At Midnight

By George Sterling (1869–1926)

Cast round me now your arms’ cool wreath of white
    Forget the day’s far wakening, and lie
    More close!  Without, the weary world goes by,
Hawking its cheats and nostrums in the night

Be wise a-sudden, giving not a glance
    To any anodyne its dupes prescribe
    Art, lore, gold, fame and power, each tinsel bribe
That turns the flesh from its inheritance.

This is the only wealth, the only goal
    Where one shall stand unhoodwinked for a space,
    Gazing upon the Truth with tranquil face,—
Daring to show Life’s pitfalls to the soul.

Take payment now for all accurséd hours,
    All pain and waste and dreariness, all care!
    These are the moments purchased by despair,
And this the joy to which thy sorrow flow’rs.

Wrench from the niggard Fates thy ransomed bliss!
    Accept the breathless transports that atone,
    With toils the gods were glad to find their own,
And seas of sense that thunder at a kiss.

Smith, T.R., ed.  Poetica Erotica.  (New York:  Crown Publishers, 1921).

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