Everyone loves a love poem, and Wharton wrote many of them. This sonnet from 1889, when she was still a young wife, uses words to argue that words are inadequate to express love—from silence come the deeper voices.
This perfect love can find no words to say.
What words are left, still sacred for our use,
That have not suffered the sad world’s abuse,
And figure forth a gladness dimmed and gray?
Let us be silent still, since words convey
But shadowed images, wherein we lose
The fulness of love’s light; our lips refuse
The fluent commonplace of yesterday.
Then shall we hear beneath the brooding wing
Of silence what abiding voices sleep,
The primal notes of nature, that outring
Man’s little noises, warble he or weep,
The song the morning stars together sing,
The sound of deep that calleth unto deep.