The Sister Of Mercy

Constance Naden

Speak not of passion, for my heart is tired,
I should but grieve thee with unheeding ears;
Speak not of hope, nor flash thy soul inspired
In haggard eyes, that do but shine with tears.

Think not I week because my task is o'er;
This is but weakness, I must rest to-day:
Nay, let me bid farewell and go my way,
Then shall I soon be patient as before.

Yes, thou art grateful, that I nursed thee well;
This is not love, for love comes swift and free:
Yet might I long with one so kind to dwell,
Cared for as in thy need I cared for thee:

And sometimes when at night beside thy bed
I sat and held thy hand, or bathed thy head,
And heard the wild delirious words, and knew
Even by these, how brave thou wert, and true,

Almost I loved, but many valiant men
These hands have tended, and shall tend again;
And now thou art not fevered or distressed
I hold thee nothing dearer than the rest.

Nay, tell me not thy strong young heart will break
If to thy prayer such cold response I make;
It will not break... hearts cannot break, I know,
Or this weak heart had broken long ago.

Ah no! I would not love thee, if I could;
And when I cry, in some rebellious mood,
"To live for others is to live alone;
Oh, for a love that is not gratitude,
Oh, for a little joy that is my own!"

Then shall I think of thee, and shall be strong,
Knowing thee noblest, best, yet undesired:
Ah, for what other, by what passion fired,
Could I desert my life-work, loved so long?

I marvel grief like thine can move me still,
Who have seen death, and worse than death, ere now,
Nay, look not glad, rise up; thou shalt not bow
Thy knee, as if these tears thy hope fulfil:

Farewell! I am not bound by any vow;
This is the voice of mine own steadfast will.

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