Astrolabius by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
(THE CHILD OF ABELARD AND HELOISE)
I wrenched from a passing comet in its flight,
By that great force of two mad hearts aflame,
A soul incarnate, back to earth you came,
To glow like star-dust for a little night.
Deep shadows hide you wholly from our sight;
The centuries leave nothing but your name,
Tinged with the lustre of a splendid shame,
That blazed oblivion with rebellious light.
The mighty passion that became your cause,
Still burns its lengthening path across the years;
We feel its raptures, and we see its tears
And ponder on its retributive laws.
Time keeps that deathless story ever new;
Yet finds no answer, when we ask of you.
At Argenteuil, I saw the lonely cell
Where Heloise dreamed through her broken rest,
That baby lips pulled at her undried breast.
It needed but my woman’s heart to tell
Of those long vigils and the tears that fell
When aching arms reached out in fruitless quest,
As after flight, wings brood an empty nest.
(So well I know that sorrow, ah, so well.)
Across the centuries there comes no sound
Of that vast anguish; not one sigh or word
Or echo of the mother loss has stirred,
The sea of silence, lasting and profound.
Yet to each heart, that once has felt this grief,
Sad Memory restores Time’s missing leaf.
But what of you? Who took the mother’s place
When sweet expanding love its object sought?
Was there a voice to tell her tragic lot,
And did you ever look upon her face?
Was yours a cloistered seeking after grace?
Or in the flame of adolescent thought
Were Abelard’s departed passions caught
To burn again in you and leave their trace?
Conceived in nature’s bold primordial way
(As in their revolutions, suns create),
You came to earth, a soul immaculate,
Baptized in fire, with some great part to play.
What was that part, and wherefore hid from us,
Immortal mystery, Astrolabius!