Last night I saw Helena. She whose praise
Of late all men have sounded. She for whom
Young Angus rashly sought a silent tomb
Rather than live without her all his days.
Wise men go mad who look upon her long,
She is so ripe with dangers. Yet meanwhile
I find no fascination in her smile,
Although I make her theme of this poor song.
"Her golden tresses?" yes, they may be fair,
And yet to me each shining silken tress
Seems robbed of beauty and all lustreless -
Too many hands have stroked Helena's hair.
(I know a little maiden so demure
She will not let her one true lover's hands
In playful fondness touch her soft brown bands
So dainty-minded is she, and so pure.)
"Her great dark eyes that flash like gems at night?
Large, long-lashed eyes and lustrous?" that may be,
And yet they are not beautiful to me.
Too many hearts have sunned in their delight.
(I mind me of two tender blue eyes, hid
So underneath white curtains, and so veiled
That I have sometimes plead for hours, and failed
To see more than the shyly lifted lid.)
"Her perfect mouth so liked a carved kiss?"
"Her honeyed-mouth, where hearts do, fly-like, drown?"
I would not taste its sweetness for a crown;
Too many lips have drank its nectared bliss.
(I know a mouth whose virgin dew, undried,
Lies like a young grape's bloom, untouched and sweet,
And though I plead in passion at her feet,
She would not let me brush it if I died.)
In vain, Helena! though wise men may vie
For thy rare smile, or die from loss of it,
Armoured by my sweet lady's trust, I sit,
And know thou are not worth her faintest sigh.
- by Ella Wheeler Wilcox