The Quarrel


Suddenly, after the quarrel, while we waited,
Disheartened, silent, with downcast looks, nor stirred
Eyelid nor finger, hopeless both, yet hoping
Against all hope to unsay the sundering word:

While all the room's stillness deepened, deepened about us
And each of us crept his thought's way to discover
How, with as little sound as the fall of a leaf,
The shadow had fallen, and lover quarreled with lover;

And while, in the quiet, I marveled–alas, alas–
At your deep beauty, your tragic beauty, torn
As the pale flower is torn by the wanton sparrow–
This beauty, pitied and loved, and now forsworn;

It was then, when the instant darkened to its darkest,–
When faith was lost with hope, and the rain conspired
To strike its gray arpeggios against our heartstrings,–
When love no longer dared, and scarcely desired:

It was then that suddenly, in the neighbor's room,
The music started: that brave quartette of strings
Breaking out of the stillness, as out of our stillness,
Like the indomitable heart of life that sings

When all is lost; and startled from our sorrow,
Tranced from our grief by that diviner grief,
We raised remembering eyes, each looked at other,
Blinded with tears of joy; and another leaf

Fell silently as that first; and in the instant
The shadow had gone, our quarrel became absurd;
And we rose, to the angelic voices of the music,
And I touched your hand, and we kissed, without a word.


Conrad Aiken, Collected Poems, 1916-1970, Oxford University Press, 1970.