To Celia


There was a strangeness on your lips,
Lips that had been so sure;
You still were mine but in eclipse,
Beside me but obscure.

There was a cloud upon your heart;
For, Celia, where you lay,
Death, come to break your life apart,
Had led your love away.

Through the cold distance of your eyes
You could no longer see.
But when you died, you heard me rise
And followed suddenly.

And close beside me, looking down
As I did on the dead,
You made of time a wedding-gown,
Of space a marriage-bed.

I took, in you, death for a wife,
You married death in me,
Singing, “There is no other life,
No other God than we!”


In an old chamber softly lit
We heard the Chorale played,
And where you sat, an exquisite
Image of Life and lover of it,
Death sang a serenade.

I know now, Celia, what you heard,
And why you turned and smiled.
It was the white wings of a bird
Offering flight, and you were stirred
Like an adventurous child.

Death sang: “O lie upon your bier,
Uplift your countenance!”
Death bade me be your cavalier,
Called me to march and shed no tear
But sing to you and dance.

And when you followed, lured and led
By those mysterious wings,
And when I heard that you were dead,
I could not weep. I sang instead,
As a true lover sings.
. . . . . . .
Today a room is softly lit;
I hear the Chorale played.
And where you come, an exquisite
Image of death and lover of it,
Life sings a serenade.


Love has been sung a thousand ways—
So let it be;
The songs ascending in your praise
Through all my days
Are three.

Your cloud-white body first I sing;
Your love was heaven’s blue,
And I, a bird, flew carolling
In ring on ring
Of you.

Your nearness is the second song;
When God began to be,
And bound you strongly, right or wrong,
With his own thong,
To me.

But oh, the song, eternal, high,
That tops these two!—
You live forever, you who die,
I am not I
But you.

Witter Bynner