A Woman's Question
Before I trust my fate to thee,
    Or place my hand in thine,
Before I let thy future give
    Color and form to mine,
Before I peril all for thee,
Question thy soul to-night for me.

I break all slighter bonds, nor feel
    A shadow of regret:
Is there one link within the past
    That holds thy spirit yet?
Or is thy faith as clear and free
As that which I can pledge to thee?

Does there within thy dimmest dreams
    A possible future shine,
Wherein thy life could henceforth breathe,
    Untouched, unshared by mine?
Is so, at any pain or cost,
O, tell me before all is lost!

Look deeper still: if thou canst feel,
    Within thy inmost soul,
That thou hast kept a portion back,
    While I have staked the whole,
Let no false pity spare the blow,
But in true mercy tell me so.
Is there within thy heart a need
    That mine cannot fulfill?
One chord that any other hand
    Could better wake or still?
Speak now, lest at some future day
My whole life wither and decay.

Lives there within thy nature hid
    The demon-spirit, change,
Shedding a passing glory still
    On all things new and strange?
It may not be thy fault alone, ---
But shield my heart against thine own.

Couldst thou withdraw thy hand one day
    And answer to my claim,
That fate, and that to-day's mistake, ---
    Not thou, --- had been to blame?
Some soothe their conscience thus; but thou
Wilt surely warn and save me now.

Nay, answer not, --- I dare not hear;
    The words would come too late;
Yet I would spare thee all remorse,
    So comfort thee, my fate:
Whatever on my heart may fall,
Remember, I would risk it all!
- ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER