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Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967).  Picture-Show.  1920.

27. The Imperfect Lover


I NEVER asked you to be perfect—did I?— 
Though often I’ve called you sweet, in the invasion 
Of mastering love. I never prayed that you 
Might stand, unsoiled, angelic and inhuman, 
Pointing the way toward Sainthood like a sign-post.         5
  
Oh yes, I know the way to heaven was easy. 
We found the little kingdom of our passion 
That all can share who walk the road of lovers. 
In wild and secret happiness we stumbled; 
And gods and demons clamoured in our senses.  10
  
But I’ve grown thoughtful now. And you have lost 
Your early-morning freshness of surprise 
At being so utterly mine: you’ve learned to fear 
The gloomy, stricken places in my soul, 
And the occasional ghosts that haunt my gaze.  15
  
You made me glad; and I can still return 
To you, the haven of my lonely pride: 
But I am sworn to murder those illusions 
That blossom from desire with desperate beauty: 
And there shall be no falsehood in our failure;  20
Since, if we loved like beasts, the thing is done, 
And I’ll not hide it, though our heaven be hell. 
  
You dream long liturgies of our devotion. 
Yet, in my heart, I dread our love’s destruction. 
But, should you grow to hate me, I would ask  25
No mercy of your mood: I’d have you stand 
And look me in the eyes, and laugh, and smite me. 
  
Then I should know, at least, that truth endured, 
Though love had died of wounds. And you could leave me 
Unvanquished in my atmosphere of devils.  30


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