710. Shadows

Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton. 1809-1885

THEY seem'd, to those who saw them meet,
  The casual friends of every day;
Her smile was undisturb'd and sweet,
  His courtesy was free and gay.

But yet if one the other's name
  In some unguarded moment heard,
The heart you thought so calm and tame
  Would struggle like a captured bird:

And letters of mere formal phrase
  Were blister'd with repeated tears,--
And this was not the work of days,
  But had gone on for years and years!

Alas, that love was not too strong
  For maiden shame and manly pride!
Alas, that they delay'd so long
  The goal of mutual bliss beside!

Yet what no chance could then reveal,
  And neither would be first to own,
Let fate and courage now conceal,
  When truth could bring remorse alone.

The Oxford Book of English Verse, HTML edition