Agnes Mary Frances Robinson published this sonnet within a book of sonnets written while she was in a relationship with Vernon Lee (Violet Piaget). In the poem she describes keeping her distance from her lover in order to keep their relationship a secret.
GIVE me, O friend, the secret of thy heart
Safe in my breast to hide,
So that the leagues which keep our lives apart
May not our souls divide.
Give me the secret of thy life to lay
Asleep within my own,
Nor dream that it shall mock thee any day
By any sign or tone.
Nay, as in walking through some convent-
Passing beside a well,
Oft have we thrown a red and scented rose
To watch it as it fell ;
Knowing that never more the rose shall rise
To shame us, being dead ;
Watching it spin and dwindle till it lies
At rest, a speck of red -
Thus, I beseech thee, down the silent deep
And darkness of my heart,
Cast thou a rose ; give me a rose to keep,
My friend, before we part.
For, as thou passet down thy garden-ways,
Many a blossom there
Groweth for thee : lilies and laden bays
And rose and lavender
But down the darkling well one only rose
In all the year is shed ;
And o’er that chill and secret wave it throws
A sudden dawn of red.
Title of volume of first printing
An Italian Garden, A Book of Sonnets
Page numbers in original volume
Robinson, A. Mary F. 1857-1944. An Italian Garden: a Book of Songs. London: T.F. Unwin, 1886.