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Ella Wheeler Wilcox - Individuality

Ah yes, I love you, and with all my heart; 
Just as a weaker woman loves her own, 
Better than I love my beloved art, 
Which, until you came, reigned royally, alone, 
My king, my master. Since I saw your face
I have dethroned it, and you hold that place.

I am as weak as other women are –
Your frown can make the whole world like a tomb
Your smile shines brighter than the sun, by far; 
Sometimes I think there is not space or room
In all the earth for such a love as mine, 
And it soars up to breathe in realms divine.

I know that your desertion or neglect
Could break my heart, as women’s hearts do break; 
If my wan days had nothing to expect
From your love’s splendour, all joy would forsake
The chambers of my soul. Yes this is true.
And yet, and yet – one thing I keep from you.

There is a subtle part of me, which went
Into my long pursued and worshipped art; 
Though your great love fills me with such content, 
No other love finds room now in my heart.
Yet that rare essence was my art’s alone.
Thank God, you cannot grasp it; ‘tis mine own.

Thank God, I say, for while I love you so, 
With that vast love, as passionate as tender, 
I feel an exultation as I know
I have not made you a complete surrender.
Here is my body; bruise it, if you will, 
And break my heart; I have that something still.

You cannot grasp it. Seize the breath of morn, 
Or bind the perfume of the rose as well.
God put it in my soul when I was born; 
It is not mine to give away, or sell, 
Or offer up on any alter shrine.
It was my art’s; and when not art’s, ‘tis mine.

For Love’s sake, I can put the art away, 
Or anything which stands ‘twixt me and you, 
But that strange essence God bestowed, I say, 
To permeate the work He gave to do: 
And it cannot be drained, dissolved, or sent
Through any channel, save the one He meant. 

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Poet: Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Poem: Individuality
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