Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: A Last Confession (fair copy manuscript with corrections, Fitzwilliam Museum)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1869 (Manuscript copied in October 1869 from an earlier copy made before 1862)
Scribe: DGR

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

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A Last Confession—

(Regno Lombardo-Veneto. 1848.)

  • Our Lombard country-girls along the coast
  • Wear daggers in their garters; for they know
  • That they might hate another girl to death
  • Or meet a German lover. Such a knife
  • I bought her, with a hilt of horn and pearl.
  • Father, you cannot know of all my thoughts
  • That day in going to meet her,—that last day
  • For the last time, she said;—of all the love
  • And all the hopeless hope that she might change
  • 10And go back with me. Ah! and everywhere,
  • At places we both knew along the road,
  • Some fresh shape of herself as she had been once she was
  • Grew present at my side; until it seemed—
  • So close they gathered round me—they would all
  • Be with me when I reached the spot at last,
  • To plead my cause with her against herself
  • So changed. O Father, if you knew all this
  • You cannot know, then you would know too, Father,
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  • And only then, if God can pardon me.
  • 20What can be told I'll tell, if you will hear.
  • I passed a village-fair upon my road,
  • And thought, being empty-handed, I would take
  • Some little present, to bring which might prove which might prove that day
  • Either a pledge between us, or (God help me!)
  • A parting gift. And there I bought the knife.
  • That day, some three hours afterwards, I found
  • For certain, it must be a parting gift.
  • And, standing silent now at last, I looked
  • Into her scornful face; and heard the sea
  • 30Still trying hard to din into my ears
  • Some speech it knew which still might change my her heart
  • If only it could make me understand.
  • One moment thus. Another, and her face
  • Seemed further off than the last line of sea,
  • So that I thought, if now she were to speak
  • I could not hear her. Then again I knew
  • All, as we stood together on the sand
  • At Iglio, in the first thin shade o' the hills.
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  • “Take it,” I said, and held it out to her,
  • 40While the hilt glanced in my unsteady hand within my trembling hold;
  • “Take it,” I said, “ and keep it for my sake,”
  • Her neck did not unbend, nor did her eyes fell
  • Nor Fall, nor her foot left to beating of the sand;
  • Only she put it by from her and laughed.
  • Father, the whole of this is true, she laughed you hear my speech and not her laugh;
  • I wish you had been there to hear and judge—
  • But God was there and heard. Father, will God
  • Pardon me thus? He heard her when she laughed For he was there and laughed He heard her when she laughed.
  • It was another laugh than the sweet laugh sound
  • That filled her candid childish heart Which rose from her sweet childish heart, that day
  • 50Eleven years before, when first I found her
  • Alone upon the hillside; and her curls
  • Shook down in the warm grass as she looked up
  • With those great eyes Out of her curls in my eyes bent to hers.
  • She might have served a painter for that child to pourtray
  • So [?] she was That fair heavenly child which in the latter days
  • Shall walk between the lion and the lamb.
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    Added Text
  • They kissed her both long, and wept and made her weep,
  • And gave her all the bread they had with them,
  • And then had gone together up the hill
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  • I had been for nights in hiding, worn and sick
  • And hardly fed; and so her words at first
  • Seemed fitful like the talking of the trees
  • 60And voices in the air that knew my name.
  • And I remember that I sat me down
  • Upon the slope with her, and thought the world
  • Must be all over or had never been,
  • We seemed there so alone. And soon she told me
  • Her parents were both both were gone away from her.
  • And she was by herself—I thought perhaps
    Added TextI thought perhaps she meant that they had died;
  • That they had died; but when I asked her this
  • She meant that they had died. But when I asked her,
  • She only looked again into my face
    Added TextBut when I asked her this, she looked again
  • With serious eyes Into my face, and said that yestereve
  • They kissed her ? and ?
  • They had both gone together up the hill
  • Where we were sitting now, and had walked on
  • 70Into the great red light: “and so,” she said,
  • “I have come up here too; and when this evening
  • They step out of the light as they stepped in,
  • I shall be here to kiss them.” And she laughed.
  • Then I bethought me suddenly of the famine;
  • And how the church-steps throughout all the town,
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  • When last I had been there a month ago,
  • Swarmed with starved folk; and how the bread was weighed
  • By Austrians armed; and women that I knew
  • For wives and mothers walked the public street,
  • 80Telling their husbands how, if they still feared
  • To snatch the children's food, themselves would stay
  • Till they had earned it there. So then this child
  • Was piteous to me; for that I knew then for all told me then
  • Her parents must have gone away and left her left her to God's chance,
  • Added TextTo man's or to the Church's charity,
  • Because of the great famine, rather than
  • To watch her growing thin between their knees.
  • With that, God took my mother's voice and spoke,
  • And sights and smells sounds came back & things long since.
  • 90And all my childhood found me on the hills;
  • And so I took her with me.
  • I was young,
  • Scarce man then, Father; but the cause which gave
  • The wounds I die of now had brought me then
  • Some wounds already; and I lived alone,
  • As any hiding hunted man must live.
  • It was no easy thing to keep a child
  • In safety; for herself it was not safe,
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  • And doubled my own danger: but I knew
  • That God would help me.
  • Yet a little while
  • Pardon me, Father, if I pause. I think
  • I have been speaking to you of some matters
  • There was no need to speak of, have I not?
  • You do not know how clearly those things stood
  • Within my mind, which I have spoken of,
  • Nor how they strove for utterance. Life all past
  • Is like the sky when the sun sets in it,
  • Clearest where furthest off.
  • I told you then how
  • She scorned my parting gift and laughed. And yet
  • 110A woman's laugh's another thing sometimes:
  • I think they laugh in Heaven. I know last night
  • I dreamed I saw into the garden of God,
  • Where women walked whose painted images
  • I have seen with candles round them in the church.
  • They bent this way and that, one to another,
  • Playing: and over the long golden hair
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  • Of each there floated like a ring of fire
  • Which when she stooped stooped with her, and when she rose
  • Rose with her. Then a breeze flew in among them,
  • 120As if a window had been opened in heaven
  • For God to give his blessing from, before
  • This world of ours should set; (for in my dream
  • I thought our world was setting, and the sun
  • Flared, a spent taper;) and beneath that gust
  • The rings of light quivered like forest-leaves.
  • Then all the blessed maidens who were there
  • Stood up together, as it were a voice
  • That called them; and they threw their white throats back,
  • Making their bosoms all jut out at once,
  • 130And smote their palms, and all laughed up at once,
  • For the strong heavenly joy they had in them
  • To hear God bless the world. Wherewith I woke:
  • And looking round, I saw as usual
  • That she was standing there with her long locks
  • Pressed to her side; and her laugh ended theirs.
  • For always when I see her now, she laughs.
  • And yet her childish laughter haunts me still too,
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    Added Text
    • I brought her from the city:—one such day
    • When she was still a little merry loving child,—
    • The earliest gift I mind my giving her;
    • A little image of a flying Love
    • Made of glazed ware and painted our coloured glass-ware, in his hands
    • A dart of gilded metal and a torch.
    • And him she kissed and me, and fain would know
    • Why were his poor eyes blindfold, why the wings
    • And why the arrow. All What I knew I told
    • Of Venus and of Cupid,—strange old tales.
    • And when she heard that he could rule the loves
    • Of men and women, still she shook her head
    • And wondered; and, “Nay, nay,” she murmured still,
    • “So strong, and he a younger child than I!”
    • And then she'd have me fix him on the wall
    • Fronting her little bed; and then again
    • She needs must fix him there herself, because
    • I gave him to her and she loved him so,
    • And he should make her love me better yet,
    • If women loved the more, the more they grew.
    • But the fit place upon the wall was high
    • For her, and so I held her in my arms:
    • And each time that the heavy pruning-hook
    • I gave her for a hammer slipped away
    • As it would often, still she laughed and laughed
    • And kissed and kissed me. But amid her mirth,
    • Just as she hung the image on the nail,
    • It slipped and all its fragments strewed the ground:
    • And as it fell she screamed, for in her hand
    • The dart had entered deeply and drawn blood.
    • And so her laughter turned to tears: and ‘Oh!’
    • I said, the while I bandaged the fair small hand,—
    • “That I should be the first to make you bleed,
    • Who love and love and love you!”—kissing still
    • The fingers till I got her safe to bed.
    • And still she sobbed,—“not for the pain at all,”
    • She said, “but for the Love, the poor good Love
    • You gave me.” So she cried herself to sleep.
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  • The life of this dead terror; as in days
  • When she, a child, dwelt with me. I must say tell
  • 140Something of those days yet before the end.
Deleted Text
  • I brought her from the city, one such day
  • The earliest gift I mind my giving her,—
  • A little image of great Jesus Christ
  • Whom yet she knew but dimly. I had not
  • Yet told her all the wondrous things of Faith,
  • For in our life of deadly hate, the child
  • Might ill be taught that God and Truth were one.
  • Our Lady's picture she had seen and loved
  • Her eyes and gently folded hands; and often now
  • Would look to see her pass upon the road
    Added TextNo longer looked to greet her on the road
  • In a great carriage, as she sometimes met
  • Some noble neighbour lady countess. But when I
  • Had given her the Christ, and she had asked
  • Why the good Lord was always shown in pain,
  • I spoke to her, and told her how the Lady
  • She loved was now the Queen of the whole world,
  • And how that image was her blessed Son
  • To whom all things in Heaven and earth and Hell
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Deleted Text
  • Bow down for homage. And she knelt and prayed
  • Her hands in one of mine. This done, I took
  • The cross that I might fix it oer her bed;
  • But this the child herself begged leave to do;
  • Over her pillow; but she begged of me
  • And each time that the heavy pruning-hook
  • That I would let her try. And so she tried
  • I gave her for a hammer slipped away
  • As it would often, she turned round to see
  • I was not mocking her; each time she turned
  • Laughing herself at her own awkwardness;
  • And then, in setting to her task again
  • With hair pushed back, would [h--?] her laughter down
  • For very awe of the uplifted face.
    • There is another Another later thing comes back to me.
    • 'Twas in those hardest foulest days of all,
    • When still from his shut palace, sitting clean
    • Above the splash of blood, old Metternich
    • (Gli mangia anima! che se la mangi
      Added Text(May his soul die, and never-dying worms
    • Quel vermi [?] !) Feast on his soul its pain for ever!) used to thin
    • His year's doomed hundreds daintily, each month
    • Thirties and fifties. This time, as I think,
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    • Was [?] when his thrift forbad the poor to take
    • For food that evil brackish salt, the rocks
      Added TextThat evil brackish salt which the dry rocks
    • 150Keep all through winter when the sea draws in.
    • The first I heard of it was a chance shot
    • Here and there in the street, and on the stones
    • A stumbling clatter as of horse hemmed round.
    • Then, when she saw me hurry out of doors,
    • My gun slung off at my shoulder and my knife
    • Stuck in my girdle, she smoothed down my hair
    • And laughed to see me look so brave, and leaped
    • Up to my neck and kissed me. She was still
    • A child; and yet that kiss was on my lips
    • 160So hot all day where the smoke shut us in.
    • For now, being always with her, the first love
    • I had for her—the father's love—was changed, the father's, brother's
    • I had—the father's, brother's love—was changed,
    • I think, in somewise; like a holy thought
    • Which is a prayer ere one well before one knows of it.
    • The first time I perceived this, I remember,
    • Was once when after hunting she I came home
    • 170Weary, and she brought food and fruit for me,
    • And sat down at my feet upon the floor
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      Added Text
    • Her sweet head reach from that low seat of hers
    • So high as to be laid upon my heart,
    • I turned and looked upon my darling there
    • And marked for the first time how tall she was;
    • And my heart beat with so much violence
    • Under her cheek, I thought that she could not choose
    • But wonder at it soon and ask me why;
    • And so I bade her rise and eat with me.
    • And when, remembering all and counting back
    • The year time, I made out thirteen years for her
    • And told her so, she fix gazed into my face,
    • And bent her body back like a bent bow,
    • And drew her long hands through her hair, & asked me
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    • Leaning against my side. But when I felt
    • Her sweet hand reach so high as to be laid
    • Upon my heart, I turned and looked at her
    • Marking for the first time how tall she was
    • And for the first time marked
    • And my heart beat with so much violence
    • Under her cheek, I thought that she could not
    • But feel and wonder at it: so I bade her
    • Rise up, and sit and eat with me. And then
    • ? counting back the time
    • I made out thirteen years ? for her
    • Counting, I made out fourteen years for her
    • And told her so, ? she looked at me
    • And bent her body ?
    • And ? her long hair through her hands, & asked me
    • If she was not a woman; and then laughed:
    • And as she stooped in laughing, I could see
    • Beneath the growing throat the breasts half globed
    • Like folded lilies deepset in the stream.
    • Yes, let me think of her as then; for so
    • Her image, Father, does not bring the sights
    • 180Which come when you are gone. She had a mouth
    • Made to bring death to life,—the underlip
    • Sucked in, as if it strove to kiss itself.
    • Her face was ever pale, as when one stoops
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      Added Text
      • Her body bore her neck as the tree's stem
      • Bears the top branch; and as that the branch sustains
      • That ? fruit and flower Its pride of flower and fruit, her high neck bore
      • That face made wonderful with day and night & day.
      • Her voice clung to its sounds and let the beat was swift, yet ever the last words
      • [?] Fell lingeringly; and rounded finger-tips [?]
      • She had, that clung a moment little where they touched
      • And then sprung off were gone o' the sudden instant. Her great eyes,
      • That sometimes turned half dizzily beneath
      • The passionate lids, as faint, when she would speak,
      • Had also in them all the hidden springs of mirth,
      • Which under neath the [?] dark lashes evermore evermore
      • Shook to her laugh, as when a bird flies low
      • Between the water and the willow-leaves,
      • And the shade quivers till he wins the light.
      • I was a moody comrade to her then,
      • For all the love I bore her. Italy,
      • The weeping desolate mother, long has claimed
      • Her sons' strong arms to lean on, and their hands
      • [???] her wrongs To lop the poisonous thicket from her path,
      • Cleaving her way to light. And from her need
      • Had grown the fashion of my whole poor life
      • Which I was proud to yield her, as my father
      • Had yielded his. And this had grown come to be
      • A game to play, a love to clasp, a hate
      • To wreak, all things together that a man
      • Needs for his blood to ripen: till at times
      • All else seemed shadows, and I wondered still
      • To see such life pass muster and be deemed
      • [???] Time's bodily substance. [?] In those hours, no doubt,
      • To the young girl my eyes were like my soul,—
      • Dark wells of death-in-life that yearned for day.
      • And though she ruled me always, I remember
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    • Over wan water; and the dark crisped hair
    • And the hair's shadow made it paler still.
    • She was not yet past girlhood, but her arms
    • Were lithe, and her clear shoulders low and firm,
    • And when she drew herself up suddenly
    • Her body bent like a bent bow. Her eyes
    • That sometimes turned half dizzily beneath
    • The passionate lids, as faint, when she would speak
    • Had also in them a rich spring of mirth
    • Which the laugh stirred like water suddenly
    • One day That once when I was sad thus and she still kept
    • Leaping about the place and laughing, I
    • Did almost chide her; whereupon she knelt
    • And putting her two hands into my breast
    • 190Sang me a song. Are these tears in my eyes?
    • 'Tis long since I have wept for anything.
    • I thought that song forgotten out of mind,
    • And now, just as we I spoke of it, it came
    • All back. I know not ? it up It is but a rude thing, ill rhymed,
    • 'Tis an old tune ill-rhymed, but it ran thus
      Added TextSuch as a blind man chaunts and his dog hears
    • Holding the platter, when the children run
    • To merrier sport and leave him. Thus it goes:—
    • Piange Madonna
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    • Piange Madonna
    • E piangendo disse:—
    • “Come son fisse
    • Le stelle in suso!
    • Quel calor fuso
    • Dello stanco sole,
    • Quanto m'assonna!
    • E la luna, macchiata
    • Come uno specchio
    • 10Logoro e vecchio,—
    • Le sia domandata.
    • Che cosa vuole!
    • “Che stelle, luna, e sole,
    • Ciascun m'annoja
    • E tutti insieme;
    • Non me ne preme
    • Ne ci prendo gioja.
    • E veramente,
    • Che le spalle sien franche
    • 20E le braccia bianche
    • E il seno caldo e tondo,
    • Non mi fa niente.
    • Che cosa al mondo
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    • Posso più far di questi
    • Se non piacciono a te, come dicesti?”
    • Madonna rise
    • E disse ridendo:—
    • “Questa mano che prendo
    • È dunque mia?
    • 30Tu m'ami dunque?
    • Dimmelo ancora,
    • Non in modo qualunque,
    • Ma le parole
    • Belle e precise
    • Che dicesti pria.
    • Siccome suole
    • La state talora
    • (Dicesti) un qualche istante
    • Tornare innanzi inverno,
    • 40 Così tu fai ch'io scerno
    • Le foglie tutte quante,
    • Ben ch'io lung' or tenessi
    • Per passato l'autunno.
    • “Eccolo il mio alunno!
    • Io debbo insegnargli
    • Quei cari detti istessi
    • Ch'ei mi disse una volta!
    • Lasso! e che cosa dargli”
    • (Ma ridea piano piano
    • 50Dei baci in sulla mano,)
    • “Ch'ei non m'abbia da lungo tempo tolta?”
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    Manuscript Addition: 91
    Editorial Description: Printed page number cancelled by DGR
    Manuscript Addition: 15
    Editorial Description: Pagination in upper right corner
    • Piange Madonna
      Added TextLa bella donna
    • E p Piangendo disse:—
    • “Come son fisse
    • Le stelle in suso! cielo!
    • Quel calor fuso fiato anelo
    • Dello stanco sole,
    • Quanto m'assonna!
    • E la luna, macchiata
    • Come uno specchio
    • 10Logoro e vecchio,—
    • Le sie domandata. [???]
      Added TextFaccia [?]
    • Che cosa vuole ?
    • “Chè stelle, luna, e sole,
    • Ciascun m'annoja
    • E tutti m'annojano insieme;
    • Non me ne preme
    • Ne ci prendo gioja.
    • E veramente,
    • Che le spalle sien franche
    • 20E le braccia bianche
    • E il seno caldo e tondo,
    • Non mi fa niente.
    • Che cosa al mondo
    • Posso piu far di questi
    • Se non piacciono a te, come dicesti?
    Printer's Direction: Turn over
    Editorial Description: The printed text of the Italian poem consists of a recto side, which appears in this image, and a verso side, which appears in the following image (see page 15r, reverse flap).
    • * She wept, my sweet lady,
    • And said in weeping:—
    • “What spell is keeping
    • The stars so steady?
    • Why does the power
    • Of the sun's noon-hour
    • To sleep so move me?
    • And the moon in heaven,
    • Stained where she passes
    • 10 As a worn-out glass is,—
    • Wearily driven,
    • Why walks she above me?
    • “Stars, moon, & sun too,
    • I'm tired of either
    • And all together!
    • Whom speak they unto
    • That I should listen?
    • For very surely,
    • Though my arms and shoulders
    • 20 Dazzle beholders,
    • And my eyes glisten,
    • All's nothing purely!
    • What are words said for
    • At all about them,
    • If he they are made for
    • Can do without them?”
    • She laughed, my sweet lady,
    • And said in laughing:—
    • “His hand clings half in
    • 30 My own already!
    • Oh! do you love me?
    • [???]
    • [???]
    • Added TextOh! speak of passion
    • Added TextIn no new fashion,
    • No loud inveighings,
    • But the old sayings
    • You once said of me.
    • “You said: “As summer,
    • Through boughs grown brittle,
    • Comes back a little
    • 40 Ere frosts benumb her,—
    • So bring'st thou to me
    • All leaves and flowers,
    • Though autumn's gloomy
    • To-day in the bowers.”
    • “Oh! does he love me,
    • When my voice teaches
    • The very speeches
    • He then spoke of me?
    • Alas! what flavour
    • 50 Still with me lingers?”
    • (But she laughed as my kisses
    • Glowed in her fingers
    • With love's old blisses.)
    • “Oh! what one favour
    • Left over to woo him,
    • Whose whole poor savour
    • Belongs not to him?”
    Manuscript Addition: 13
    Editorial Description: DGR's number inserted at upper right below the end of the English text.
    Printer's Direction: NB The Italian to be printed in the text in small type. The English in a footnote, in small type and in double columns, so as to get it all into the page on which the Italian begins. If absolutely necessary the footnote must be in still smaller text than the Italian song.
    Editorial Description: Note blocked off in hand by DGR on the right.
    Image of page 15r, reverse flap page: 15r, reverse flap
    Note: This image shows the continuation of the Italian song (received lines 307-322) printed on the verso side of the page pasted onto 15r. Only the printed text and DGR's manuscript corrections are transcribed here. The surrounding text (DGR's note to the printer and his English translation of the poem) may be found in the transcription of 15r given above.
    • Madonna La donna rise
    • E disse riprese ridendo:—
    • “Questa mano che prendo
    • E dunque mia?
    • 30Tu m'ami dunque?
    • Dimmelo ancora,
    • Non in modo qualunque,
    • Ma le parole
    • Belle e precise
    • Che dicesti pria.
    • Siccome suole
    • La state talora
    • (Dicesti) un qualche istante
    • Tornare innanzi inverno,
    • 40 Così tu fai ch'io scerno
    • Le foglie tutte quante,
    • Ben ch'io lung' or certo tenessi
    • Per passato l'autunno.
    • “Eccolo il mio alunno!
    • Io debbo insegnargli
    • Quei cari detti istessi
    • Ch'ei mi disse una volta!
    • Lasso! e c Oime! Che cosa dargli,”
    • (Ma ridea piano piano
    • 50Dei baci in su la sulla mano,)
    • ‘Ch'ei non m'abbia da lungo tempo tolta?’
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    • That I should sing upon this bed!—with you
    • To listen, and such words still left to say!
    • 200Yet was it I that sang? The voice seemed hers,
    • As on the very day she sang to me;
    • When, having sung, she took out of my hand
    • Something that I had played with all the while
    • And laid it down beyond my reach; and so
    • Turning my face round till it fronted hers,—
    • “Weeping or laughing, which was best?” she said.
    • But these are foolish tales. How should I show
    • The heart that glowed then with love's heat, each day
    • More and more brightly?—when for long years least now
    • 210The very flame that flew about the heart,
    • And gave it fiery wings, has come to be
    • The lapping blaze of hell's environment
    • Whose tongues all bid the molten heart despair.
    • Yet one more there's one one more thing comes back on me to-night
    • Which I may tell you: for it bore my soul
    • Dread firstlings of the brood that rend it now.
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    • It happened then that in our chanced that in our last year's wanderings
    • We dwelt at Monza, far away from home,
    • If home we had: and in the Duomo there
    • 220I sometimes entered with her when she prayed.
    • An Image of Our Lady decked stands there, wrought
    • In marble by some great Italian hand
    • In the great days when she and Italy
    • Sat on one throne together: and to her,
    • And to none else, my darling told her heart.
    • She was a woman then; and as she knelt,—
    • Her sweet brow in the sweet brow's shadow there,—
    • They seemed two kindred forms which our dear whereby our land
    • (Whose work still serves the world for miracle)
    • 230 Blent earth herself in wondrous womanhood
      Added TextMade manifest herself in womanhood.
    • Father, the day I speak of was the first
    • For weeks that I had borne her company
    • Into the Duomo; and those weeks had been
    • Much troubled, for then first the thought arose glimpses came
    • That she so loved was growing changed and cold
      Added TextOf some impenetrable restlessness
    • Growing in her to make her changed and cold.
    • And as we entered in there that day, I bent
    • My eyes on the fair Image, and I said
    • Within my heart, “Oh warm her heart to me!”
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    • 240And so I left her to her prayers, and went
    • To gaze upon the pride of Monza's shrine,
    • Where in the sacristy the day still falls
    • Upon the Iron Crown of Italy,
    • On whose crowned heads the day has closed, nor yet
    • Its halo gilds another head to crown.
    • But coming back, I wondered when I saw
    • That image stand alone; till further along
      Added TextThat the sweet Lady of her prayers now stood
    • Alone without her; until further off,
    • Before some fresh Madonna newly decked,
    • 250Tinselled and gewgawed, a slight German toy,
    • I saw her kneel, still praying. At my step
    • She rose, and side by side we left the church.
    • I was much moved, and sharply questioned her
    • Of her transferred devotion; but she seemed
    • Stubborn and heedless; till she lightly laughed
    • And “Aye, the old Madonna!” (so she said)
      Added TextAnd said: “The old Madonna? Aye indeed,
    • “She had my old thoughts,—this one has my new.”
    • Then silent to the soul I held my way:
    • And from the fountains of the public place
    • 260Unto the pigeon-haunted pinnacles,
    • Bright wings and water winnowed the bright air;
    • And stately with her laugh's subsiding smile
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    • She went, with well poised feet and glowing arms clear-swayed waist & towering neck
    • And hands held light before her; and the face
    • Which long had made a day in my life's night
    • Seemed Was night in day to me; as all men's eyes
    • Turned on her beauty, and she seemed to tread
    • Beyond my heart to the world made for her.
    • Ah there! my wounds will snatch my sense again:
    • 270The pain comes billowing on like a full cloud
    • Of thunder, and the flash that breaks from it
    • Leaves my brain burning. That's the wound he gave,
    • The Austrian whose white coat I still made match
    • With his white face, only the two were red
    • As suits his trade. The devil makes them wear
    • White for a livery, that the blood may show
    • Braver that brings them to him. So he looks
    • Sheer o'er the field and knows his own at once.
    • [???]
    • [???]
    • [???]
    • [???]
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    • Give me a draught of water in that cup;
    • 280My voice feels thick; perhaps you do not hear;
    • I'd have you hear But you must hear. If you mistake my words
    • And so absolve me, I am sure the blessing
    • Will burn my soul. If you mistake my words
    • And so absolve me, Father, the great sin
    • Is yours, not mine: mark this: your soul shall burn
    • With mine for it. I have seen pictures where
    • Souls burned with Latin shriekings in their mouths:
    • Shall my end be as theirs? Nay, but I know
    • 'Tis you shall shriek in Latin. Some bell rings,
    • 290Rings through my brain: it strikes some the hour in hell.
    • You see I cannot, Father; I have tried,
    • But cannot, as you see. Just These twenty times
    • Beginning, I have come to the same point
    • And stopped. Beyond, there are but broken words
    • Which will not let you understand my tale.
    • It is that then we have her with us here,
    • As when she wrung her hair all out in my dream
    • To-night, till the slow darkness throbbed ? all the darkness reeked of it.
    • Her hair is always wet, for she will keep has kept
    • 300Its tresses wrapped about her side for weeks years;
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    Added Text
    • What would you have me tell you? Father, father,
    • How shall I make you know? You have not known
    • The dreadful soul of woman, who one day
    • Forgets the old and takes the new to heart,
    • Forgets what man remembers, and therewith
    • Forgets the man. Nor can I tell you well clearly tell
    • How the change happened between her and me.
    • Her eyes looked on me from an emptied heart
    • When most my heart was full of her; and still
    • In every corner of myself I sought
    • To find what service failed her; and no less
    • Than in the good time past, there all was hers.
    • What do you love? Your Heaven? Conceive it spread
    • For one first year of all eternity
    • All round you with all joys and gifts of God;
    • And then when most your soul is blent with it
    • And all yields song together,—then it stands
    • O' the sudden like a pool that will not hold once gave back
    • Your image, only but now drowns it and is clear
    • Again,—or like a sun bewitched, that burns
    • Your shadow from you, and still shines in sight.
    • How could you bear it? Would you not cry out,
    • Among those eyes that see you not grown blind to you, those ears
    • That cannot hear no more your voice you know hear the same,—
    • “God! what is left but hell for company,
    • But hell, hell, hell?”—until the name so breathed
    • Whirled with hot wind and sucked you down in fire?
    • Even so I stood the day her empty heart
    • Left her place empty in our home, while yet
    • I knew not why she went nor where she went
    • Nor how to reach her: so I stood the day
    • When to my prayers at last one sight of her
    • Was granted, and I looked on heaven made pale
    • With scorn, and heard heaven mock me in that laugh.
    • O sweet, long sweet! Was that some ghost of you
    • Even as your ghost that haunts me now,—twin shapes
    • Of fear and hatred? May I find you yet
    • Mine when death wakes? Ah! should be it even in fire flame,
    • We may have sweetness yet: if you but say
    • As once in childish sorrow: “Not my pain,
    • My pain was nothing: oh your poor poor love,
    • Your broken love!”
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    • And when she wrung them round over the floor,
    • I heard the blood hiss through her fingers; so
    • That I sat straight up in my bed and screamed
    • Six times; and six times Once and again; and once to once, she laughed.
    • Look that you turn not now; she's at your back:
    • Gather your robe up, Father, and sit keep close,
    • Or she'll sit down on it and send you mad.
    • At Iglio in the first thin shade o' the hills
    • The sand is grey black and red. The grey turned black [?] was black
    • 310When what was spilt that day sank into it,
    • But And the red scarcely darkened. There I stood
    • This night with her, and saw the sand the same.

    • My Father, I forgot
    • To tell you of one thing in that last day;
    • And I must tell you all now. When I stopped
    • To buy the dagger at the village fair,
    • I saw two cursed rats about the place
    • I knew for spies—blood-sellers both. That day
    • Was not yet over; for three hours to come
    • 320I prized my life: and so I looked around
    • For safety. A poor painted mountebank
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    • Was playing pranks and shouting in a crowd.
    • I knew he must have heard my name; so I
    • Pushed past and whispered to him who I was,
    • And of my danger. Straight he hustled me
    • Into his booth, as it were in the trick,
    • And brought me out next minute with my face
    • All smeared in patches and a zany's gown;
    • And there I handed him his cups and balls
    • 330And swung the sandbags round to clear the ring
    • For half an hour. The spies came once and looked;
    • And while they stopped, and made all sights and sounds
    • Sharp to my startled senses, I remember
    • A woman laughed above me. I looked round
    • And saw her—a brown handsome harlot—leaning
    • Half through a tavern window thick with vine.
    • Some man had come behind her in the room
    • And caught her by her arms, and she had turned
    • With that coarse empty laugh. I saw him there
    • 340Munching her neck with kisses, while the vine
    • Crawled in her back.
    • And three hours afterwards,
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    • When she that I had run all risks to meet
    • Laughed as I told you, my life burned to death
    • Within me, for I thought it like the laugh
    • Heard at the fair. She had not left me long;
    • But all she might have changed to, or might change to,
    • (I know nought since—she never speaks a word—)
    • Seemed in that laugh. Have I not told you yet,
    • Not told you all this time what happened, Father,
    • 350When I had offered her the little knife,
    • And bade her keep it for my sake that loved her,
    • And she had laughed? Have I not told you yet?
    • “Take it,” I said to her the second time,
    • “And keep it for my sake.” And in her heart
    • She took I plunged the blade. And with her blood my hand
    • Was burnt; and like some wine of hell her blood
    • Rushed to my brain; and as in fire my soul
    • Swam in it; and it filled the sun and sea
    • With one red blindness. So she took the knife,—
    • 360Took it, not laughing to her very [?] as I bade her [?] then,
    • And fell, and her stiff boddice scooped the sand
    • Into her bosom.
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    • And she keeps it, see,
    • Do you not see she keeps it?—there, beneath
    • Wet fingers and wet tresses, in her heart.
    • For look you, when she stirs her hand, it shows
    • The little hilt of horn and pearl,—even such
    • 370A dagger as our women of the coast
    • Twist in their garters.
    • Father, I have done:
    • And from her side now she unwinds the thick
    • Dark hair; all round her side it is wet through,
    • But like the sand at Iglio does not change.
    • Now you may see the dagger clearly. Father,
    • I have told all: tell me at once if God what hope
    • Can pardon me reach me still. For now she draws it out
    • Slowly, and only smiles as yet: look, Father,
    • 380She scarcely smiles: but I shall hear her laugh
    • Soon, when she shows the crimson blade to God.
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    Electronic Archive Edition: 1
    Source File: 1-1849.fizms.rad.xml
    Copyright: © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge