[The Comte de Sade to a lady on her deathbed]
An ill wind smears the battered glass with rain,
As here you lie — and here I sit — in pain,
If not in pain of flesh, then pain of mind;
So now I speak my piece — and speak it plain.
You loved me once, and knowing love was blind,
Or, rather that our fate must be consigned
To one anothers’ shame, shewed me your fears
And handed them in trust for me to bind.
And glad I was to make a gift of tears,
My torment no less tender than your years;
I treasured up your bruises, bound and laced
In innocence, and urged you fill my ears
With sweet endearments; only those embraced
By such a lover — only those thus placed
By their own discipline in peril’s way —
Can know the paths of ecstasy we traced.
So often, in sweet bondage, as you lay
Awaiting my unleashing — I would stay
My arm to kiss your trembling lips and hand,
And wipe the salted sweat and blood away.
I do not ask that any understand.
Nor shall I serve those Pharisees who brand
The likes of us, my dear, with their own stain;
Enough for us that love once made its stand.
An ill wind smears the battered glass with rain;
Farewell, dear heart — we shall not speak again:
This Spartan, still obedient to your will,
Must leave you now; yet know
— I love you still!
The initials of the person for whom I wrote this are too recognisable to certain acquaintances and friends. I have therefore taken refuge in history for a dedication. Homosexuality no longer holds a monopoly on ‘the love that dare not speak its name’. If you believe that the Marquis de Sade was nothing more than a deranged sexual pervert, then I refer you to any serious reference work on Western literature. As to the penultimate line, it echoes an epitaph to the bravery of a few hundred Spartans who, under King Leonidas, held at bay the million-strong army of the Persian Emperor, Xerxes, at Thermoplæ for three vital days in 480 BC:
“Go tell the Spartans, thou that passest by, That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.” — Simonides of Chios