WHAT can he ail? I hear them ask
And what can make his cheek so pale?
Ah, that to answer were a task
For which no effort could avail,
To say I love were but to say
What many another might as well,
Who never felt the cruel sway
Which makes my heart with sorrow swell.

Dear are the pains of love and sweet,
Yet he who loves, and loves in vain,
Endures a torment more complete
Than any love unsweetened pain,
Nay, keener than the savage fangs,
Which limb from limb their victim tear,
And much more cruel are the pangs
Which drive a lover to despair.

With feelings racked, without a spark
Of hope to give those feelings rest,
The darksome grave is not so dark
As is the chaos in his breast:
The brightest hour that comes and goes,
Might just as well be dull as bright,
His grief o'er all a shadow throws,
That hides the splendour from his sight.

Unmoved he eyes the sun arise,
Yea, doth without a thrill behold
The sun down go at ev'ning, tho'
He settles in a sea of gold:
The sweetest flower of field or bower,
The brightest star by night revealed,
To him's not rare, nor sweet, nor fair,
For him no joyous beam can yield.

The tempest swells and roars and yells,
Up-tears and heaves to earth the oak;
The death-bolts crash, the lightnings flash,
And cities wrap in flame and smoke:
Let thunder crash, and lightnings flash,
And bid him perish as they can;
The storm he hears no death-dart bears,
Like that which makes his life a ban.

O'er all he sees, o'er all he hears,
The raven shades of woe are cast;
And all his hopes, delights, and fears,
Are now but phantoms of the past;
The past, the present, future, ay
To all he's dead and cold, except
The worm that eats the heart away,
Wherein Peace long her vigils kept.

He wanders wide of human haunts,
What others do he little reeks
Their very sympathy or taunts,
Can little soothe, can little vex;
Where-e'er he moves, where-e'er he turns,
One, but one image meets his ken;
For that he yearns and pines and mourns,
And yearns and mourns for that in vain.

Away! away with questions, which
No mortal yet could answer—nay,
My pangs are far beyond the pitch
Of seraph-tongue or pen to say;
To speak of love were but to speak
Of what another might, whose heart
Was never forced like mine to break,
Yet while it breaks to hide the smart!