is Love alone? Are there not two?
—But, dearest, you were telling—

Erminia.
Of this pair:
One from the beauty and the grace of youth,
One, innocent and youthful, perished.
The other,—what could she, O widowed thing!
With but a pale and fading memory
Left in the hollow of her heart?

Zenobio.
What could she?
But let her deathly life pass into death,
Like music on the night-wind; moaning, moaning,
Until it sleeps.

Erminia.
Worse, worse, much worse than that,
Or aught else of despair or common madness.
Cheerfully did she live, quietly end
A joyous age alone! This is to me
More woeful, and more murderous of hope,
Than any desperate story.

Zenobio.
So it would be,
If thought on with the general sense of man.
But know this surely: in that woman’s breast
Lived the two souls, that were before divided.
For otherwise, be sure, she could not live;
But so, much happier than ever.

[Kelsall, 1851]