first of four pages
1 Here on this narrow bed
I lie confined ,
Cursing my injured head ,
Bandaged and blind .
5 Voices come , voices go ,
Cheerful and kind :
‘Lucky to save your life ! ’
Lucky ? Accursed , I know
Fury of mind ;
10 Strong body torn and smashed
When my two-seater crashed
What of my wife ?
‘Safe and well,’ they told me , lying,
‘Together soon ,’ they said :
15 Soon , yes : for I am dying
And she is dead .
Come words , ring and rhyme ,
Guard my soul in this assault ,
She has fallen prey to time ,
20 By my fault , by my fault :
Though I never more again ,
Foot it featly as you will ,
Death is sure and grief is vain ,
Sweet my words, come dancing still .
25 She was young and debonair
( Weep , shepherds at her death )
Slender , innocent and fair ,
With tender-taken breath :
Rally , poets , at my call ,
30 Forgive me what I borrow ;
I honoured her above you all
And have not long for sorrow ;
Help me deplore her timeless fall second page
For I must die tomorrow .
35 Now walk the angels on the walls of heaven :
And do they so ? And is there endless rest ,
No wave , no tide in that eternal haven
Where Treasure lies secure from moth and rust ?
So she believed when she went out to find
40 That land beyond the marches of her mind ,
The country she held dear ,
And left me here .
Come , words , clutch and cling ,
Drug my soul against despair
45 Come , poets , dance and sing ,
Banish grief and killing care :
Orpheus with his lute made trees ,
Half-regained his other soul ,
Could have kept her safe with ease ,
50 Had he practised self-control .
Of Muses I con no such skill
And minor is my proper key ,
Yet could I fetch my wife at will
She should not escape from me .
55 Orpheus had one consolation
For the evils that he braved ,
His wife , without much hesitation ,
Consented to be saved :
Mine thought I needed all the saving ,
60 Regretted mortal birth ,
And insisted on behaving
As an exile upon earth .
She would argue , she would plead ,
Elbow me towards the light ,
65 Now perhaps she knows indeed
Which of us was in the right .
Come, words , be my shield ,
Lest I falter , lest I bow :
Free and strong I would not yield third page
70 How should I surrender now ?
I was in love with life , and life was love ,
Love was the world , and all the world was she :
But when I said as much , she grieved for me :
The mighty dance of all that live and move
75 Controlling fortune , abrogating chance ,
The intricate , the unavoided dance
Was all she longed to know :
She told me so .
Well she has gone to join it , freed by me
80 Unwittingly and most unwillingly :
With no hope of heavenly treasure ,
Future mirth ,
I detained her for my pleasure
Here on earth .
85 She loved me , and possessively
But would not put me first :
And now we die successively ,
She blessed , I accursed .
Come , words, spin and weave ,
90 Clothe in silken phrase my rage :
I love this world she longed to leave
And lie here impotent as age :
She dances in the dance that stirs
Heaven and earth and sea and sky .
95 What she long desired is hers ;
The exile now am I .
Dated on the back of the booklet, actually on the back of the notes, 29 September 1951
This is written out in a little note-book’s pages , six and a quarter inches by three and three quarters. The 96 lines end half-way down a page and the rest of that one is blank. On the facing page (which is the back of the opening page of ll.1-18)
she wrote me guiding notes:
N.B. — for your note only.
References ll.26 & 51 : Spenserian
28. Keats .
33 & 35 Marlowe & Marlovian
40 Marches here = borderland
46, 47 Shakespeare . Henry VIII song.
48 ¨Half regained Milton
74-76 et seq. Eliz. notion . —
possibly you do know all this , but you must , to catch the undertones — to give it a fair chance , m’dear.
Let the rhythm take you with it , or you’ll stumble .
No brief held .
I deplore this paper .
This page may be detached for easy reference — and in any case .
I can’t dispose of the page, because the first 18 lines of the poem are on the other side of it.
In spite of the above heading I will share these notes with whoever is reading Exile . They illustrate the bridge between her skill and inspiration, both before and after this period, and myself as the one person with whom she deposited it all. The deposit was part of the love between us; but also I was as ignorant as the general reader, not only younger than Marion but primarily an historian. So I was useful — she needed to communicate with general readers. And my value as an example was continually pressed upon her because I was and am by nature persistent in questioning meaning and motive behind what I read or am told. With Exile she was showing me what sort of equipment I must develop to do that task effectively in her field, as well as in my own.