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Poem by Paul Hamilton Hayne

A Character

YES, madame, I know you better, far better than those can know
Whose plummet of judgment never is dropped to the depths below;

Whose test is a surface-seeming, the glitter of lights that gleam
With a moment's rainbow lustre on the shifting face of the stream.

Because you have bold, blunt manners, because you can broadly smile,
With the devil's own art in veiling your infinite gulfs of guile,

There are some who bring you homage, who vow your nature is free
And frank as the life of summer, when fullest on land and sea:

And yet your soul is a charnel where many a ruined name
Rots, festering vile and loathsome in burial-shrouds of shame;

A sepulchre dark, that's crowded with ashes of old and young,
Dead fames you have foully poisoned with your pitiless serpent's tongue!

Beware! by the God above us, who parteth the false from true,
There's a curse in the future, somewhere--an ambushed curse for you.

It will burst from the wayside fiercely, when least you dream of a blow.
A tigerish fate in its fury, to rend, and to lay you low!

But ere it has sucked your heart's blood, and stifled your latest breath,
The thought of your victims, woman! will sharpen the sting of death!

Paul Hamilton Hayne

Paul Hamilton Hayne's other poems:
  1. Too Oft the Poet in Elaborate Verse
  2. The Laughing Hours before Her Feet
  3. A Phantom in the Clouds
  4. O God! What Glorious Seasons Bless Thy World!
  5. A New Version of Why the RobinТs Breast Is Red

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Mary Montagu A Character ("Though a strong vanity may you persuade")
  • Robert Anderson A Character ("Near Lagan's banks, a mile from town")
  • Robert Service A Character ("How often do I wish I were")
  • Menella Smedley A Character ("So noble that he cannot see")

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