Poem by Violet Nicolson (1865-1904)

AKA Adela Florence Cory Nicolson; Laurence Hope


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Lallji My Desire


"This is no time for saying 'no'"
    Were thy last words to me,
And yet my lips refused the kiss
    They might have given thee.
               How could I know
               That thou wouldst go
               To sleep so far from me?


They took thee to the Burning-Ghat,
    Oh, Lallji, my desire,
And now a faint and lonely flame
    Uprises from the pyre.
The thin grey smoke in spirals drifts
    Across the opal sky.
Would that I were a wife of thine,
    And thus with thee could die!
              How could I know
              That thou wouldst go,
              Oh, Lallji, my desire?
              The lips I missed
              The flames have kissed
              Upon the Sandal pyre.


If one should meet me with a knife
    And cut my heart in twain,
Then would he see the smoke arise
    From every severed vein.
Such is the burning, inward fire,
    The anguish of my pain,
For my Beloved, whose dying lips
    Implored a kiss--in vain!
             How could I know
             That thou wouldst go,
             Oh, Lallji, my desire?
             Too young thou art
             To lay thy heart
             Upon the Sandal pyre.


Thy wife awaits her coming child;
    What were a child to me,
If I might take thee in these arms
    And face the flames with thee?
The priests are chanting round the pyre,
    At dusk they will depart
And leave to thee thy lonely rest,
    To me my lonelier heart.
             How could I know
             Thou lovedst me so?
             Upon the Sandal pyre
             He lies forsaken.
             The flames have taken
             My Lallji, my desire!



More information on Violet Nicolson (Laurence Hope)

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Written on 2022-01-03 at 00:00

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Griffonner The PoetBay support member heart!
I first heard this read on UK TV at least fifty years ago. It has stayed in my heart and mind ever since. The language is of her time of course, but I have felt goosebumps every time I read it throughout the years.