The Virgin

Original Text: 
Strange Meetings: Poems By Harold Monro (Wiltshire: Laurel Books, 2003): 32-36.
1Arms that have never held me; lips of him
2Who should have been for me; hair most beloved,
3I would have smoothed so gently; steadfast eyes,
4Half-closed, yet gazing at me through the dusk;
5And hands.-you sympathetic human hands,
6I would have everlastingly adored,
7To which I have so often tendered mine
8Across the gulf, O far, far, far away
9Unwilling hands; and voice of him I have dreamed
10So often in the evening by the fire,
11Whose step I have heard approaching, at the door
12Pausing, but never entering: O tall
13And well-beloved imaginary form-
14I curse you! Is the silence of the night
15Not mine, but you must haunt it? Are my dreams
16Not mine, but you must fill them? There were days
17I had some little beauty for you.-Why
18Came you not then? What kept you? Now my lips
19Are feverish with longing, and mine eyes,
20Wanton with expectation. Where are you?
21In what moon-haunted garden? By what stream?
22Where whisper you your vows? Among what flowers,
23(Which bloom though I am barren)? To what maid
24Of cream and rose in muslin?.-And her hand
25Touches you lightly, while you tremble. She
26Had waited also; but you came to her.
27I would not be revengeful.-yet of late
28I dream of every maiden I behold,
29She may have won you from me. Oh, believe!
30None other can have loved you as I would.
31So long, so long have I imagined you;
32Yea, from my foolish girlhood, every night
33Have held you in my arms. Forgive me, love!
34You seemed so nearly mine; and every morning
35I cried ."To-day!." And often in my prayers
36When I would try to think of Jesus Christ,
37It only seemed as if I thought of you.
38Oh, surely I deserved some better fate
39Than this black barren destitution. I
40Am made of flesh, and I have tingling nerves:
41My blood is always hot, and I desire
42The touch of gentle hands upon my face
43To cool it, as the moonlight cools the earth.
44There is no peace. In spring, the turtle doves
45Madden me with their crooning, and the trees
46Whisper all day together. Everywhere
47There is some festival of love. Alas,
48Men in all places openly declare
49Love is the world, and maidens, with a blush,
50Hint beautiful devotion. Know they not
51I am a woman.-I could too have served?
52Sometimes (young matrons look upon me so),
53I laugh aloud in everybody's face
54Instead of weeping, for I have to choose
55Quickly. That sudden laugh without a cause
56Has grown into a habitude of late:
57Thus people stare at me, and shake their heads,
58And sign to one another with their eyes.
59Then afterwards I always have to go
60Alone to drench my pillow with my tears .Àæ
61You, you, who have not loved me, who have found
62Some other consolation in the world,
63Who are my cause and complement of woe,
64Say, what can be achieved through such as I?
65I cannot change the pattern of my soul.
66It surely is not evil to desire:
67Mothers desire their children, and the priest
68Desires his God; the earth desires the sun;
69And I lean out in agony for you;
70So very long I had expected you:
71I was not wanton till you did not come.
72Whoever you may be, hear me at last!
73Faintly, I do implore you for your hands:
74I grope to find them. Stay! I have become
75So humble now, that meekly I will follow
76Whatever way you lead me through the world.
77I have no habitation of my own.
78Unsacred is my room, mine images
79Unconsecrated, and my lonely bed
80Haunted with memories of the wakeful night
81All void of love, and of the barren dawn.
82It is so weary to begin the days,
83To stir, wake, wonder, rise, and breathe again:
84O how much longer must I tolerate
85The flowerless repetition of the hours,
86And little occupations without cause?
87Love! Love! I want to lay my body out,
88To be all covered over, to receive;
89I want to hold, and fasten, and be held:
90I hunger; I am starved .Àæ And I have thought
91Sometimes men gazed upon me half in fear,
92As though they guessed my hunger. Gracious God!
93I am not vile: I only would obey
94Thy law, as thine own stars obey.-they rush
95Love-swift togeher, and a million suns
96Proceed from that embrace. The stars! Indeed
97The filthy worm that feeds upon the corpse
98Obeys thee also.-loves, and is beloved;
99Yet I must clasp my cold hands desperately,
100Feed on my strained flesh, and captive soul
101Must beat against the black bars. I was born
102Through love; I was created by the law
103That makes the low worm equal with the stars:
104My father held my mother in his arms,
105And while she trembled with delight of him,
106I was conceived, and holy was the hour.-
107But I shall die for want of being loved.
108Truly it is not just. With my despair
109I am a creature so lascivious now,
110That no one anywhere is safe. Mine eyes
111Wander and rest, and wander and devour.
112I meditate on subtle-hearted plans,
113And small deceits, and rasping jealousies.
114My voice is sour or bitter, and I blush
115Suddenly without reason, or I hang
116For reassurance on some trivial words
117Spoken in jest, or suddenly I feel
118Covered with guilty shame, and swift must go
119To drench my lonely pillow with my tears.
120Or I seek out the mirror, with mine eyes
121To gaze in mine own eyes, and smooth my hair,
122Or sometimes to adorn it with a rose,
123Imagining I may be beautiful.
124Indeed, indeed, my hair is very black,
125My skin most white.-most pallid .Àæ O you powers
126That guard the destiny of woman, you
127Have wronged me somehow: surely you have erred.
128What consolation have you left for me?
129Indeed I had been worthy of some love:
130I cannot keep my thoughts away from that,
131That always.-for my life is on the leash:
132I have not ever yet begun to live.
133But after benediction of warm arms,
134After delight of consecrative hands,
135After firm, hot and sympathetic lips
136Pressed hard upon me.-afterward my flesh
137Had leapt to vigour; my disjointed thoughts
138Had followed one another in stern train
139Of consequence. My life would have begun:
140I should have been beloved .Àæ Alas! Oh God!
141God! Where has passion led me? To what shame!
142I have become a harlot in my thoughts.
143I am no fit companion for myself.
144I must begin again, must wash my soul,
145Accept my fate in silence, and be pure.
146There is some consolation. Have I not
147Neglected my devotion? I must pray.
148Will He not help me if I pray to Him?
149Are there not many virgins in the world
150Who yield their spirits to Him, and so remain
151Silent, reflective, beautiful? But I
152Rage like a wanton. Though the days be long,
153And God seem always absent, though the nights
154Be longer; nevertheless I will be pure .Àæ
155Yet know I many mothers without taint;
156Silent, reflective, beautiful are they,
157Being beloved.-and surely they are pure.
158God! God! You are not just, for you yourself
159Were known unto a virgin, and your son
160Was born, and you had your delight therein.
161You are not just, and your Heaven is too far;
162I cannot fix my countenance on you:
163I have too much devotion for the earth.
164You should descend upon me, for I gasp
165To hold and to possess some living form.
166Alas! My life is dragging from its prime.
167My days are bitter with salt tears. Lo, I
168Shall pass into the shadow, and the gloom
169Will fold me hard about. I shall decay
170Slowly like withered flowers. The atmosphere
171Will sicken all around me. I shall droop
172Towards that tomb, shall stumble, and shall fall.
173My body will be covered with rank earth.
174My nostrils will be stopped. I shall remain
175Alone and unbeloved for evermore.
Publication Notes: 
Collected Poems, ed. Alida Monro, with prefaces by F. S. Flint and T. S. Eliot (London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1933): 173-78.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: