31 OCTOBER 1947, Page 11


PASSING, I saw such beauty on the pillow,

That I must stop, defy The privacy of ether, even dare Above the unconscious head to stoop and stare.

Her cheeks and nose were china-frail and yellow, And life was laid below the lidded eye.

All was so frail ; a lock of hair Was sculptured in a fragile bronze.

Its shadow, heavier than it, now lay Upon her forehead, an expanse so fair Which thought or passion must have ruffled once With passing wrinkles of a passing care. Now all was empty ; nothing on the plane Of brow or cheek, nothing on her lips Save what she could not feel, the drops Sweated, forerunners of the storm of pain When she should come to consciousness again.

I had no licence thus to over-look Such a soliloquy. It was to turn The pages of a wind be-ruffled book Otherwise 'intimate, written By self to self, to record and to learn, And then to be forgotten.

But I had touched, I had intruded there,

Construing all her beauty, every feature'

The moulding of the mouth, the tumbled hair, The wonder frozen in it, denied its nature, She did not mind the treachery ; she lay Serene, a Galatea forbidden to wake, Indifferent to the caresses of the air.

Careless of my greed, nothing could shake The confidence of that slow-motion breath.

I left her thus. Rebuked, I crept away, Out of the temple which life shared with death.