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I CLASSED and counted once

Earth's lamentable sounds—the well-a-day,

The jarring yea and nay,

The fall of kisses upon senseless clay,—


[5] The sobbed farewell, the greeting mournfuler—

But all those accents were

Less bitter with the leaven of earth's despair

Than I thought these—'loved once.'


And who saith 'I loved once?'—

[10] Not angels; whose clear eyes love, love foresee;

Love through eternity—

Who by 'to love,' do apprehend 'to be.'


Not God, called love, His noble crown-name; casting

A light too broad for blasting!

[15] The great God, changing not for everlasting,

Saith never, 'I loved once.'


Nor ever 'I loved once'

Wilt thou say, O meek Christ, O victim-friend!

The nail and curse may rend,

[20] But, having loved, Thou lovest to the end.


This is Man's saying! Impotent to move

One spheric star above,

Man desecrates the eternal God-word Love,

With his 'no more' and 'once.'


[25] How say ye, 'We loved once,'

Blasphemers? Is your earth not cold enow,

Mourners, without that snow?

Ah, sweetest friend—and would ye wrong me so?


And would ye say of me whose heart is known,

[30] Whose prayers have met your own;

Whose tears have fallen for you; whose smile hath shone,

Your words—'We loved her once?'


Could ye 'we loved her once'

Say cold of me, when dwelling out of sight?

[35] When happier friends aright

(Not truer) stand between me and your light?


When, like a flower kept too long in the shade,

Ye find my colors fade,

And all that is not love in me decayed,

[40] Say ye, 'we loved her once?'


Will ye, 'we loved her once'

Say after, when the bearers leave the door?

When having murmured o'er

My last 'oh say it not,' I speak no more?


[45] Not so—not then—least THEN! when life is shriven,

And death's full joy is given,—

Of those who sit and love you up in Heaven,

Say not, 'we loved them once.'


Say never, 'we loved once,'

[50] God is too near above—the grave below:

And all our moments go

Too quickly past our souls for saying so.


The mysteries of Life and Death avenge

Affections light of range—

[55] There comes no change to justify that change,

Whatever comes—loved once!


And yet that word of 'once'

Is humanly acceptive—kings have said,

Shaking a discrowned head,

[60] 'We ruled once,' idiot tongues, 'we once bested.'


Cripples once danced i' the vines, and warriors proved

To nurse's rocking moved:

But Love strikes one hour—LOVE! Those never loved

Who dream that they loved once.

Text: Graham's Magazine, March, 25 (1844).