Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Poems. (Privately Printed).: First Trial Book, British Library copy (Ashley 1393)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1869 October 3
Printer: Strangeways and Walden

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

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Editorial Note (page ornament): bookplate: T. J. Wise bookplate
Note: This is the endpaper of the bound volume housing the document.
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[Most of these poems were written between 1847

and 1853; and are here printed, if not without

revision, yet generally much in their original

state. They are a few among a good many

then written, but of the others I have now no

complete copies. The ‘Sonnets and Songs’

are chiefly more recent work.]

D. G. R. 1869.
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Note: This page is actually the first of the volume's three sections. The section would eventually be headed POEMS on a separate half-title.

  • Helen knelt at Venus' shrine,
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Saying, ‘A little gift is mine,
  • A little gift for a heart's desire.
  • Hear me speak and make me a sign!
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • ‘Look, I bring thee a carven cup;
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • 10See it here as I hold it up,—
  • Shaped it is to the heart's desire,
  • Fit to fill when the gods would sup.
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!
Transcribed Footnote (page [1]):

*Herodotus says that Helen dedicated to Venus a cup made in

the likeness of her own bosom.

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  • ‘It was moulded like my breast;
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • He that sees it may not rest,
  • Rest at all for his heart's desire.
  • O give ear to my heart's behest!
  • 20 ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • ‘See my breast, how like it is;
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • See it bare for the air to kiss!
  • Is the cup to thy heart's desire?
  • O for the breast, O make it his!
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • ‘Yea, for my bosom here I sue;
  • 30 ( O Troy Town!)
  • Thou must give it where 'tis due,
  • Give it there to the heart's desire.
  • Whom do I give my bosom to?
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • ‘Each twin breast is an apple sweet!
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Once an apple stirred the beat
  • Of thy heart with the heart's desire:—
  • 40Say, who brought it then to thy feet?
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
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  • ‘They that claimed it then were three:
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • For thy sake two hearts did he
  • Make forlorn of the heart's desire.
  • Do for him as he did for thee!
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • 50‘Mine are apples grown to the south,
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Grown to taste in the days of drouth,
  • Taste and waste to the heart's desire:
  • Mine are apples meet for his mouth!’
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • Venus looked on Helen's gift,
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Looked and smiled with subtle drift,
  • 60Saw the work of her heart's desire:—
  • ‘There thou kneel'st for Love to lift!’
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • Venus looked in Helen's face,
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Knew far off an hour and place,
  • And fire lit from the heart's desire;
  • Laughed and said, ‘Thy gift hath grace!’
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • 70 Tall Troy's on fire!)
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  • Cupid looked on Helen's breast,
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Saw the heart within its nest,
  • Saw the flame of the heart's desire;
  • There his arrow stood confess'd.
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • Cupid took another dart,
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • 80Fledged it for another heart,
  • Winged the shaft with the heart's desire,
  • Drew the string and said, ‘Depart!’
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • Paris turned upon his bed,
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Turned upon his bed and said,
  • Dead at heart with the heart's desire,—
  • ‘O to clasp her golden head!’
  • 90 ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
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  • It was Lilith the wife of Adam:
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Not a drop of her blood was human,
  • But she was made like a soft sweet woman.
  • Lilith stood on the skirts of Eden;
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • She was the first that thence was driven;
  • With her was hell and with Eve was heaven.
  • In the ear of the Snake said Lilith:—
  • 10 ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • ‘To thee I come when the rest is over;
  • A snake was I when thou wast my lover.
  • ‘I was the fairest snake in Eden:
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • By the earth's will, new form and feature
  • Made me a wife for the earth's new creature.
  • ‘Take me thou as I come from Adam:
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Once again shall my love subdue thee;
  • 20The past is past and I am come to thee.
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  • ‘O but Adam was born for Lilith!
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • All the threads of my hair are golden,
  • And there in a net his heart was holden.
  • ‘O and Lilith was born for Adam!
  • Eden bower's in flower.)
  • All the day and the night together
  • My breath could shake his soul like a feather.
  • ‘What great joys had Adam and Lilith!—
  • 30 ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Sweet close rings of the serpent's twining,
  • As heart in heart lay sighing and pining.
  • ‘What bright babes had Lilith and Adam!—
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Shapes that coiled in the woods and waters,
  • Glittering sons and jewelled daughters.
  • ‘O thou God, the Lord God of Eden!
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Say, was this fair body for no man,
  • 40That from Adam's flesh thou mak'st him a woman?
  • ‘O thou Snake, the King-snake of Eden!
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • God's strong will our necks are under,
  • But thou and I may cleave it in sunder.
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  • ‘Help, sweet Snake, sweet lover of Lilith!
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • And let God learn how I loved and hated
  • Man in the image of God created.
  • ‘Help me once against Eve and Adam!
  • 50 ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Once for one hour this great endeavour,
  • And then my love shall be thine for ever!
  • ‘Strong is God, the fell foe of Lilith:
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Nought in heaven or earth may affright him;
  • But join thou with me and we will smite him.
  • ‘Strong is God, the great God of Eden:
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Over all he made he hath power;
  • 60But lend me thou thy shape for an hour!
  • ‘Lend thy shape for the love of Lilith!
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Look, my mouth and my cheek are ruddy,
  • And thou art cold, and fire is my body.
  • ‘Lend thy shape for the hate of Adam!
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • That he may wail my joy that forsook him,
  • And curse the day when the bride-sleep took him.
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  • ‘Lend thy shape for the shame of Eden!
  • 70 ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Is not the foe-God weak as the foeman
  • When love grows hate in the heart of a woman?
  • ‘Would 'st thou know the heart's hope of Lilith?
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Come then close till thy heart doth glisten
  • Along my breast, and lip me and listen.
  • ‘Am I sweet, O sweet Snake of Eden?
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Then ope thine ear to my warm mouth's cooing
  • 80And learn what deed remains for our doing.
  • ‘Thou didst hear when God said to Adam:—
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • “Of all this wealth I have made thee warden;
  • Thou'rt free to eat of the trees of the garden:
  • ‘“Only of one tree eat not in Eden;
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • All save one I give to thy freewill,—
  • The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”
  • ‘O my love, come nearer to Lilith!
  • 90 ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • In thy sweet folds bind me and bend me,
  • And let me feel the shape thou shalt lend me!
Note: Pages 7-8 are duplicated in the proofs.
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  • ‘Help, sweet Snake, sweet lover of Lilith!
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • And let God learn how I loved and hated
  • Man in the image of God created.
  • ‘Help me once against Eve and Adam!
  • 50 ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Help me once for this one endeavour,
  • And then my love shall be thine for ever!
  • ‘Strong is God, the fell foe of Lilith:
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Nought in heaven or earth may affright him;
  • But join thou with me and we will smite him.
  • ‘Strong is God, the great God of Eden:
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Over all he made he hath power;
  • 60But lend me thou thy shape for an hour!
  • ‘Lend thy shape for the love of Lilith!
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Look, my mouth and my cheek are ruddy,
  • And thou art cold, and fire is my body.
  • ‘Lend thy shape for the hate of Adam!
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • That he may wail my joy that forsook him,
  • And curse the day when the bride-sleep took him.
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  • ‘Lend thy shape for the shame of Eden!
  • 70 ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Is not the foe-God weak as the foeman
  • When love grows hate in the heart of a woman?
  • ‘Would'st thou know the heart's hope of Lilith?
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Bring thy gemmed head close till it glisten
  • Along my breast, and lip me and listen.
  • ‘Am I sweet, O sweet Snake of Eden?
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Then ope thine ear to my warm mouth's cooing
  • 80And learn what deed remains for our doing.
  • ‘Thou didst hear when God said to Adam:—
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • “Of all this wealth I have made thee warden;
  • Thou'rt free to eat of the trees of the garden:
  • ‘“Only of one tree eat not in Eden;
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • All save one I give to thy freewill,—
  • The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”
  • ‘O my love, come nearer to Lilith!
  • 90 ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • In thy sweet folds bind me and bend me,
  • And let me feel the shape thou shalt lend me!
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  • ‘In thy shape I'll go back to Eden;
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • In these coils that Tree will I grapple,
  • And stretch this crowned head forth by the apple.
  • ‘Lo, Eve bends to the breath of Lilith!
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • O how then shall my heart desire
  • 100All her blood as food to its fire!
  • ‘Lo, Eve bends to the words of Lilith!—
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • “Nay, this tree's fruit,—why should ye hate it,
  • Or Death be born the day that ye ate it?
  • ‘“Nay, but on that great day in Eden,
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • By the help that in this wise Tree is,
  • God knows well ye shall be as He is.”
  • ‘Then Eve shall eat and give unto Adam;
  • 110 ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • And then they both shall know they are naked,
  • And their hearts ache as my heart hath achèd.
  • ‘Then they shall hide in the trees of Eden,
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • As in the cool of the day in the garden
  • God shall walk without pity or pardon.
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  • ‘Hear thou, Eve, the man's heart in Adam!
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Of his brave words hark to the bravest:—
  • 120“This the woman gave that thou gavest.”
  • ‘Hear Eve speak, yea, list to her, Lilith!
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Let thine heart hear words that shall sate it:—
  • “This the serpent gave and I ate it.”
  • ‘O proud Eve, cling close to thine Adam,
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Driven forth as the beasts of his naming
  • By the sword that for ever is flaming.
  • ‘Know, thy path is known unto Lilith!
  • 130 ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • While the blithe birds sang at thy wedding,
  • There her tears grew thorns for thy treading.
  • ‘O my love, O Love-snake of Eden!
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • O to-day and the day to come after!
  • Loose me, love,—give breath to my laughter!
  • ‘O bright Snake, the Death-worm of Adam!
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Wreathe thy neck with my hair's bright tether,
  • 140And wear my gold and thy gold together!
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  • ‘On that day on the skirts of Eden,
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • In thy shape shall I glide back to thee,
  • And in my shape for an instant view thee.
  • ‘But when thou'rt thou and Lilith is Lilith,
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • In what bliss past hearing or seeing
  • Shall each one drink of the other's being.
  • ‘With cries of “Eve!” and “Eden!” and “Adam!”
  • 150 ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • How shall we mingle our love's caresses,
  • I in thy folds, and thou in my tresses?
  • ‘With those names, ye echoes of Eden,
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Fire shall cry from my heart that burneth,—
  • “Dust he is and to dust returneth!”
  • ‘Yet to-day, thou master of Lilith,—
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Wrap me round in the coils I'll borrow
  • 160And let me tell thee of sweet to-morrow.
  • ‘In the planted garden eastward in Eden,
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Where the river goes forth to water the garden,
  • The springs shall dry and the soil shall harden.
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  • ‘Yea, where the bride-sleep fell upon Adam,
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • None shall hear when the storm-wind whistles
  • Through roses choked among thorns and thistles.
  • ‘Yea, beside the east-gate of Eden,
  • 170 ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Where God joined them and none might sever,
  • The sword turns this way and that for ever.
  • ‘What of Adam cast out of Eden?
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Lo! with care like a shadow shaken,
  • He tills the hard earth whence he was taken.
  • ‘What of Eve too, cast out of Eden?
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • Nay, but she, the bride of God's giving,
  • 180Must yet be mother of all men living.
  • ‘Lo, God's grace, by the grace of Lilith!
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • To Eve's womb, from our sweet to-morrow,
  • God shall greatly multiply sorrow.
  • ‘Fold me fast, O God-snake of Eden!
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • What more prize than love to impel thee?
  • Grip and lip my limbs as I tell thee!
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  • Lo! two babes for Eve and for Adam!
  • 190 ( And O the bower and the hour!)
  • Lo! sweet Snake, the travail and treasure,—
  • Two men-children born for their pleasure!
  • ‘The first is Cain and the second Abel:
  • ( Eden bower's in flower.)
  • The soul of one shall be made thy brother,
  • And thy tongue shall lap the blood of the other.’
  • ( And O the bower and the hour!)
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  • The blessed damozel leaned out
  • From the gold bar of Heaven;
  • Her eyes were deeper than the depth
  • Of waters stilled at even;
  • She had three lilies in her hand,
  • And the stars in her hair were seven.
  • Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem,
  • No wrought flowers did adorn,
  • But a white rose of Mary's gift,
  • 10 For service meetly worn;
  • And her hair lying down her back
  • Was yellow like ripe corn.
  • Herseemed she scarce had been a day
  • One of God's choristers;
  • The wonder was not yet quite gone
  • From that still look of hers;
  • Albeit, to them she left, her day
  • Had counted as ten years.
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  • ( To one, it is ten years of years.
  • 20 . . . Yet now, and in this place,
  • Surely she leaned o'er me—her hair
  • Fell all about my face. . . .
  • Nothing: the autumn fall of leaves.
  • The whole year sets apace.)
  • It was the rampart of God's house
  • That she was standing on;
  • By God built over the sheer depth
  • The which is Space begun;
  • So high, that looking downward thence
  • 30 She scarce could see the sun.
  • It lies in Heaven, across the flood
  • Of ether, as a bridge.
  • Beneath, the tides of day and night
  • With flame and darkness ridge
  • The void, as low as where this earth
  • Spins like a fretful midge.
  • Heard hardly, some of her new friends
  • Amid their loving games
  • Spake evermore among themselves
  • 40 Their virginal chaste names;
  • And the souls mounting up to God
  • Went by her like thin flames.
  • And still she bowed above the vast
  • Waste sea of worlds that swarm;
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  • Until her bosom must have made
  • The bar she leaned on warm,
  • And the lilies lay as if asleep
  • Along her bended arm.
  • From the fixed place of Heaven she saw
  • 50 Time like a pulse shake fierce
  • Through all the worlds. Her gaze still strove
  • Within the gulf to pierce
  • Its path; and now she spoke as when
  • The stars sang in their spheres.
  • The sun was gone now; the curled moon
  • Was like a little feather
  • Fluttering far down the gulf; and now
  • She spoke through the still weather.
  • Her voice was like the voice the stars
  • 60 Had when they sang together.
  • ‘I wish that he were come to me,
  • For he will come,’ she said.
  • ‘Have I not prayed in Heaven?—on earth,
  • Lord, Lord, has he not pray'd?
  • Are not two prayers a perfect strength?
  • And shall I feel afraid?
  • ‘When round his head the aureole clings,
  • And he is clothed in white,
  • I'll take his hand and go with him
  • 70 To the deep wells of light;
  • Image of page 18 page: 18
  • We will step down as to a stream,
  • And bathe there in God's sight.
  • ‘We two will stand beside that shrine,
  • Occult, withheld, untrod,
  • Whose lamps are stirred continually
  • With prayer sent up to God;
  • And see our old prayers, granted, melt
  • Each like a little cloud.
  • ‘We two will lie i'the shadow of
  • 80 That living mystic tree
  • Within whose secret growth the Dove
  • Is sometimes felt to be,
  • While every leaf that His plumes touch
  • Saith His Name audibly.
  • ‘And I myself will teach to him,
  • I myself, lying so,
  • The songs I sing here; which his voice
  • Shall pause in, hushed and slow,
  • And find some knowledge at each pause,
  • 90 Or some new thing to know.’
  • ( Ah sweet! Just now, in that bird's song,
  • Strove not her accents there,
  • Fain to be hearkened? When those bells
  • Possessed the midday air,
  • Was she not stepping to my side
  • Down all the trembling stair?)
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  • ‘We two,’ she said, ‘will seek the groves
  • Where the lady Mary is,
  • With her five handmaidens, whose names
  • 100 Are five sweet symphonies,
  • Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen,
  • Margaret and Rosalys.
  • ‘Circlewise sit they, with bound locks
  • And foreheads garlanded;
  • Into the fine cloth white like flame
  • Weaving the golden thread,
  • To fashion the birth-robes for them
  • Who are just born, being dead.
  • ‘He shall fear, haply, and be dumb:
  • 110 Then will I lay my cheek
  • To his, and tell about our love,
  • Not once abashed or weak:
  • And the dear Mother will approve
  • My pride, and let me speak.
  • ‘Herself shall bring us, hand in hand,
  • To Him round whom all souls
  • Kneel, the clear-ranged unnumbered heads
  • Bowed with their aureoles:
  • And angels meeting us shall sing
  • 120 To their citherns and citoles.
  • ‘There will I ask of Christ the Lord
  • Thus much for him and me:—
  • Image of page 20 page: 20
  • Only to live as once on earth
  • With Love,—only to be,
  • As then awhile, for ever now
  • Together, I and he.’
  • She gazed and listened and then said,
  • Less sad of speech than mild,—
  • ‘All this is when he comes.’ She ceased.
  • 130 The light thrilled towards her, fill'd
  • With angels in strong level flight.
  • Her eyes prayed, and she smil'd.
  • ( I saw her smile). But soon their path
  • Was vague in distant spheres:
  • And then she cast her arms along
  • The golden barriers,
  • And laid her face between her hands,
  • And wept. ( I heard her tears.)
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  • Master of the murmuring courts
  • Where the shapes of sleep convene!—
  • Lo! my spirit here exhorts
  • All the powers of thy demesne
  • For their aid to woo my queen.
  • What reports
  • Yield thy jealous courts unseen?
  • Vaporous, unaccountable,
  • Dreamland lies forlorn of light,
  • 10Hollow like a breathing shell.
  • Ah! that from all dreams I might
  • Choose one dream and guide its flight!
  • I know well
  • What her sleep should tell to-night.
  • There the dreams are multitudes:
  • Some whose buoyance waits not sleep,
  • Deep within the August woods;
  • Some that hum while rest may steep
  • Weary labour laid a-heap;
  • 20 Interludes,
  • Some, of grievous moods that weep.
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  • Poets' fancies all are there:
  • There the elf-girls flood with wings
  • Valleys full of plaintive air;
  • There breathe perfumes; there in rings
  • Whirl the foam-bewildered springs;
  • Siren there
  • Winds her dizzy hair and sings.
  • Thence the one dream mutually
  • 30 Dreamed in bridal unison,
  • Less than waking ecstasy;
  • Half-formed visions that make moan
  • In the house of birth alone;
  • And what we
  • At death's wicket see, unknown.
  • But for mine own sleep, it lies
  • In one gracious form's control,
  • Fair with honorable eyes,
  • Lamps of an auspicious soul:
  • 40 O their glance is loftiest dole,
  • Sweet and wise,
  • Wherein Love descries his goal.
  • Reft of her, my dreams are all
  • Clammy trance that fears the sky:
  • Changing footpaths shift and fall;
  • From polluted coverts nigh,
  • Miserable phantoms sigh;
  • Quakes the pall,
  • And the funeral goes by.
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  • 50Master, it is soothly said
  • That, as echoes of man's speech
  • Far in secret clefts are made,
  • So do all men's bodies reach
  • Shadows o'er thy sunken beach,—
  • Shape or shade
  • In those halls pourtrayed of each?
  • Ah! might I, by thy good grace
  • Groping in the windy stair,
  • (Darkness and the breath of space
  • 60 Like loud waters everywhere,)
  • Meeting mine own image there
  • Face to face,
  • Send it from that place to her!
  • Nay, not I; but oh! do thou,
  • Master, from thy shadowkind
  • Call my body's phantom now:
  • Bid it bear its face declin'd
  • Till its flight her slumbers find,
  • And her brow
  • 70 Feel its presence bow like the wind.
  • Where in groves the gracile Spring
  • Trembles, with mute orison
  • Confidently strengthening,
  • Water's voice and wind's as one
  • Shed an echo in the sun,
  • Soft as Spring,
  • Master, bid it sing and moan.
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  • Song shall tell how glad and strong
  • Is the night she soothes alway;
  • 80Moan shall grieve with that parched tongue
  • Of the brazen hours of day:
  • Sounds as of the springtide they,
  • Moan and song,
  • While the chill months long for May.
  • Not the prayers which with all leave
  • The world's fluent woes prefer,—
  • Not the praise the world doth give,
  • Dulcet fulsome whisperer;—
  • Let it yield man's love to her,
  • 90 And achieve
  • Strength that shall not grieve or err.
  • Wheresoe'er my sleep befall,
  • Both at night-watch, (let it say,)
  • And where round the sundial
  • The reluctant hours of day,
  • Heartless, hopeless of their way,
  • Rest and call;—
  • There her glance doth fall and stay.
  • Suddenly her face is there:
  • 100 So do mounting vapours wreathe
  • Subtle-scented transports where
  • The black firwood sets its teeth.
  • Part the boughs and look beneath,—
  • Lilies share
  • Secret waters there, and breathe.
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  • Master, bid my shadow bend
  • Whispering thus till birth of light,
  • Lest new shapes that sleep may send
  • Scatter all its work to flight;—
  • 110 Master, master of the night,
  • Bid it spend
  • Speech, song, prayer, and end aright.
  • Yet, ah me! if at her head
  • There another phantom lean
  • Murmuring o'er the fragrant bed,—
  • Ah! and if my spirit's queen
  • Smile those alien words between,—
  • Ah! poor shade!
  • Shall it strive, or fade unseen?
  • 120Like a vapour wan and mute,
  • Like a flame, so let it pass;
  • One low sigh across her lute,
  • One dull breath against her glass;
  • And to my sad soul, alas!
  • One salute
  • Cold as when death's foot shall pass.
  • How should love's own messenger
  • Strive with love and be love's foe?
  • Master, nay! If thus in her
  • 130 Sleep a wedded heart should show,—
  • Silent let mine image go,
  • Its old share
  • Of thy sunken air to know.
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  • Then, too, let all hopes of mine,
  • All vain hopes by night and day,
  • Master, at thy summoning sign
  • Rise up pallid and obey.
  • Dreams, if this is thus, were they:—
  • Be they thine,
  • 140 And to dreamland pine away.
  • (So a chief, who all night lies
  • Ambushed where no help appears,—
  • 'Mid his comrades' unseen eyes
  • Watching for the growth of spears,—
  • Like their ghosts, as morning nears,
  • Sees them rise,
  • Ready without sighs or tears.)
  • Yet from old time, life, not death,
  • Master, in thy rule is rife:
  • 150Lo! through thee, with mingling breath,
  • Adam woke beside his wife.
  • O Love bring me so, for strife,
  • Force and faith,
  • Bring me so not death but life!
  • Yea, to Love himself is pour'd
  • This frail song of hope and fear.
  • Thou art Love, of one accord
  • With kind Sleep to bring her near,
  • Still-eyed, deep-eyed, ah how dear!
  • 160 Master, Lord,
  • In her name implor'd, O hear!
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‘Burden. Heavy calamity; The chorus of a song.’— Dictionary.

  • In our Museum galleries
  • To-day I lingered o'er the prize
  • Dead Greece vouchsafes to living eyes,—
  • Her Art for ever in fresh wise
  • From hour to hour rejoicing me.
  • Sighing I turned at last to win
  • Once more the London dirt and din;
  • And as I made the swing-door spin
  • And issued, they were hoisting in
  • 10 A wingèd beast from Nineveh.
  • A human face the creature wore,
  • And hoofs behind and hoofs before,
  • And flanks with dark runes fretted o'er.
  • 'Twas bull, 'twas mitred Minotaur,
  • A dead disbowelled mystery;
  • The mummy of a buried faith
  • Stark from the charnel without scathe,
  • Its wings stood for the light to bathe,—
  • Such fossil cerements as might swathe
  • 20 The very corpse of Nineveh.
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  • The print of its first rush-wrapping,
  • Wound ere it dried, still ribbed the thing.
  • What song did the brown maidens sing,
  • From purple mouths alternating,
  • When that was woven languidly?
  • What vows, what rites, what prayers preferr'd,
  • What songs has the strange image heard?
  • In what blind vigil stood interr'd
  • For ages, till an English word
  • 30 Broke silence first at Nineveh?
  • Oh when upon each sculptured court,
  • Where even the wind might not resort,—
  • O'er which Time passed, of like import
  • With the wild Arab boys at sport,—
  • A living face looked in to see:—
  • Oh seemed it not—the spell once broke—
  • As though the carven warriors woke,
  • As though the shaft the string forsook,
  • The cymbals clashed, the chariots shook,
  • 40 And there was life in Nineveh?
  • On London stones our sun anew
  • The beast's recovered shadow threw.
  • (No shade that plague of darkness knew,
  • No light, no shade, while older grew
  • By ages the old earth and sea.)
  • Lo thou! could all thy priests have shown
  • Such proof to make thy godhead known?
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  • From their dead Past thou liv'st alone;
  • And still thy shadow is thine own
  • 50 Even as of yore in Nineveh.
  • That day whereof we keep record,
  • When near thy city-gates the Lord
  • Sheltered his Jonah with a gourd,
  • This sun, (I said) here present, pour'd
  • Even thus this shadow that I see.
  • This shadow has been shed the same
  • From sun and moon,—from lamps which came
  • For prayer,—from fifteen days of flame,
  • The last, while smouldered to a name
  • 60 Sardanapalus' Nineveh.
  • Within thy shadow, haply, once
  • Sennacherib has knelt, whose sons
  • Smote him between the altar-stones:
  • Or pale Semiramis her zones
  • Of gold, her incense brought to thee,
  • In love for grace, in war for aid:....
  • Ay, and who else?.... till 'neath thy shade
  • Within his trenches newly made
  • Last year the Christian knelt and pray'd—
  • 70 Not to thy strength—in Nineveh.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 29):

* During the excavations, the Tiyari workmen held their ser-

vices in the shadow of the great bulls. ( Layard's ‘Nineveh,’ ch.ix.)

This poem was written when the sculptures were first brought to


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  • Now, thou poor god, within this hall
  • Where the blank windows blind the wall
  • From pedestal to pedestal,
  • The kind of light shall on thee fall
  • Which London takes the day to be:
  • While school-foundations in the act
  • Of holiday, three files compact,
  • Shall learn to view thee as a fact
  • Connected with that zealous tract:
  • 80 ‘Rome,—Babylon and Nineveh.’
  • Deemed they of this, those worshippers,
  • When in some mythic chain of verse,
  • Which man shall not again rehearse,
  • The faces of thy ministers
  • Yearned pale with bitter ecstasy?
  • Greece, Egypt, Rome,—did any god
  • Before whose feet men knelt unshod
  • Deem that in this unblest abode
  • Another scarce more unknown god
  • 90 Should house with him from Nineveh?
  • Ah! in what quarries lay the stone
  • From which this pigmy pile has grown,
  • Unto man's need how long unknown,
  • Since thy vast temples, court and cone,
  • Rose far in desert history?
  • Ah! what is here that does not lie
  • All strange to thine awakened eye?
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  • Ah! what is here can testify
  • (Save that dumb presence of the sky)
  • 100 Unto thy day and Nineveh?
  • Why, of those mummies in the room
  • Above, there might indeed have come
  • One out of Egypt to thy home,
  • An alien. Nay, but were not some
  • Of these thine own ‘antiquity?’
  • And now,—they and their gods and thou
  • All relics here together,—now
  • Whose profit? whether bull or cow,
  • Isis or Ibis, who or how,
  • 110 Whether of Thebes or Nineveh?
  • The consecrated metals found,
  • And ivory tablets, underground,
  • Winged teraphim and creatures crown'd,
  • When air and daylight filled the mound,
  • Fell into dust immediately.
  • And even as these, the images
  • Of awe and worship,—even as these,—
  • So, smitten with the sun's increase,
  • Her glory mouldered and did cease
  • 120 From immemorial Nineveh.
  • The day her builders made their halt,
  • Those cities of the lake of salt
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  • Stood firmly 'stablished without fault,
  • Made proud with pillars of basalt,
  • With sardonyx and porphyry.
  • The day that Jonah bore abroad
  • To Nineveh the voice of God,
  • A brackish lake lay in his road,
  • Where erst Pride fixed her sure abode,
  • 130 As then in royal Nineveh.
  • The day when he, Pride's lord and Man's,
  • Showed all the kingdoms at a glance
  • To Him before whose countenance
  • The years recede, the years advance,
  • And said, Fall down and worship me:—
  • 'Mid all the pomp beneath that look,
  • Then stirred there, haply, some rebuke,
  • Where to the wind the salt pools shook,
  • And in those tracts, of life forsook,
  • 140 That knew thee not, O Nineveh!
  • Delicate harlot! On thy throne
  • Thou with a world beneath thee prone
  • In state for ages sat'st alone;
  • And needs were years and lustres flown
  • Ere strength of man could vanquish thee:
  • Whom even thy victor foes must bring,
  • Still royal, among maids that sing
  • As with doves' voices, taboring
  • Upon their breasts, unto the King,—
  • 150 A kingly conquest, Nineveh!
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Sig. D
  • ... Here woke my thought. The wind's slow sway
  • Had waxed; and like the human play
  • Of scorn that smiling spreads away,
  • The sunshine shivered off the day:
  • The callous wind, it seemed to me,
  • Swept up the shadow from the ground:
  • And pale as whom the Fates astound,
  • The god forlorn stood winged and crown'd:
  • Within I knew the cry lay bound
  • 160 Of the dumb soul of Nineveh.
  • And as I turned, my sense half shut
  • Still saw the crowds of kerb and rut
  • Go past as marshalled to the strut
  • Of ranks in gypsum quaintly cut.
  • It seemed in one same pageantry
  • They followed forms which had been erst;
  • To pass, till on my sight should burst
  • That future of the best or worst
  • When some may question which was first,
  • 170 Of London or of Nineveh.
  • For as that Bull-god once did stand
  • And watched the burial-clouds of sand,
  • Till these at last without a hand
  • Rose o'er his eyes, another land,
  • And blinded him with destiny:—
  • So may he stand again; till now,
  • In ships of unknown sail and prow,
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  • Some tribe of the Australian plough
  • Bear him afar,—a relic now
  • 180 Of London, not of Nineveh!
  • Or it may chance indeed that when
  • Man's age is hoary among men,—
  • His centuries threescore and ten,—
  • His furthest childhood shall seem then
  • More clear than later times may be:
  • Who, finding in this desert place
  • This form, shall hold us for some race
  • That walked not in Christ's lowly ways,
  • But bowed its pride and vowed its praise
  • 190 Unto the God of Nineveh.
  • The smile rose first,—anon drew nigh
  • The thought:... Those heavy wings spread high
  • So sure of flight, which do not fly;
  • That set gaze never on the sky;
  • Those scriptured flanks it cannot see;
  • Its crown, a brow-contracting load;
  • Its planted feet which trust the sod:...
  • (So grew the image as I trod:)
  • O Nineveh, was this thy God,—
  • 200 Thine also, mighty Nineveh?
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  • Mother of the Fair Delight,
  • Thou handmaid perfect in God's sight,
  • Now sitting fourth beside the Three,
  • Thyself a woman-Trinity,—
  • Being a daughter borne to God,
  • Mother of Christ from stall to rood,
  • And wife unto the Holy Ghost:—
  • Oh when our need is uttermost,
  • Think that to such as death may strike
  • 10Thou once wert sister sisterlike!
  • Thou headstone of humanity,
  • Groundstone of the great Mystery,
  • Fashioned like us, yet more than we!
  • Mind'st thou not (when June's heavy breath
  • Warmed the long days in Nazareth,)
  • That eve thou didst go forth to give
  • Thy flowers some drink that they might live
  • Transcribed Footnote (page 35):

    * This hymn was written as a prologue to a series of designs.

    Art still identifies herself with all faiths for her own purposes:

    and the emotional influence here employed demands above all an

    inner standing-point.

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  • One faint night more amid the sands?
  • Far off the trees were as pale wands
  • 20Against the fervid sky: the sea
  • Sighed further off eternally
  • As human sorrow sighs in sleep.
  • Then suddenly the awe grew deep,
  • As of a day to which all days
  • Were footsteps in God's secret ways:
  • Until a folding sense, like prayer,
  • Which is, as God is, everywhere,
  • Gathered about thee; and a voice
  • Spake to thee without any noise,
  • 30Being of the silence:—‘Hail,’ it said,
  • ‘Thou that art highly favourèd;
  • The Lord is with thee here and now;
  • Blessed among all women thou.’
  • Ah! knew'st thou of the end, when first
  • That Babe was on thy bosom nurs'd?—
  • Or when He tottered round thy knee
  • Did thy great sorrow dawn on thee?—
  • And through His boyhood, year by year
  • Eating with Him the Passover,
  • 40Didst thou discern confusedly
  • That holier sacrament, when He,
  • The bitter cup about to quaff,
  • Should break the bread and eat thereof?—
  • Or came not yet the knowledge, even
  • Till on some day forecast in Heaven
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  • His feet passed through thy door to press
  • Upon His Father's business?—
  • Or still was God's high secret kept?
  • Nay, but I think the whisper crept
  • 50Like growth through childhood. Work and play,
  • Things common to the course of day,
  • Awed thee with meanings unfulfill'd;
  • And all through girlhood, something still'd
  • Thy senses like the birth of light,
  • When thou hast trimmed thy lamp at night
  • Or washed thy garments in the stream;
  • To whose white bed had come the dream
  • That He was thine and thou wast His
  • Who feeds among the field-lilies.
  • 60O solemn shadow of the end
  • In that wise spirit long contain'd!
  • O awful end! and those unsaid
  • Long years when It was Finishèd!
  • Mind'st thou not (when the twilight gone
  • Left darkness in the house of John,)
  • Between the naked window-bars
  • That spacious vigil of the stars?—
  • For thou, a watcher even as they,
  • Wouldst rise from where throughout the day
  • 70Thou wroughtest raiment for His poor;
  • And, finding the fixed terms endure
  • Of day and night which never brought
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  • Sounds of His coming chariot,
  • Wouldst lift through cloud-waste unexplor'd
  • Those eyes which said, ‘How long, O Lord?’
  • Then that disciple whom He loved,
  • Well heeding, haply would be moved
  • To ask thy blessing in His name;
  • And that one thought in both, the same
  • 80Though silent, then would clasp ye round
  • To weep together,—tears long bound,
  • Sick tears of patience, dumb and slow.
  • Yet, ‘Surely I come quickly,’—so
  • He said, from life and death gone home.
  • ‘Amen; even so, Lord Jesus, come!’
  • But oh! what human tongue can speak
  • That day when death was sent to break
  • From the tir'd spirit, like a veil,
  • Its covenant with Gabriel
  • 90Endured at length unto the end?
  • What human thought can apprehend
  • That mystery of motherhood
  • When thy Beloved at length renew'd
  • The sweet communion severèd,—
  • His left hand underneath thine head
  • And His right hand embracing thee?—
  • Lo! He was thine, and this is He!
  • Soul, is it Faith, or Love, or Hope,
  • That lets me see her standing up
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  • 100Where the light of the Throne is bright?
  • Unto the left, unto the right,
  • The cherubim, arrayed, conjoint,
  • Float inward to a golden point,
  • And from between the seraphim
  • The glory issues like a hymn.
  • O Mary Mother, be not loth
  • To listen,—thou whom the stars clothe,
  • Who seest and mayst not be seen!
  • Hear us at last, O Mary Queen!
  • 110Into our shadow bend thy face,
  • Bowing thee from the secret place,
  • O Mary Virgin, full of grace!
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  • ‘Who owns these lands?’ the Pilgrim said.
  • ‘Stranger, Queen Blanchelys.’
  • ‘And who has thus harried them?’ he said.
  • ‘It was Duke Luke did this:
  • God's ban be his!’
  • The Pilgrim said: ‘Where is your house?
  • I'll rest there, with your will.’
  • ‘Ye've but to climb these blackened boughs
  • And ye'll see it over the hill,
  • 10 For it burns still.’
  • ‘Which road, to seek your Queen?’ said he.
  • ‘Nay, nay, but with some wound
  • You'll fly back hither, it may be,
  • And by your blood i'the ground
  • My place be found.’
  • ‘Friend, stay in peace. God keep thy head,
  • And mine, where I will go;
  • For He is here and there,’ he said.
  • He passed the hill-side, slow,
  • 20 And stood below.
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  • The Queen sat idle by her loom:
  • She heard the arras stir,
  • And looked up sadly: through the room
  • The sweetness sickened her
  • Of musk and myrrh.
  • Her women, standing two and two,
  • In silence combed the fleece.
  • The pilgrim said, ‘Peace be with you,
  • Lady;’ and bent his knees.
  • 30 She answered, ‘Peace.’
  • Her eyes were like the wave within;
  • Like water-reeds the poise
  • Of her soft body, dainty thin;
  • And like the water's noise
  • Her plaintive voice.
  • For him, the stream had never well'd
  • In desert tracts malign
  • So sweet; nor had he ever felt
  • So faint in the sunshine
  • 40 Of Palestine.
  • Right so, he knew that he saw weep
  • Each night through every dream
  • The Queen's own face, confused in sleep
  • With visages supreme
  • Not known to him.
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  • ‘Lady,’ he said, ‘your lands lie burnt
  • And waste: to meet your foe
  • All fear: this I have seen and learnt.
  • Say that it shall be so,
  • 50 And I will go.’
  • She gazed at him. ‘Your cause is just,
  • For I have heard the same:’
  • He said: ‘God's strength shall be my trust.
  • Fall it to good or grame,
  • 'Tis in His name.’
  • ‘Sir, you are thanked. My cause is dead.
  • Why should you toil to break
  • A grave, and fall therein?’ she said.
  • He did not pause but spake:
  • 60 ‘For my vow's sake.’
  • ‘Can such vows be, Sir—to God's ear,
  • Not to God's will?’ ‘My vow
  • Remains: God heard me there as here,’
  • He said with reverent brow,
  • ‘Both then and now.’
  • They gazed together, he and she,
  • The minute while he spoke;
  • And when he ceased, she suddenly
  • Looked round upon her folk
  • 70 As though she woke.
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  • ‘Fight, Sir,’ she said: ‘my prayers in pain
  • Shall be your fellowship.’
  • He whispered one among her train,—
  • ‘To-night thou'lt bid her keep
  • This staff and scrip.’
  • She sent him a sharp sword, whose belt
  • About his body there
  • As sweet as her own arms he felt.
  • He kissed its blade, all bare,
  • 80 Instead of her.
  • She sent him a green banner wrought
  • With one white lily stem,
  • To bind his lance with when he fought.
  • He writ upon the same
  • And kissed her name.
  • She sent him a white shield, whereon
  • She bade that he should trace
  • His will. He blent fair hues that shone,
  • And in a golden space
  • 90 He kissed her face.
  • Right so, the sunset skies unseal'd,
  • Like lands he never knew,
  • Beyond to-morrow's battle-field
  • Lay open out of view
  • To ride into.
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  • Next day till dark the women pray'd:
  • Nor any might know there
  • How the fight went: the Queen has bade
  • That there do come to her
  • 100 No messenger.
  • Weak now to them the voice o' the priest
  • As any trance affords;
  • And when each anthem failed and ceas'd,
  • It seemed that the last chords
  • Still sang the words.
  • ‘Oh what is the light that shines so red?
  • 'Tis long since the sun set;’
  • Quoth the youngest to the eldest maid:
  • ‘'Twas dim but now, and yet
  • 110 The light is great.’
  • Quoth the other: ‘'Tis our sight is dazed
  • That we see flame i' the air.’
  • But the Queen held her brows and gazed,
  • And said, ‘It is the glare
  • Of torches there.’
  • ‘Oh what are the sounds that rise and spread?
  • All day it was so still;’
  • Quoth the youngest to the eldest maid;
  • ‘Unto the furthest hill
  • 120 The air they fill.’
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  • Quoth the other; ‘'Tis our sense is blurr'd
  • With all the chants gone by.’
  • But the Queen held her breath and heard,
  • And said, ‘It is the cry
  • Of Victory.’
  • The first of all the rout was sound,
  • The next were dust and flame,
  • And then the horses shook the ground:
  • And in the thick of them
  • 130 A still band came.
  • ‘Oh what do ye bring out of the fight,
  • Thus hid beneath these boughs?’
  • ‘One that shall be thy guest to-night,
  • And yet shall not carouse,
  • Queen, in thy house.’
  • ‘Uncover ye his face,’ she said.
  • ‘O changed in little space!’
  • She cried, ‘O pale that was so red!
  • O God, O God of grace!
  • 140 Cover his face.’
  • His sword was broken in his hand
  • Where he had kissed the blade.
  • ‘O soft steel that could not withstand!
  • O my hard heart unstayed,
  • That prayed and prayed!’
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  • His bloodied banner crossed his mouth
  • Where he had kissed her name.
  • ‘O east, and west, and north, and south,
  • Fair flew my web, for shame,
  • 150 To guide Death's aim!’
  • The tints were shredded from his shield
  • Where he had kissed her face.
  • ‘Oh, of all gifts that I could yield,
  • Death only keeps its place,
  • My gift and grace!’
  • Then stepped a damsel to her side,
  • And spake, and needs must weep:
  • ‘For his sake, lady, if he died,
  • He prayed of thee to keep
  • 160 This staff and scrip.’
  • That night they hung above her bed,
  • Till morning wet with tears.
  • Year after year above her head
  • Her bed his token wears,
  • Five years, ten years.
  • That night the passion of her grief
  • Shook them as there they hung.
  • Each year the wind that shed the leaf
  • Shook them and in its tongue
  • 170 A message flung.
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  • And she would wake with a clear mind
  • That letters writ to calm
  • Her soul lay in the scrip; and find
  • Only a torpid balm
  • And dust of palm.
  • They shook far off with palace sport
  • When joust and dance were rife;
  • And the hunt shook them from the court;
  • For hers, in peace or strife,
  • 180 Was a Queen's life.
  • A Queen's death now: as now they shake
  • To chaunts in chapel dim,—
  • Hung where she sleeps, not seen to wake,
  • (Carved lovely white and slim),
  • With them by him.
  • Stand up to-day, still armed, with her,
  • Good knight, before His brow
  • Who then as now was here and there,
  • Who had in mind thy vow
  • 190 Then even as now.
  • The lists are set in Heaven to-day,
  • The bright pavilions shine;
  • Fair hangs thy shield, and none gainsay;
  • The trumpets sound in sign
  • That she is thine.
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Sig. E
  • Not tithed with days' and years' decease
  • He pays thy wage He owed,
  • But with imperishable peace
  • Here in His own abode,
  • 200 Thy jealous God.
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  • ‘Why did you melt your waxen man,
  • Sister Helen?
  • To-day is the third since you began.’
  • ‘The time was long, yet the time ran,
  • Little brother.’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Three days to-day, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘But if you have done your work aright,
  • Sister Helen,
  • 10 You'll let me play, for you said I might.’
  • ‘Be very still in your play to-night,
  • Little brother.’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Third night, to-night, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘You said it must melt ere vesper-bell,
  • Sister Helen;
  • If now it be molten, all is well.’
  • ‘Even so,—nay, peace! you cannot tell,
  • Little brother.’
  • 20 ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • O what is this, between Hell and Heaven?)
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  • ‘Oh the waxen knave was plump to-day,
  • Sister Helen;
  • How like dead folk he has dropped away!’
  • ‘Nay now, of the dead what can you say,
  • Little brother?’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What of the dead, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • ‘See, see, the sunken pile of wood,
  • 30 Sister Helen,
  • Shines through the thinned wax red as blood!’
  • ‘Nay now, when looked you yet on blood,
  • Little brother?’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • How pale she is, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘Now close your eyes, for they're sick and sore,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And I'll play without the gallery door.’
  • ‘Aye, let me rest,—I'll lie on the floor,
  • 40 Little brother,’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What rest to-night, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • ‘Here high up in the balcony,
  • Sister Helen,
  • The moon flies face to face with me.’
  • ‘Aye, look and say whatever you see,
  • Little brother.’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What sight to-night, between Hell and Heaven?)
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  • 50‘Outside it's merry in the wind's wake,
  • Sister Helen;
  • In the shaken trees the chill stars shake.’
  • ‘Hush, heard you a horse-tread as you spake,
  • Little brother?’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What sound to-night, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • ‘I hear a horse-tread, and I see,
  • Sister Helen,
  • Three horsemen that ride terribly.’
  • 60‘Little brother, whence come the three,
  • Little brother?’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Whence should they come, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • ‘They come by the hill-verge from Boyne Bar,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And one draws nigh, but two are afar.’
  • ‘Look, look, do you know them who they are,
  • Little brother?’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • 70 Who should they be, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • ‘Oh, it's Holm of East Holm rides so fast,
  • Sister Helen,
  • For I know the white mane on the blast.’
  • ‘The hour has come, has come at last,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Her hour at last, between Hell and Heaven!)
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  • ‘He has made a sign and called Halloo!
  • Sister Helen,
  • 80 And he says that he would speak with you.’
  • ‘Oh tell him I fear the frozen dew,
  • Little brother.’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Why laughs she thus, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • ‘The wind is loud, but I hear him cry,
  • Sister Helen,
  • That Holm of Ewern's like to die.’
  • ‘And he and thou, and thou and I,
  • Little brother.’
  • 90 ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • And they and we, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘For three days now he has lain abed,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And he prays in torment to be dead.’
  • ‘The thing may chance, if he have prayed,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • If he have prayed, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘But he has not ceased to cry to-day,
  • 100 Sister Helen,
  • That you should take your curse away.’
  • My prayer was heard,—he need but pray,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Shall God not hear, between Hell and Heaven?)
Image of page 55 page: 55
  • ‘But he says, till you take back your ban,
  • Sister Helen,
  • His soul would pass, yet never can.’
  • ‘Nay then, shall I slay a living man,
  • 110 Little brother?’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • A living soul, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘But he calls for ever on your name,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And says that he melts before a flame.’
  • ‘My heart for his pleasure fared the same,
  • Little brother.’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Fire at the heart, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • 120‘Here's Holm of West Holm riding fast,
  • Sister Helen,
  • For I know the white plume on the blast.’
  • ‘The hour, the sweet hour I forecast,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Is the hour sweet, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • ‘He stops to speak, and he stills his horse,
  • Sister Helen;
  • But his words are drowned in the wind's course.’
  • 130‘Nay hear, nay hear, you must hear perforce,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • A word ill heard, between Hell and Heaven!)
Image of page 56 page: 56
  • ‘Oh he says that Holm of Ewern's cry,
  • Sister Helen,
  • Is ever to see you ere he die.’
  • ‘He sees me in earth, in moon and sky,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • 140 Earth, moon and sky, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘He sends a ring and a broken coin,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And bids you mind the banks of Boyne.’
  • ‘What else he broke will he ever join,
  • Little brother?’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Oh, never more, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘He yields you these and craves full fain,
  • Sister Helen,
  • 150 You pardon him in his mortal pain.’
  • ‘What else he took will he give again,
  • Little brother?’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • No more again, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘He calls your name in an agony,
  • Sister Helen,
  • That even dead Love must weep to see.’
  • ‘Hate, born of Love, is blind as he,
  • Little brother!’
  • 160 ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Love turned to hate, between Hell and Heaven!)
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  • ‘Oh it's Holm of Holm now that rides fast,
  • Sister Helen,
  • For I know the white hair on the blast.’
  • ‘The short short hour will soon be past,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Will soon be past, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘He looks at me and he tries to speak,
  • 170 Sister Helen,
  • But oh! his voice is sad and weak!’
  • ‘What here should the mighty Baron seek,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Oh vainly sought, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘Oh his son still cries, if you forgive,
  • Sister Helen,
  • The body dies but the soul shall live.’
  • ‘Fire shall forgive me as I forgive,
  • 180 Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • As she forgives, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘Oh he prays you, as his heart would rive,
  • Sister Helen,
  • To save his dear son's soul alive.
  • ‘Nay, flame cannot slay it, it shall thrive,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Alas, alas, between Hell and Heaven!)
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Note: There is no left quotation mark at the beginning of line 214.
  • 190‘He cries to you, kneeling in the road,
  • Sister Helen,
  • To go with him for the love of God!’
  • ‘The way is long to his son's abode,
  • Little brother.’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • The way is long, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘O Sister Helen, you heard the bell,
  • Sister Helen!
  • More loud than the vesper-chime it fell.’
  • 200‘No vesper-chime, but a dying knell,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • His dying knell, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘Alas! but I fear the heavy sound,
  • Sister Helen;
  • Is it in the sky or in the ground?’
  • ‘Say, have they turned their horses round,
  • Little brother?’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • 210 What would she more, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • ‘They have raised the old man from his knee,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And they ride in silence hastily.’
  • More fast the naked soul doth flee,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • The naked soul, between Hell and Heaven!)
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  • ‘Oh the wind is sad in the iron chill,
  • Sister Helen,
  • 220 And weary sad they look by the hill.’
  • ‘But he they mourn is sadder still,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Most sad of all, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘See, see, the wax has dropped from its place,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And the flames are winning up apace!’
  • ‘Yet here they burn but for a space,
  • Little brother!’
  • 230 ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Here for a space, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • ‘Ah! what white thing at the door has cross'd,
  • Sister Helen?
  • Ah! what is this that sighs in the frost?’
  • ‘A soul that's lost as mine is lost,
  • Little brother!’
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Lost, lost, all lost, between Hell and Heaven!)
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  • ‘O have you seen the Stratton flood
  • That's great with rain to-day?
  • It runs beneath your wall, Lord Sands,
  • Full of the new-mown hay.
  • ‘I led your hounds to Hutton bank
  • To bathe at early morn:
  • They got their bath by Borrowbrake
  • Above the standing corn.’
  • Out from the castle-stair Lord Sands
  • 10 Looked up the western lea;
  • The rook was grieving on her nest,
  • The flood was round her tree.
  • Over the castle-wall Lord Sands
  • Looked down the eastern hill:
  • The stakes swam free among the boats,
  • The flood was rising still.
  • ‘What's yonder far below that lies
  • So white against the slope?’
  • ‘O it's a sail o' your bonny barks
  • 20 The waters have washed up.
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  • ‘But I have never a sail so white,
  • And the water's not yet there.’
  • ‘O it's the swans o' your bonny lake
  • The rising flood doth scare.’
  • ‘The swans they would not hold so still,
  • So high they would not win.’
  • ‘O it's Joyce my wife has spread her smock
  • And fears to fetch it in.’
  • ‘Nay, knave, it's neither sail nor swans,
  • 30 Nor aught that you can say;
  • For though your wife might leave her smock,
  • Herself she'd bring away.’
  • Lord Sands has passed the turret-stair,
  • The court, and yard, and all;
  • The kine were in the byre that day,
  • The nags were in the stall.
  • Lord Sands has won the weltering slope
  • Whereon the white shape lay:
  • The clouds were still above the hill,
  • 40 And the shape was still as they.
  • Oh pleasant is the gaze of life
  • And sad is death's blind head;
  • But awful are the living eyes
  • In the face of one thought dead.
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  • ‘O Jean, O love! and is it me
  • Thy ghost has come to seek?’
  • ‘Nay, wait another hour, Lord Sands,—
  • Be sure my ghost shall speak.’
  • A moment stood he as a stone,
  • 50 Then grovelled to his knee.
  • ‘O Jean, O Jean my love, O love,
  • Rise up and come with me!’
  • ‘O once before you bade me come,
  • And it's here you have brought me!
  • ‘O many's the sweet word of love
  • You've spoken oft to me;
  • But all that I have from you to-day
  • Is the rain on my body.
  • ‘And many are the gifts of love
  • 60 You've promised oft to me;
  • But the gift of yours I keep to-day
  • Is the babe in my body.
  • ‘O it's not in any earthly bed
  • That first my babe I'll see;
  • For I have brought my body here
  • That the flood may cover me.’
  • His face was close against her face,
  • His hands of hers were fain:
  • O her wet cheeks were hot with tears,
  • 70 Her wet hands cold with rain.
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  • ‘Now keep you well, my brother Hugh,—
  • You told me she was dead!
  • As wan as your towers be to-day,
  • To-morrow they'll be red.
  • ‘Look down, look down, my false mother,
  • That bade me not to grieve:
  • You'll look up when our marriage fires
  • Are lit to-morrow eve.
  • ‘O more than one and more than two
  • 80 The sorrow of this shall see:
  • But it's to-morrow, love, for them,—
  • To-day's for thee and me.’
  • He's drawn her face between his hands
  • And her pale mouth to his:
  • No bird that was so still that day
  • Chirps sweeter than his kiss.
  • He's ta'en her by the short girdle
  • And by the dripping sleeve:
  • ‘Go fetch Sir Jock my mother's priest,—
  • 90 You'll ask of him no leave.
  • ‘O it's one half-hour to reach the kirk
  • And one for the marriage-rite;
  • And kirk and castle and castle-lands
  • Shall be our babe's to-night.’
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Sig. F
  • ‘The flood's in the kirkyard, Lord Sands,
  • And round the belfry-stair.’
  • ‘I bade ye fetch the priest,’ he said,
  • ‘Myself shall bring him there.
  • ‘It's for the lilt of wedding bells
  • 100 We'll have the hail to pour,
  • And for the clink of bridle-reins
  • The plashing of the oar.’
  • Beneath them on the nether hill
  • A boat was floating wide:
  • Lord Sands swam out and caught the oars
  • And backed to the hill-side.
  • He's wrapped her in a green mantle,
  • And set her softly in;
  • Her hair was wet upon her face,
  • 110 Her face was grey and thin;
  • And ‘Oh!’ she said, ‘lie still, my babe,
  • It's out you must not win!’
  • But woe's my heart for Father John!
  • As hard as he might pray,
  • There seemed no help but Noah's ark
  • Or Jonah's fish that day.
  • The first strokes that the oars struck
  • Were over the broad leas;
  • The next strokes that the oars struck
  • 120 They pushed beneath the trees;
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  • The last stroke that the oars struck,
  • The good boat's head was met,
  • And there the door of the kirkyard
  • Stood like a ferry-gate.
  • He's set his hand upon the bar
  • And lightly leaped within:
  • He's lifted her to his left shoulder,
  • Her knees beside his chin.
  • The graves stood deep beneath the flood
  • 130 Under the rain alone;
  • And when the foot-stone made him slip,
  • He held by the head-stone.
  • The empty boat thrawed i' the wind,
  • Against the postern tied.
  • ‘Hold still, you've brought my love with me,
  • You shall take back my bride.’
  • And ‘Oh!’ she said, ‘on men's shoulders
  • I well had thought to wend,
  • And well to travel with a priest,
  • 140 But not to have cared or ken'd.
  • ‘And oh!’ she said, ‘it's well this way
  • That I thought to have fared,—
  • Not to have lighted at the kirk
  • But stopped in the kirkyard.
Image of page 67 page: 67
  • ‘For it's oh and oh I prayed to God,
  • Whose rest I hoped to win,
  • That when to-night at your board-head
  • You'd bid the feast begin,
  • This water past your window-sill
  • 150 Might bear my body in.’
  • Now make the white bed warm and soft
  • And greet the merry morn.
  • The night the mother should have died
  • The young son shall be born.
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  • The shadows fall along the wall,
  • It's night at Haye-la-Serre;
  • The maidens weave since day grew eve,
  • The lady's in her chair.
  • O passing slow the long hours go
  • With time to think and sigh,
  • When weary maidens weave beneath
  • A listless lady's eye.
  • It's two days that Earl Simon's gone
  • 10 And it's the second night;
  • At Haye-la-Serre the lady's fair,
  • In June the moon is light.
  • O it's ‘Maids, ye'll wake till I come back,’
  • And the hound's i' the lady's chair:
  • No shuttles fly, the work stands by,
  • It's play at Haye-la-Serre.
  • The night is worn, the lamp's forlorn,
  • The shadows waste and ail;
  • There's morning air at Haye-la-Serre,
  • 20 The watching maids look pale.
Image of page 70 page: 70
  • O all unmarked the birds at dawn
  • Where drowsy maidens be;
  • But heard too soon the lark's first tune
  • Beneath the trysting-tree.
  • ‘Hold me thy hand, sweet Dennis Shand,
  • Says the Lady Joan de Haye,
  • ‘That thou to-morrow do forget
  • To-day and yesterday.
  • ‘O it's the autumn nights are chill,
  • 30 The winter nights are long,
  • And my lord'll bide at home o' nights
  • As long as the swallow's gone.
  • ‘This summer he'll not be forth again
  • And not again till spring;
  • The wind is cold to him that's old
  • And the frost withering.
  • ‘We've all to fear; there's Maud the spy,
  • There's Ann whose face I scor'd,
  • There's Blanch tells Huot everything,
  • 40 And Huot loves my lord.
  • ‘But O and it's my Dennis'll know,
  • When my eyes look weary dim,
  • Who finds the gold for his girdle-fee
  • And who keeps love for him.’
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Note: A space is missing between “come” and “and” in line 45.
  • The morrow's comeand the morrow-night,
  • It's feast at Haye-la-Serre,
  • And Dennis Shand the cup must hand
  • Beside Earl Simon's chair.
  • And still when the high pouring's done
  • 50 And cup and flagon clink,
  • Till his lady's lips have touched the brim
  • Earl Simon will not drink.
  • ‘But it's ‘Joan my wife,’ Earl Simon says,
  • ‘Your maids are white and wan,’
  • And it's ‘O,’ she says, ‘they've watched the night
  • With Maud's sick sister Ann.’
  • But it's, ‘Lady Joan and Joan my bird,
  • Yourself look white and wan.’
  • And it's, ‘O, I've walked the night myself
  • 60 To pull the herbs for Ann:
  • And some of your knaves were at the hutch
  • And some in the cellarage,
  • But the only one that watched with us
  • Was Dennis Shand your page.
  • ‘Look on the boy, sweet honey lord,
  • And mark his drooping e'e:
  • The rosy colour's not yet back
  • That paled in serving me.’
Image of page 72 page: 72
  • O it's, ‘Wife, your maids are foolish jades,
  • 70 And you're a silly chuck,
  • And the lazy knaves shall get their staves
  • About their ears for luck:
  • ‘But Dennis Shand may take the cup
  • And pour the wine to his hand;
  • Wife, thou shalt touch it with thy lips,
  • And drink thou, Dennis Shand!’
Image of page 73 page: 73
  • Could you not drink her gaze like wine?
  • Yet though its splendour swoon
  • Into the silence languidly
  • As a tune into a tune,
  • Those eyes unravel the coiled night
  • And know the stars at noon.
  • The gold that's heaped beside her hand,
  • In truth rich prize it were;
  • And rich the dreams that wreathe her brows
  • 10 With magic stillness there;
  • And he were rich who should unwind
  • That woven golden hair.
  • Around her, where she sits, the dance
  • Now breathes its eager heat;
  • And not more lightly or more true
  • Fall there the dancer's feet
  • Than fall her cards on the bright board
  • As 'twere an heart that beat.
Image of page 74 page: 74
  • Her fingers let them softly through,
  • 20 Smooth polished silent things;
  • And each one as it falls reflects
  • In swift light-shadowings,
  • Crimson and purple, green and blue,
  • The great eyes of her rings.
  • Whom plays she with? With thee, who lov'st
  • Those gems upon her hand;
  • With me, who search her secret brows;
  • With all men, bless'd or bann'd.
  • We play together, she and we,
  • 30 Within a vain strange land:
  • A land without any order,—
  • Day even as night, (one saith,)—
  • Where who lieth down ariseth not
  • Nor the sleeper awakeneth;
  • A land of darkness as darkness itself
  • And of the shadow of death.
  • What be her cards, you ask? Even these:—
  • The heart, that doth but crave
  • Yet more, being fed; the diamond,
  • 40 Skilled to make base seem brave;
  • The club, for smiting in the dark;
  • The spade, to dig a grave.
  • And do you ask what game she plays?
  • With me 'tis lost or won;
  • Image of page 75 page: 75
  • With thee it is playing still; with him
  • It is not well begun;
  • But 'tis a game she plays with all
  • Beneath the sway o' the sun.
  • Thou seest the card that falls,—she knows
  • 50 The card that followeth:
  • Her game in thy tongue is called Life,
  • As ebbs thy daily breath:
  • When she shall speak, thou'lt learn her tongue
  • And know she calls it Death.
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  • She fell asleep on Christmas Eve:
  • At length her eyes were in the shade
  • Of weary lids; her arms, uplaid,
  • Covered her bosom, I believe.
  • Our mother, who had leaned all day
  • Over the bed from chime to chime,
  • Then raised herself for the first time,
  • And as she sat her down, did pray.
  • Her little work-table was spread
  • 10 With work to finish. For the glare
  • Made by her candle, she had care
  • To work some distance from the bed.
  • Without, there was a cold moon up,
  • Of winter radiance sheer and thin;
  • The hollow halo it was in
  • Was like an icy crystal cup.
Transcribed Footnote (page 77):

* This little poem, written in 1847, was printed in a periodical

at the outset of 1850, a month or two before the appearance of ‘ In

,’ with which the metre (to be met with in old English

writers) is now identified.

Image of page 78 page: 78
  • Through the small room, with subtle sound
  • Of flame, by vents the fireshine drove
  • And reddened. In its dim alcove
  • 20The mirror shed a clearness round.
  • I had been sitting up some nights,
  • And my tired mind felt weak and blank;
  • Like a sharp strengthening wine it drank
  • The stillness and the broken lights.
  • Twelve struck. That sound, which all the years
  • Hear in each hour, crept off; and then
  • The ruffled silence spread again,
  • Like water that a pebble stirs.
  • Our mother rose from where she sat:
  • 30 Her needles, as she laid them down,
  • Met lightly, and her silken gown
  • Settled: no other noise than that.
  • ‘Glory unto the Newly Born!’
  • So, as said angels, she did say;
  • Because we were in Christmas Day,
  • Though it would still be long till morn.
  • Just then in the room over us
  • There was a pushing back of chairs,
  • As some who had sat unawares
  • 40So late, now heard the hour, and rose.
Image of page 79 page: 79
  • With anxious softly-stepping haste
  • Our mother went where Margaret lay,
  • Fearing the sounds o'erhead—should they
  • Have broken her long watched-for rest!
  • She stooped an instant, calm, and turned;
  • But suddenly turned back again;
  • And all her features seemed in pain
  • With woe, and her eyes gazed and yearned.
  • For my part, I but hid my face,
  • 50 And held my breath, and spake no word:
  • There was none spoken; but I heard
  • The silence for a little space.
  • Our mother bowed herself and wept:
  • And both my arms fell, and I said,
  • ‘God knows I knew that she was dead.’
  • And there, all white, my sister slept.
  • Then kneeling, upon Christmas morn
  • A little after twelve o'clock
  • We said, ere the first quarter struck,
  • 60‘Christ's blessing on the newly born!’
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Sig. G
  • ‘How should I your true love know
  • From another one?’
  • ‘By his cockle-hat and staff
  • And his sandal-shoon.’
  • ‘And what signs have told you now
  • That he hastens home?’
  • ‘Lo! the spring is nearly gone,
  • He is nearly come.’
  • ‘For a token is there nought,
  • 10 Say, that he should bring?’
  • ‘He will bear a ring I gave
  • And another ring.’
  • ‘How may I, when he shall ask,
  • Tell him who lies there?’
  • ‘Nay, but leave my face unveiled
  • And unbound my hair.’
  • ‘Can you say to me some word
  • I shall say to him?’
  • ‘Say I'm looking in his eyes
  • 20 Though my eyes are dim.’
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Image of page 83 page: 83

( Inscription for a Picture.*)
  • Christ sprang from David shepherd, and even so
  • From David king; being born of high and low.
  • The shepherd lays his crook, the king his crown,
  • Here at Christ's feet, and high and low bow down.
  • And high and low, Christ's self is shown here; even
  • Christ the Good Shepherd, Christ the King of Heaven.
Transcribed Footnote (page 83):

* A Triptych. In the centre, the Adoration: at the two sides,

David as shepherd and David as king.

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(François Villon, 1450.)
  • Tell me now in what hidden way is
  • Lady Flora the lovely Roman?
  • Where's Hipparchia, and where is Thais,
  • Neither of them the fairer woman?
  • Where is Echo, beheld of no man,
  • Only heard on river and mere,—
  • She whose beauty was more than human?...
  • But where are the snows of yester-year?
  • Where's Héloise, the learned nun,
  • 10 For whose sake Abeillard, I ween,
  • Lost manhood and put priesthood on?
  • (How dire, O Love, thy sway hath been!)
  • And where, I pray you, is the Queen
  • Who willed that Buridan should steer
  • Sewed in a sack's mouth down the Seine?...
  • But where are the snows of yester-year?
  • White Queen Blanche, like a queen of lilies,
  • With a voice like any mermaiden,—
  • Bertha Broadfoot, Beatrice, Alice,
  • 20 And Ermengarde the lady of Maine,—
  • Image of page 86 page: 86
  • And that good Joan whom Englishmen
  • At Rouen doomed and burned her there,—
  • Mother of God, where are they then?...
  • But where are the snows of yester-year?
  • Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
  • Where they are gone, nor yet this year,
  • Except with this for an overword,—
  • But where are the snows of yester-year?
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(François Villon, 1450.)
  • Death, of thee do I make my moan,
  • Who hadst my lady away from me,
  • Nor wilt assuage thine enmity
  • Till with her life thou hast mine own;
  • For since that hour my strength has flown.
  • Lo! what wrong was her life to thee,
  • Death?
  • Two we were, and the heart was one;
  • Which now being dead, dead I must be,
  • 10 Or seem alive as lifelessly
  • As in the choir the painted stone,
  • Death!
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( Old French.)
  • John of Tours is back with peace,
  • But he comes home ill at ease.
  • ‘Good-morrow, mother.’ ‘Good-morrow, son;
  • Your wife has borne you a little one.’
  • ‘Go now, mother, go before,
  • Make me a bed upon the floor;
  • ‘Very low your foot must fall,
  • That my wife hear not at all.’
  • As it neared the midnight toll,
  • 10John of Tours gave up his soul.
  • ‘Tell me now, my mother, my dear,
  • What's the singing that I hear?’
  • ‘Daughter, it's the priests in rows
  • Going round about our house.’
  • ‘Tell me though, my mother, my dear,
  • What's the knocking that I hear?’
  • ‘Daughter, it's the carpenter
  • Mending planks upon the stair.’
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  • ‘Well, but tell, my mother, my dear,
  • 20What's the crying that I hear?’
  • ‘Daughter, the children are awake,
  • Crying with their teeth that ache.’
  • ‘Nay, but say, my mother, my dear,
  • Why do you stand weeping here?’
  • ‘Oh! the truth must be said,—
  • It's that John of Tours is dead.’
  • ‘Mother, let the sexton know
  • That the grave must be for two;
  • ‘Aye, and still have room to spare,
  • 30For you must shut the baby there.’
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( Old French.)
  • Inside my father's close,
  • (Fly away O my heart away!)
  • Sweet apple-blossom blows
  • So sweet.
  • Three king's daughters fair,
  • (Fly away O my heart away!)
  • They lie below it there
  • So sweet.
  • ‘Ah!’ says the eldest one,
  • 10 (Fly away O my heart away!)
  • ‘I think the day's begun
  • So sweet.’
  • ‘Ah!’ says the second one,
  • (Fly away O my heart away!)
  • ‘Far off I hear the drum
  • So sweet.’
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  • ‘Ah!’ says the youngest one,
  • (Fly away O my heart away!)
  • ‘It's my true love, my own,
  • 20 So sweet.
  • ‘Oh! if he fight and win,’
  • (Fly away O my heart away!)
  • ‘I keep my love for him,
  • So sweet:
  • Oh! if he lose or win,
  • He hath it still complete.’
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( A combination from Sappho.)
  • I.
  • Like the sweet apple which reddens upon the topmost
  • bough,
  • A-top on the topmost twig,—which the pluckers forgot,
  • somehow,—
  • Forgot it not, nay, but got it not, for none could get it
  • till now.
  • II.
  • Like the wild hyacinth flower which on the hills is found,
  • Which the passing feet of the shepherds for ever tear and
  • wound,
  • Until the purple blossom is trodden into the ground.
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Towards a Work to be called

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Sig. H
  • The changing guests, each in a different mood,
  • Sit at the roadside table and arise:
  • And every life among them in likewise
  • Is a soul's board set daily with new food.
  • What man has bent o'er his son's sleep, to brood
  • How that face shall watch his when cold it lies?—
  • Or thought, as his own mother kissed his eyes,
  • Of what her kiss was when his father wooed?
  • May not this ancient room thou sit'st in dwell
  • 10 In separate living souls for joy or pain?
  • Nay, all its corners may be painted plain
  • Where Heaven shows pictures of some life spent well;
  • And may be stamped, a memory all in vain,
  • Upon the sight of lidless eyes in Hell.
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  • As two whose love, first foolish, widening scope,
  • Knows suddenly, with music high and soft,
  • The Holy of holies; who because they scoff'd
  • Are now amazed with shame, nor dare to cope
  • With the whole truth in words, lest heaven should ope;
  • Yet, at their meetings, laugh not as they laugh'd
  • In speech; nor speak, at length; but sitting oft
  • Together, within hopeless sight of hope
  • For hours are silent:—So it happeneth
  • 10 When Work and Will awake too late, to gaze
  • After their life sailed by, and hold their breath.
  • Ah! who shall dare to search through what sad maze
  • Thenceforth their incommunicable ways
  • Follow the desultory feet of Death?
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  • Was that the landmark? What,—the foolish well
  • Whose wave, low down, I did not stoop to drink,
  • But sat and flung the pebbles from its brink
  • In sport to send its imaged skies pell-mell,
  • (And mine own image, had I noted well!)—
  • Was that my point of turning?—I had thought
  • The stations of my course should loom unsought,
  • As altar-stone or ensigned citadel.
  • But lo! the path is missed, I must go back,
  • 10 And thirst to drink when next I reach the spring
  • Which once I stained, which since may have grown black.
  • Yet though no light be left nor bird now sing
  • As here I turn, I'll thank God, hastening,
  • That the same goal is still on the same track.
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  • The gloom that breathes upon me with these airs
  • Is like the drops which strike the traveller's brow
  • Who knows not, darkling, if they bring him now
  • Fresh storm, or be old rain the covert bears.
  • Ah! bodes this hour some harvest of new tares,
  • Or hath but memory of the day whose plough
  • Sowed hunger once,—the night at length when thou,
  • O prayer found vain, didst fall from out my prayers?
  • How prickly were the growths which yet how smooth,
  • 10 Along the hedgerows of this journey shed,
  • Lie by Time's grace till night and sleep may soothe!
  • Even as the thistledown from pathsides dead
  • Gleaned by a girl in autumns of her youth,
  • Which one new year makes soft her marriage-bed.
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  • This feast-day of the sun, his altar there
  • In the broad west has blazed for vesper-song;
  • And I have loitered in the vale too long
  • And gaze now a belated worshipper.
  • Yet may I not forget that I was 'ware,
  • So journeying, of his face at intervals
  • Transfigured where the fringed horizon falls,—
  • A fiery bush with coruscating hair.
  • And now that I have climbed and won this height,
  • 10 I must tread downward through the sloping shade
  • And travel the bewildered tracks till night.
  • Yet for this hour I still may here be stayed
  • And see the gold air and the silver fade
  • And the last bird fly into the last light.
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( Three Sonnets.)
  • Eat thou and drink; to-morrow thou shalt die.
  • Surely the earth, that's wise being very old,
  • Needs not our help. Then loose me, love, and hold
  • Thy sultry hair up from my face; that I
  • May pour for thee this yellow wine, brim-high,
  • Till round the glass thy fingers glow like gold.
  • We'll hear no hours: thy song, while hours are toll'd,
  • Shall leap, as fountains veil the changing sky.
  • Now kiss, and think that there are really those,
  • 10 My own high-bosomed lady, who increase
  • Vain gold, vain lore, in reach of our true wealth!
  • Eleven long days they toil; upon the twelfth
  • They die not,—never having lived,—but cease;
  • And round their narrow lips the mould falls close.
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  • Watch thou and fear; to-morrow thou shalt die.
  • Or art thou sure thou shalt have time for death?
  • Is not the day which God's word promiseth
  • To come man knows not when? In yonder sky,
  • Now while we speak, the sun sets forth: Can I
  • Or thou assure him of his goal? God's breath
  • Perchance even at this moment quickeneth
  • The air to a flame; till spirits, always nigh
  • Though screened and hid, shall walk the daylight here.
  • 10 And dost thou prate of that which man shall do?
  • Canst thou, who hast but plagues, presume to be
  • Glad in his gladness that comes after thee?
  • Will his strength slay thy worm in Hell? Go to:
  • Cover thy countenance, and watch, and fear.
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  • Think thou and act; to-morrow thou shalt die.
  • Stretching thyself i' the sun upon the shore,
  • Thou say'st: ‘Man's measured path is all gone o'er:
  • Up all his years, steeply, with strain and sigh,
  • Man clomb until he touched the truth; and I,
  • Even I, am he whom it was destined for.’
  • How should this be? Art thou then so much more
  • Than they who sowed, that thou shouldst reap thereby?
  • Nay, come up hither. From this wave-washed mound
  • 10 Unto the horizon-brim look thou with me;
  • Then reach on with thy thought till it be drown'd.
  • Miles and miles distant though the horizon be,
  • And though thy thought sail leagues and leagues beyond,—
  • Still, leagues beyond those leagues, there is more sea.
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  • I said: ‘Nay, pluck not,—let the first fruit be
  • Even as thou sayest, it is sweet and red,
  • But let it ripen still. The tree's bent head
  • Sees in the stream its own fecundity
  • And bides the day of fulness. Shall not we
  • At the sun's hour that day possess the shade,
  • And claim our fruit before its ripeness fade,
  • And eat it from the branch and praise the tree?’
  • I say: ‘Alas! our fruit hath wooed the sun
  • 10 Too long,—'tis fallen and floats adown the stream.
  • Lo, the last clusters! Pluck them every one,
  • And let us sup with summer; ere the gleam
  • Of autumn set the year's pent sorrow free,
  • And the woods wail like echoes from the sea.’
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Sig. I
  • What is the sorriest thing that enters Hell?
  • None of the sins,—but this and that fair deed
  • Which a soul's sin at length could supersede.
  • These yet are virgins, whom death's timely knell
  • Might once have sainted; whom the fiends compel
  • Together now, in snake-bound shuddering sheaves
  • Of anguish, while the scorching bridegroom leaves
  • Their refuse maidenhood abominable.
  • Night sucks them down, the garbage of the pit,
  • 10 Whose names, half entered in the book of Life,
  • Were God's desire at noon. And as their hair
  • And eyes sink last, the Torturer deigns no whit
  • To gaze, but, yearning, waits his worthier wife,
  • The Sin still blithe on earth that sent them there.
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  • The lost days of my life until to-day,
  • What were they, could I see them on the street
  • Lie as they fell? Would they be ears of wheat
  • Sown once for food but trodden into clay?
  • Or golden coins squandered and still to pay?
  • Or drops of blood dabbling the guilty feet?
  • Or such spilt water as in dreams must cheat
  • The throats of men in Hell, who thirst alway?
  • I do not see them here; but after death
  • 10 God knows I know the faces I shall see,
  • Each one a murdered self, with low last breath.
  • ‘I am thyself,—what hast thou done to me?’
  • ‘And I—and I—thyself,’ (lo! each one saith,)
  • ‘And thou thyself to all eternity!’
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  • When first that horse, within whose populous womb
  • The birth was Death, o'ershadowed Troy with fate,
  • Her elders, dubious of its Grecian freight,
  • Brought Helen there to sing the songs of home:
  • She whispered, ‘Friends, I am alone; come, come!’
  • Then, crouched within, Ulysses waxed afraid,
  • And on his comrades' quivering mouths he laid
  • His hands, and held them till the voice was dumb.
  • The same was he who, lashed to his own mast,
  • 10 There where the sea-flowers screen the charnel-caves,
  • Beside the sirens' singing island pass'd,
  • Till sweetness failed along the inveterate waves. . . .
  • Say, soul,—are songs of Death no heaven to thee,
  • Nor shames her lip the cheek of Victory?
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  • Get thee behind me. Even as, heavy-curled,
  • Stooping against the wind, a charioteer
  • Is caught from out his chariot by the hair,
  • So shall Time be; and as the void car, hurled
  • Abroad by reinless steeds, even so the world:
  • Yea, even as chariot-dust upon the air,
  • It shall be sought and not found anywhere.
  • Get thee behind me, Satan. Oft unfurled,
  • Thy perilous wings can beat and break like lath
  • 10 Much mightiness of men to win thee praise.
  • Leave these weak feet to tread in narrow ways.
  • Thou still, upon the broad vine-sheltered path,
  • Mayst wait the turning of the phials of wrath
  • For certain years, for certain months and days.
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  • As when two men have loved a woman well,
  • Each hating each, through Love's and Death's deceit;
  • Since not for either this strait marriage-sheet
  • And the long pauses of this wedding-bell;
  • Yet o'er her grave the night and day dispel
  • At last their feud forlorn, with cold and heat;
  • Nor other than dear friends to death may fleet
  • The two lives left that most of her can tell:—
  • So separate hopes, which in a soul had wooed
  • 10 The one same Peace, strove with each other long,
  • And Peace before their faces perished since:
  • So through that soul, in restless brotherhood,
  • They roam together now, and wind among
  • Its bye-streets, knocking at the dusty inns.
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  • Beholding youth and hope in mockery caught
  • From life; and mocking pulses that remain
  • When the soul's death of bodily death is fain;
  • Honour unknown, and honour known unsought;
  • And penury's sedulous self-torturing thought
  • On gold, whose master therewith buys his bane;
  • And longed-for woman longing all in vain
  • For lonely man with love's desire distraught;
  • And wealth, and strength, and power, and pleasantness,
  • 10 Given unto bodies of whose souls men say,
  • None poor and weak, slavish and foul, as they:—
  • Beholding these things, I behold no less
  • The blushing morn and blushing eve confess
  • The shame that loads the intolerable day.
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  • Around the vase of Life at your slow pace
  • He has not crept, but turned it with his hands,
  • And all its sides already understands.
  • There, girt, one breathes alert for some great race;
  • Whose road runs far by sands and fruitful space;
  • Who laughs, yet through the jolly throng has pass'd;
  • Who weeps, nor stays for weeping; who at last,
  • A youth, stands somewhere crowned, with silent face.
  • And he has filled this vase with wine for blood,
  • 10 With blood for tears, with spice for burning vow,
  • With watered flowers for buried love most fit;
  • And would have cast it shattered to the flood,
  • Yet in Fate's name has kept it whole; which now
  • Stands empty till his ashes fall in it.
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( Two Sonnets.)
  • To-day Death seems to me an infant child
  • Which her worn mother Life upon my knee
  • Has set to grow my friend and play with me;
  • If haply so my heart might be beguil'd
  • To find no terrors in a face so mild,—
  • If haply so my weary heart might be
  • Unto the newborn milky eyes of thee,
  • O Death, before resentment reconcil'd.
  • How long, O Death? And shall thy feet depart
  • 10 Still a young child's with mine, or wilt thou stand
  • Fullgrown the helpful daughter of my heart,
  • What time with thee indeed I reach the strand
  • Of the pale wave which knows thee what thou art,
  • And drink it in the hollow of thy hand?
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  • And thou, O Life, the lady of all bliss,
  • With whom, when our first heart beat full and fast,
  • I wandered till the haunts of men were pass'd,
  • And in fair places found all bowers amiss
  • Till only woods and waves might hear our kiss,
  • While to the winds all thought of Death we cast:—
  • Ah! Life, and must I have from thee at last
  • No smile to greet me and no babe but this?
  • Lo! Love, the child once ours; and Song, whose hair
  • 10 Blew like a flame and blossomed like a wreath;
  • And Art, whose eyes were worlds by God found fair;
  • These o'er the book of Nature mixed their breath
  • With neck-twined arms, as oft we watched them there:
  • And did these die that thou mightst bear me Death?
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Sig. K
  • Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;
  • I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell;
  • Unto thine ear I hold the dead-sea shell
  • Cast up thy Life's foam-fretted feet between;
  • Unto thine eyes the glass where that is seen
  • Which had Life's form and Love's, but by my spell
  • Is now a shaken shadow intolerable,
  • Of ultimate things unuttered the frail screen.
  • Mark me, how still I am! But should there dart
  • 10 One moment through thy soul the soft surprise
  • Of that winged Peace which lulls the breath of sighs,—
  • Then shalt thou see me smile, and turn apart
  • Thy visage to mine ambush at thy heart
  • Sleepless with cold commemorative eyes.
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  • Andromeda, by Perseus saved and wed,
  • Hankered each day to see the Gorgon's head:
  • Till o'er a fount he held it, bade her lean,
  • And mirrored in the wave was safely seen
  • That death she lived by.
  • Let not thine eyes know
  • Any forbidden thing itself, although
  • It once should save as well as kill: but be
  • Its shadow upon life enough for thee.
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  • Consider the sea's listless chime:
  • Time's self it is, made audible,—
  • The murmur of the earth's own shell.
  • Secret continuance sublime
  • Is the sea's end: our sight may pass
  • No furlong further. Since time was,
  • This sound hath told the lapse of time.
  • No stagnance that death wins: it hath
  • The mournfulness of ancient life,
  • 10 Enduring always at dull strife.
  • As the world's heart of rest and wrath,
  • Its painful pulse is in the sands.
  • Last utterly, the whole sky stands,
  • Grey and not known, along its path.
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  • These little firs to-day are things
  • To clasp into a giant's cap,
  • Or fans to suit his lady's lap.
  • From many winters many springs
  • Shall cherish them in strength and sap,
  • Till they be marked upon the map,
  • A wood for the wind's wanderings.
  • All seed is in the sower's hands:
  • And what at first was trained to spread
  • 10 Its shelter for some single head,—
  • Yea, even such fellowship of wands,—
  • May hide the sunset, and the shade
  • Of its great multitude be laid
  • Upon the earth and elder sands.
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  • I plucked a honeysuckle where
  • The hedge on high is quick with thorn,
  • And climbing for the prize, was torn,
  • And fouled my feet in quag-water;
  • And by the thorns and by the wind
  • The blossom that I took was thinn'd,
  • And yet I found it sweet and fair.
  • Thence to a richer growth I came,
  • Where, nursed in mellow intercourse,
  • 10 The honeysuckles sprang by scores,
  • Not harried like my single stem,
  • All virgin lamps of scent and dew.
  • So from my hand that first I threw,
  • Yet plucked not any more of them.
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  • The wind flapped loose, the wind was still,
  • Shaken out dead from tree and hill:
  • I had walked on at the wind's will,—
  • I sat now, for the wind was still.
  • Between my knees my forehead was,—
  • My lips, drawn in, said not Alas!
  • My hair was over in the grass,
  • My naked ears heard the day pass.
  • Mine eyes, wide open, had the run
  • 10Of some ten weeds to fix upon,
  • Among the which, out of the sun,
  • The woodspurge bloomed, three cups in one.
  • From perfect grief there need not be
  • Knowledge or even memory:
  • One thing then learnt remains to me,—
  • The woodspurge has a cup of three.
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  • Between the hands, between the brows,
  • Between the lips of Love-Lily,
  • A spirit is born whose birth endows
  • My blood with fire to burn through me;
  • Who breathes upon my gazing eyes,
  • Who laughs and murmurs in mine ear,
  • At whose least touch my colour flies,
  • And whom my life grows faint to hear.
  • Within the voice, within the heart,
  • 10 Within the mind of Love-Lily,
  • A spirit is born who lifts apart
  • His tremulous wings and looks at me;
  • Who on my mouth his finger lays,
  • And shows, while whispering lutes confer,
  • That Eden of Love's watered ways
  • Whose winds and spirits worship her.
  • Brows, hands, and lips, heart, mind, and voice,
  • Kisses and words of Love-Lily,—
  • Oh! bid me with your joy rejoice
  • 20 Till riotous longing rest in me!
  • Ah! let not hope be still distraught,
  • But find in her its gracious goal,
  • Whose speech Truth knows not from her thought
  • Nor Love her body from her soul.
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  • Peace in her chamber, wheresoe'er
  • It be, a holy place:
  • The thought still brings my soul such grace
  • As morning meadows wear.
  • Whether it still be small and light,
  • A maid's who dreams alone,
  • As from her orchard-gate the moon
  • Its ceiling showed at night:
  • Or whether, in a shadow dense
  • 10 As nuptial hymns invoke,
  • Innocent maidenhood awoke
  • To married innocence:
  • There still the thanks unheard await
  • The unconscious gift bequeathed,
  • And there my soul this hour has breathed
  • An air inviolate.
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Sig. L
  • In a soft-complexioned sky,
  • Fleeting rose and kindling grey,
  • Have you seen Aurora fly
  • At the break of day?
  • So my maiden, so my modest may
  • Blushing cheek and gleaming eye
  • Lifts to look my way.
  • Where the inmost leaf is stirred
  • With the heart-beat of the grove,
  • 10 Have you heard a hidden bird
  • Cast her note above?
  • So my lady, so my lovely love,
  • Echoing Cupid's prompted word,
  • Makes a tune thereof.
  • Have you seen, at heaven's mid-height,
  • In the moon-wrack's ebb and tide,
  • Venus leap forth burning white,
  • Dian pale and hide?
  • So my bright breast-jewel, so my bride,
  • 20 One sweet night, when fear takes flight,
  • Shall leap against my side.
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  • I have been here before,
  • But when or how I cannot tell:
  • I know the grass beyond the door,
  • The sweet keen smell,
  • The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.
  • You have been mine before,—
  • How long ago I may not know:
  • But just when at that swallow's soar
  • Your neck turned so,
  • 10Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.
  • Then, now,—perchance again!....
  • O round mine eyes your tresses shake!
  • Shall we not lie as we have lain
  • Thus for Love's sake,
  • And sleep, and wake, yet never break the chain?
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  • A little while a little love
  • The hour yet bears for thee and me
  • Who have not drawn the veil to see
  • If still our heaven be lit above.
  • Thou merely, at the day's last sigh,
  • Hast felt thy soul prolong the tone;
  • And I have heard the night-wind cry
  • And deemed its speech mine own.
  • A little while a little love
  • 10 The scattering autumn hoards for us
  • Whose bower is not yet ruinous
  • Nor quite unleaved our songless grove.
  • Only across the shaken boughs
  • We hear the flood-tides seek the sea,
  • And deep in both our hearts they rouse
  • One wail for thee and me.
  • A little while a little love
  • May yet be ours who have not said
  • The word it makes our eyes afraid
  • 20To know that each is thinking of.
  • Not yet the end: be our lips dumb
  • In smiles a little season yet:
  • I'll tell thee, when the end is come
  • How we may best forget.
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  • Say, is it day, is it dusk in thy bower,
  • Thou whom I long for, who longest for me?
  • Oh! be it light, be it night, 'tis Love's hour,
  • Love's that is fettered as Love's that is free.
  • Free Love has leaped to that innermost chamber,
  • Oh! the last time, and the hundred before:
  • Fettered Love, motionless, can but remember,
  • Yet something that sighs from him passes the door.
  • What were my prize, could I enter thy bower,
  • 10 This day, to-morrow, at eve or at morn?
  • Large lovely arms and a neck like a tower,
  • Bosom then heaving that now lies forlorn.
  • Deep in warm pillows, (the sun's bed is colder!)
  • Thy sweetness all near me, so distant to-day;
  • My hand round thy neck and thy hand on my shoulder,
  • My mouth to thy mouth as the world melts away.
  • What is it keeps me afar from thy bower,—
  • My spirit, my body, so fain to be there?
  • Waters engulfing or fires that devour?—
  • 20 Earth heaped against me or death in the air?
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  • Nay, but in day-dreams, for terror, for pity,
  • The trees wave their heads with an omen to tell;
  • Nay, but in night-dreams, throughout the dark city,
  • The hours, clashed together, lose count in the bell.
  • Shall I not one day remember thy bower,
  • One day when all days are one day to me?—
  • Thinking, ‘I stirred not, and yet had the power,’—
  • Yearning, ‘Ah God, if again it might be!’
  • Peace, peace! such a small lamp illumes, on this highway,
  • 30 So dimly so few steps in front of my feet,—
  • Yet shows me that her way is parted from my way....
  • Out of sight, beyond light, at what goal shall we meet?
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  • I did not look upon her eyes,
  • (Though scarcely seen, with no surprise,
  • 'Mid many eyes a single look,)
  • Because they should not gaze rebuke,
  • Thenceforth, from stars in sky and brook.
  • I did not take her by the hand,
  • (Though little was to understand
  • From touch of hand all friends might take,)
  • Because it should not prove a flake
  • 10Burnt in my palm to boil and ache.
  • I did not listen to her voice,
  • (Though none had noted, where at choice
  • All might rejoice in listening,)
  • Because no such a thing should cling
  • In the sea-wind at evening.
  • I did not cross her shadow once,
  • (Though from the hollow west the sun's
  • Last shadow runs along so far,)
  • Because in June it should not bar
  • 20My ways, at noon when fevers are.
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  • They told me she was there: but I,
  • Who saw her not, did fear and fly
  • The means brought nigh of seeing her.
  • Thus must this day be bitterer,
  • I felt; yet did not speak nor stir.
  • So nightly shall the crows troop home
  • One less; one less the wailings come
  • From tongues of foam that chafe the sand;
  • One less, from sleep's dumb quaking land,
  • 30The dreams shall at my bed's foot stand.
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  • Along the grass sweet airs are blown
  • Our way this day in Spring.
  • Of all the songs that we have known
  • Now which one shall we sing?
  • Not that, my love, ah no!—
  • Not this, my love? why, so!—
  • Yet both were ours, but hours will come and go.
  • The grove is all a pale frail mist,
  • The new year sucks the sun.
  • 10Of all the kisses that we kissed
  • Now which shall be the one?
  • Not that, my love, ah no!—
  • Not this, my love?—heigh-ho
  • For all the sweets that all the winds can blow!
  • The branches cross above our eyes,
  • The skies are in a net:
  • And what's the thing beneath the skies
  • We two would most forget?
  • Not birth, my love, no, no,—
  • 20 Not death, my love, no, no,—
  • The love once ours, but ours long hours ago.
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  • So it is, my dear.
  • All such things touch secret strings
  • For heavy hearts to hear.
  • So it is, my dear.
  • Very like indeed:
  • Sea and sky, afar, on high,
  • Sand and strewn seaweed,—
  • Very like indeed.
  • But the sea stands spread
  • 10As one wall with the flat skies,
  • Where the lean black craft like flies
  • Seem well-nigh stagnated,
  • Soon to drop off dead.
  • Seemed it so to us
  • When I was thine and thou wast mine,
  • And all these things were thus,
  • But all our world in us?
  • Could we be so now?
  • Not if all beneath heaven's pall
  • 20 Lay dead but I and thou,
  • Could we be so now!
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  • As when desire, long darkling, dawns, and first
  • The mother looks upon the newborn child,
  • Even so my lady stood at gaze and smiled
  • When her soul knew at length the Love it nursed.
  • Born with her life, creature of poignant thirst
  • And exquisite hunger, at her heart Love lay
  • Quickening in darkness, till a voice that day
  • Cried on him, and the bonds of birth were burst.
  • Now, shielded in his wings, our faces yearn
  • 10 Together, as his fullgrown feet now range
  • The grove, and his warm hands our couch prepare:
  • Till to his song our bodiless souls in turn
  • Be born his children, when Death's nuptial change
  • Leaves us for light the halo of his hair.
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  • O thou who at Love's hour ecstatically
  • Unto my lips dost evermore present
  • The body and blood of Love in sacrament;
  • Whom I have neared and felt thy breath to be
  • The inmost incense of his sanctuary;
  • Who without speech hast owned him, and intent
  • Upon his will, thy life with mine hast blent,
  • And murmured o'er the cup, Remember me!—
  • O what from thee the grace, for me the prize,
  • 10 And what to Love the glory,—when the whole
  • Of the deep stair thou tread'st to the dim shoal
  • And weary water of the place of sighs,
  • And there dost work deliverance, as thine eyes
  • Draw up my prisoned spirit to thy soul!
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  • When do I see thee most, beloved one?
  • When in the light the spirits of mine eyes
  • Before thy face, their altar, solemnize
  • The worship of that Love through thee made known
  • Or when in the dusk hours, (we two alone,)
  • Close-kissed and eloquent of still replies
  • Thy twilight-hidden glimmering visage lies,
  • And my soul only sees thy soul its own?
  • O love, my love! if I no more should see
  • 10Thyself, nor on the earth the shadow of thee,
  • Nor image of thine eyes in any spring,—
  • How then should sound upon Life's darkening slope
  • The ground-whirl of the perished leaves of Hope,
  • The wind of Death's imperishable wing?
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  • What smouldering senses in death's sick delay
  • Or seizure of malign vicissitude
  • Can rob this body of honour, or denude
  • This soul of wedding-raiment worn to-day?
  • For lo! even now my lady's lips did play
  • With these my lips such consonant interlude
  • As laurelled Orpheus longed for when he wooed
  • The half-drawn hungering face with that last lay.
  • I was a child beneath her touch,—a man
  • 10 When breast to breast we clung, even I and she,—
  • A spirit when her spirit looked through me,—
  • A god when all our life-breath met to fan
  • Our life-blood, till love's emulous ardours ran,
  • Fire within fire, desire in deity.
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  • At length their long kiss severed, with sweet smart:
  • And as the last slow sudden drops are shed
  • From sparkling eaves when all the storm has fled,
  • So singly flagged the pulses of each heart.
  • Their bosoms sundered, with the opening start
  • Of married flowers to either side outspread
  • From the knit stem; yet still their mouths, burnt red,
  • Moaned to each other where they lay apart.
  • Sleep sank them lower than the tide of dreams,
  • 10 And their dreams watched them sink, and slid away.
  • Slowly their souls swam up again, through gleams
  • Of watered light and dull drowned waifs of day;
  • Till from some wonder of new woods and streams
  • He woke, and wondered more: for there she lay.
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  • To all the spirits of love that wander by
  • Along the love-sown fallowfield of sleep
  • My lady lies apparent; and the deep
  • Calls to the deep; and no man sees but I.
  • The bliss so long afar, at length so nigh,
  • Rests there attained. Methinks proud Love must weep
  • When Fate's one day doth from his harvest reap
  • The sacred hour for which the years did sigh.
  • First touched, the hand now warm beneath my neck
  • 10 Taught memory long to mock desire: and lo!
  • Across my breast the abandoned hair doth flow,
  • Where one shorn tress long stirred the longing ache:
  • And next the heart that trembled for its sake
  • Lies the queen-heart in sovereign overthrow.
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  • Some ladies love the jewels in Love's zone,
  • And gold-tipped darts he hath for painless play
  • In idle scornful hours he flings away;
  • And some that listen to his lute's soft tone
  • Do love to deem the silver praise their own;
  • Some prize his blindfold sight; and there be they
  • Who kissed his wings which brought him yesterday
  • And thank his wings to-day that he is flown.
  • My lady only loves the heart of Love:
  • 10 Therefore Love's heart, my lady, hath for thee
  • His bower of unimagined flower and tree:
  • There kneels he now, and all-anhungered of
  • Thine eyes grey-lit in shadowing hair above,
  • Seals with thy mouth his immortality.
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  • Love brought to us a white-stoled harp-player
  • Even as my lady and I lay all alone;
  • Saying: ‘Behold, this minstrel is unknown;
  • Bid him depart, for I am minstrel here:
  • Only my strains are to my servants dear.’
  • Then said I: ‘Through thy music's passionate tone
  • Even now, Lord Love, I heard this harp make moan,
  • And still methought the note was deep and clear.’
  • Then said my lady: ‘Even as thou art Love,
  • 10 Lo, this is Worship this man hath for me.
  • Thy mastering music walks the sunlit sea:
  • But where wan water rests within the grove
  • And the wan moon is all the light thereof,
  • This harp still makes my name its voluntary.’
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  • O Lord of all compassionate control,
  • O Love! let this my Lady's picture glow
  • Under my hand to praise her name, and show
  • Even of her inner self the perfect whole:
  • That he who seeks her beauty's furthest goal,
  • Beyond the light that the sweet glances throw
  • And refluent wave of the sweet smile, may know
  • The very sky and sea-line of her soul.
  • Lo! it is done. Above the long lithe throat
  • 10 The mouth's mould testifies of voice and kiss,
  • The shadowed eyes remember and foresee.
  • Her face is made her shrine. Let all men note
  • That in all years (O Love, thy gift is this!)
  • They that would look on her must come to me.
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Sig. N
  • Have you not noted, in some family
  • Where two were born of a first marriage-bed,
  • How still they own their fragrant bond, though fed
  • And nursed on the forgotten breast and knee?—
  • How to their father's children they shall be
  • In act and thought of one goodwill; but each
  • Shall for the other have, in silence speech,
  • And in a word complete community?
  • Even so, when first I saw you, seemed it, love,
  • 10 That among souls allied to mine was yet
  • One nearer kindred than birth hinted of.
  • O born with me somewhere that men forget,
  • And though in years of sight and sound unmet,
  • Known for my life's own sister well enough!
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  • I stood where Love in brimming armfuls bore
  • Slight wanton flowers and foolish toys of fruit:
  • And round him ladies thronged in close pursuit,
  • Fingered and lipped and proffered the strange store:
  • And from one hand the petal and the core
  • Savoured of sleep; and cluster and curled shoot
  • Seemed from another hand like shame's salute,—
  • Gifts that I felt my cheek was blushing for.
  • At last Love bade my Lady give the same:
  • 10 And as I looked, the dew was light thereon;
  • And as I took them, at her touch they shone
  • With inmost heaven-hue of the heart of flame,
  • And then Love said: ‘Lo! when the hand is hers,
  • Follies of love are love's high ministers.’
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  • Each hour until we meet is as a bird
  • That wings from far his gradual way along
  • The rustling covert of my soul,—his song
  • Still loudlier trilled through leaves more deeply stirr'd:
  • But at the hour of meeting, a clear word
  • Is every note he sings, in Love's own tongue;
  • Yet, Love, thou know'st the sweet strain suffers wrong,
  • Through our contending kisses oft unheard.
  • What of that hour at last, when for her sake
  • 10 No wing may fly to me nor song may flow;
  • When, wandering round my life unleaved, I know
  • The bloodied feathers scattered in the brake,
  • And think how she, far from me, with like eyes
  • Sees through the untuneful bough the wingless skies?
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  • ‘When that dead face, bowered in the furthest years,
  • Which once was all the life years held for thee,
  • Can now scarce bid the tides of memory
  • Cast on thy soul a little spray of tears,—
  • How canst thou gaze into these eyes of hers
  • Whom now thy heart delights in, and not see
  • Within each orb Love's philtred euphrasy
  • Make them of buried troth remembrancers?’
  • ‘Nay, pitiful Love, nay, loving Pity! Well
  • 10 Thou knowest that in these twain I have confess'd
  • Two very voices of thy summoning bell.
  • Nay, Master, shall not Death make manifest
  • In these the culminant changes which approve
  • The love-moon that must light my soul to Love?’
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  • ‘Thou Ghost,’ I said, ‘and is thy name To-day?—
  • Yesterday's son, with such an abject brow!—
  • And can To-morrow be more pale than thou?’
  • While yet I spoke, the silence answered: ‘Yea,
  • Henceforth our issue is all grieved and grey,
  • And each beforehand makes such poor avow
  • As of old leaves beneath the budding bough
  • Or night-drift that the sundawn shreds away.’
  • Then cried I: ‘Mother of many malisons,
  • 10 O Earth, receive me to thy dusty bed!’
  • But therewithal the tremulous silence said:
  • ‘Lo! Love yet bids thy lady greet thee once:—
  • Yea, twice,—whereby thy life is still the sun's;
  • And thrice,—whereby the shadow of death is dead.’
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  • Girt in dark growths, yet glimmering with one star,
  • O night desirous as the nights of youth!
  • Why should my heart within thy spell, forsooth,
  • Now beat, as the bride's finger-pulses are
  • Quickened within the girdling golden bar?
  • What wings are these that fan my pillow smooth?
  • And why does Sleep, waved back by Joy and Ruth,
  • Tread softly round and gaze at me from far?
  • Nay, night! Would vain Love counterfeit in thee
  • 10 Some shadowy palpitating grove that bears
  • Rest for man's eyes and music for his ears?
  • O lonely night! art thou not known to me,
  • A thicket hung with masks of mockery
  • And watered with the wasteful warmth of tears?
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  • Because our talk was of the cloud-control
  • And moon-track of the journeying face of Fate,
  • Her tremulous kisses faltered at love's gate
  • And her eyes dreamed against a distant goal:
  • But soon, remembering her how brief the whole
  • Of joy, which its own hours annihilate,
  • Her set gaze gathered, thirstier than of late,
  • And as she kissed, her mouth became her soul.
  • Thence in what ways we wandered, and how strove
  • 10 To build with fire-tried vows the piteous home
  • Which memory haunts and whither sleep may roam,—
  • They only know for whom the roof of Love
  • Is the still-seated secret of the grove,
  • Nor spire may rise nor bell be heard therefrom.
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  • What shall be said of this embattled day
  • And armed occupation of this night
  • By all thy foes beleaguered,—now when sight
  • Nor sound denotes the loved one far away?
  • Of the live hours of death what shalt thou say,—
  • As every sense to which she dealt delight
  • Now labours lonely o'er the stark noon-height
  • To reach the sunset's desolate disarray?
  • Stand still, fond fettered wretch! while Memory's art
  • 10 Parades the Past before thy face, and lures
  • Thy spirit to her passionate portraitures:
  • Till the tempestuous tide-gates flung apart
  • Flood with wild will the hollows of thy heart,
  • And thy heart rends thee, and thy body endures.
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Sig. O
  • The mother will not turn, who thinks she hears
  • Her nursling's speech first grow articulate;
  • But breathless with averted eyes elate
  • She sits, with open lips and open ears,
  • That it may call her twice. 'Mid doubts and fears
  • Thus oft my soul has hearkened; till the song,
  • A central moan for days, at length found tongue,
  • And the sweet music welled and the sweet tears.
  • But now, whatever while the soul is fain
  • 10 To list that wonted murmur, as it were
  • The speech-bound sea-shell's low importunate strain;
  • No breath of song,—thy voice alone is there,
  • O bitterly beloved! And all her gain
  • Is but the pang of unpermitted prayer.
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  • There came an image in Life's retinue
  • That had Love's wings and bore his gonfalon:
  • Fair was the web, and nobly wrought thereon,
  • O soul-sequestered face, thy form and hue!
  • Bewildering sounds, such as Spring wakens to,
  • Shook in its folds; and through my heart its power
  • Sped trackless as the immemorable hour
  • When birth's dark portal groaned and all was new.
  • But a veiled woman followed, and she caught
  • 10 The banner round its staff, to furl and cling,—
  • Then plucked a feather from the bearer's wing,
  • And held it to his lips that stirred it not,
  • And said to me, ‘Behold, there is no breath:
  • I and this Love are one, and I am Death.’
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( Four Sonnets.)
  • I sat with Love upon a woodside well,
  • Leaning across the water, I and he;
  • Nor ever did he speak nor looked at me,
  • But touched his lute wherein was audible
  • The certain secret thing he had to tell:
  • Only our mirrored eyes met silently
  • In the low wave; and that sound came to be
  • The passionate voice I knew; and my tears fell.
  • And at their fall, his eyes beneath grew hers;
  • 10And with his foot and with his wing-feathers
  • He swept the spring that watered my heart's drouth.
  • Then the dark ripples spread to waving hair,
  • And as I stooped, her own lips rising there
  • Bubbled with brimming kisses at my mouth.
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  • And now Love sang: but his was such a song,
  • So meshed with half-remembrance hard to free,
  • As souls disused in death's sterility
  • May sing when the new birthday tarries long.
  • And I was made aware of a dumb throng
  • That stood aloof, one form by every tree,
  • All mournful forms, for each was I or she,
  • The shades of those our days that had no tongue.
  • They looked on us, and knew us and were known;
  • 10 While fast together, alive from the abyss,
  • Clung the soul-wrung implacable close kiss;
  • And pity of self through all made broken moan
  • Which said, ‘For once, for once, for once alone!’
  • And still Love sang, and what he sang was this:—
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  • ‘O ye, all ye that walk in Willowwood,
  • That walk with hollow faces burning white;
  • What fathom-depth of soul-struck widowhood,
  • What long, what longer hours, one lifelong night,
  • Ere ye again, who so in vain have wooed
  • Your last hope lost, who so in vain invite
  • Your lips to that their unforgotten food,
  • Ere ye, ere ye again shall see the light!
  • Alas! the bitter banks in Willowwood,
  • 10 With tear-spurge wan, with blood-wort burning red:
  • Alas! if ever such a pillow could
  • Steep deep the soul in sleep till she were dead,—
  • Better all life forget her than this thing,
  • That Willowwood should hold her wandering!’
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  • So sang he: and as meeting rose and rose
  • Together cling through the wind's wellaway
  • Nor change at once, yet near the end of day
  • The leaves drop loosened where the heart-stain glows,—
  • So when the song died did the kiss unclose;
  • And her face fell back drowned, and was as grey
  • As its grey eyes; and if it ever may
  • Meet mine again I know not if Love knows.
  • Only I know that I leaned low and drank
  • 10A long draught from the water where she sank,
  • Her breath and all her tears and all her soul:
  • And as I drank I know I felt Love's face
  • Pressed on my neck with moan of pity and grace,
  • Till both our heads were in his aureole.
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  • The hour which might have been yet might not be,
  • Which man's and woman's heart conceived and bore
  • Yet whereof life was barren,—on what shore
  • Bides it the breaking of Time's weary sea?
  • Bondchild of all consummate joys set free,
  • It somewhere sighs and serves, and mute before
  • The house of Love, hears through the echoing door
  • His hours elect in choral consonancy.
  • But lo! what wedded souls now hand in hand
  • 10Together tread at last the immortal strand
  • With eyes where burning memory lights love home?
  • Lo! how the little outcast hour has turned
  • And leaped to them and in their faces yearned:—
  • ‘I am your child: O parents, ye have come!’
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By Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Mother, is this the darkness of the end,
  • The Shadow of Death? and is that outer sea
  • Infinite imminent Eternity?
  • And does the death-pang by man's seed sustain'd
  • In Time's each instant cause thy face to bend
  • Its silent prayer upon the Son, while he
  • Blesses the dead with his hand silently
  • To his long day which hours no more offend?
  • Mother of grace, the pass is difficult,
  • 10 Keen as these rocks, and the bewildered souls
  • Throng it like echoes, blindly shuddering through.
  • Thy name, O Lord, each spirit's voice extols,
  • Whose peace abides in the dark avenue
  • Amid the bitterness of things occult.
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By Giorgione.

( In the Louvre.)
  • Water, for anguish of the solstice:—nay,
  • But dip the vessel slowly,—nay, but lean
  • And mark how at its verge the wave sighs in
  • Reluctant. Hush! Beyond all depth away
  • The heat lies silent at the brink of day:
  • Now trails the hand upon the viol-string
  • That sobs, and the brown faces cease to sing,
  • Sad with the whole of pleasure. Her eyes stray
  • In sunset; from her mouth the pipe doth creep
  • 10 And leaves it pouting; shadowed here, the grass
  • Is cool against her naked side. Let be:—
  • Do not now speak unto her, lest she weep.
  • Nor name this ever. Be it as it was,—
  • Life touching lips with Immortality.
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Sig. P


By Andrea Mantegna.

( In the Louvre.)
  • Scarcely, I think; yet it indeed may be
  • The meaning reached him, when this music rang
  • Clear through his frame, a sweet possessive pang,
  • And he beheld these rocks and that ridged sea.
  • But I believe that, leaning tow'rds them, he
  • Just felt their hair carried across his face
  • As each girl passed him; nor gave ear to trace
  • How many feet; nor bent assuredly
  • His eyes from the blind fixedness of thought
  • 10 To know the dancers. It is bitter glad
  • Even unto tears. Its meaning filleth it,
  • A secret of the wells of Life: to wit:—
  • The heart's each pulse shall keep the sense it had
  • With all, though the mind's labour run to nought.
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By Ingres.

( Two Sonnets.)
  • A remote sky, prolonged to the sea's brim:
  • One rock-point standing buffeted alone,
  • Vexed at its base with a foul beast unknown,
  • Hell-birth of geomaunt and teraphim:
  • A knight, and a winged creature bearing him,
  • Reared at the rock: a woman fettered there,
  • Leaning into the hollow with loose hair
  • And throat let back and heartsick trail of limb.
  • The sky is harsh, and the sea shrewd and salt:
  • 10 Under his lord the griffin-horse ramps blind
  • With rigid wings and tail. The spear's lithe stem
  • Thrills in the roaring of those jaws: behind,
  • That evil length of body chafes at fault.
  • She doth not hear nor see—she knows of them.
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  • Clench thine eyes now,—'tis the last instant, girl:
  • Draw in thy senses, set thy knees, and take
  • One breath for all: thy life is keen awake,—
  • Thou mayst not swoon. Was that the scattered whirl
  • Of its foam drenched thee?—or the waves that curl
  • And split, bleak spray wherein thy temples ache?
  • Or was it his the champion's blood to flake
  • Thy flesh?—or thine own blood's anointing, girl?
  • Now, silence: for the sea's is such a sound
  • 10 As irks not silence; and except the sea,
  • All now is still. Now the dead thing doth cease
  • To writhe, and drifts. He turns to her: and she,
  • Cast from the jaws of Death, remains there, bound,
  • Again a woman in her nakedness.
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( For a Picture.)
  • This is that blessed Mary, pre-elect
  • God's Virgin. Gone is a great while, and she
  • Dwelt young in Nazareth of Galilee.
  • Unto God's will she brought devout respect,
  • Profound simplicity of intellect,
  • And supreme patience. From her mother's knee
  • Faithful and hopeful; wise in charity;
  • Strong in grave peace; in pity circumspect.
  • So held she through her girlhood; as it were
  • 10 An angel-watered lily, that near God
  • Grows and is quiet. Till, one dawn at home,
  • She woke in her white bed, and had no fear
  • At all,—yet wept till sunshine, and felt awed:
  • Because the fulness of the time was come.
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( For a Picture.)
  • She hath the apple in her hand for thee,
  • Yet almost in her heart would hold it back;
  • She muses, with her eyes upon the track
  • Of that which in thy spirit they can see.
  • Haply, ‘Behold, he is at peace,’ saith she;
  • ‘Alas! the apple for his lips,—the dart
  • That follows its brief sweetness to his heart,—
  • The wandering of his feet perpetually!’
  • A little space her glance is still and coy;
  • 10 But if she give the fruit that works her spell,
  • Those eyes shall flame as for her Phrygian boy.
  • Then shall her bird's strained throat the woe foretell,
  • And her far seas moan as a single shell,
  • And her grove glow with love-lit fires of Troy.
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( For a Picture.)
  • Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
  • (The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
  • That, ere the snake's, her sweet tongue could deceive,
  • And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
  • And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
  • And, subtly of herself contemplative,
  • Draws men to watch the bright net she can weave,
  • Till heart and body and life are in its hold.
  • The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where
  • 10 Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
  • And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
  • Lo! as that youth's eyes burned at thine, so went
  • Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent,
  • And round his heart one strangling golden hair.
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( For a Picture.)
  • Under the arch of Life, where love and death,
  • Terror and mystery, guard her shrine, I saw
  • Beauty enthroned; and though her gaze struck awe,
  • I drew it in as simply as my breath.
  • Hers are the eyes which, over and beneath,
  • The sky and sea bend on thee,—which can draw,
  • By sea or sky or woman, to one law,
  • The allotted bondman of her palm and wreath.
  • This is that Lady Beauty, in whose praise
  • 10 Thy voice and hand shake still,—long known to thee
  • By flying hair and fluttering hem,—the beat
  • Following her daily of thy heart and feet,
  • How passionately and irretrievably,
  • In what fond flight, how many ways and days!
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( For a Picture.)
  • What of the end, Pandora? Was it thine,
  • The deed that set these fiery pinions free?
  • Ah! wherefore did the Olympian consistory
  • In its own likeness make thee half divine?
  • Was it that Juno's brow might stand a sign
  • For ever? and the mien of Pallas be
  • A deadly thing? and that all men might see
  • In Venus' eyes the gaze of Proserpine?
  • What of the end? These beat their wings at will,
  • 10The ill-born things, the good things turned to ill,—
  • Powers of the impassioned hours prohibited.
  • Aye, hug the casket now! Whither they go
  • Thou mayst not dare to think: nor canst thou know
  • If Hope still pent there be alive or dead.
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( For a Design.*)
  • ‘Why wilt thou cast the roses from thine hair?
  • Nay, be thou all a rose,—wreath, lips, and cheek.
  • Nay, not this house,—that banquet-house we seek;
  • See how they kiss and enter; come thou there.
  • This delicate day of love we two will share
  • Till at our ear love's whispering night shall speak.
  • What, sweet one,—hold'st thou still the foolish freak?
  • Nay, when I kiss thy feet they'll leave the stair.’
  • ‘Oh loose me! See'st thou not my Bridegroom's face
  • 10 That draws me to Him? For His feet my kiss,
  • My hair, my tears He craves to-day:—and oh!
  • What words can tell what other day and place
  • Shall see me clasp those blood-stained feet of His?
  • He needs me, calls me, loves me: let me go!’
Transcribed Footnote (page 166):

* In the design Mary has left a festal procession, and is ascending

by a sudden impulse the steps of the house where she sees Christ.

Her lover has followed her and is trying to turn her back.

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Sig. Q

( For a Design.*)
  • Here meet together the prefiguring day
  • And day prefigured. ‘Eating, thou shalt stand,
  • Feet shod, loins girt, thy road-staff in thine hand,
  • With blood-stained door and lintel,’—did God say
  • By Moses' mouth in ages passed away.
  • And now, where this poor household doth comprise
  • At Paschal-Feast two kindred families,—
  • Lo! the slain lamb confronts the Lamb to slay.
  • The pyre is piled. What agony's crown attained,
  • 10 What shadow of death the Boy's fair brow subdues
  • Who holds that blood wherewith the porch is stained
  • By Zachary the priest? John binds the shoes
  • He deemed himself not worthy to unloose;
  • And Mary culls the bitter herbs ordained.
Transcribed Footnote (page 167):

* The scene is in the house-porch, where Christ holds a bowl of

blood from which Zacharias is sprinkling the posts and lintel.

Joseph has brought the lamb and Elizabeth lights the pyre. The

shoes which John fastens and the bitter herbs which Mary is gather-

ing form part of the ritual.

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( Two Sonnets for a Design.*)
  • Rend, rend thine hair, Cassandra: he will go.
  • Yea, rend Thy garments, wring thine hands, and cry
  • From Troy still towered to the unreddened sky.
  • See, all but she that bore thee mock thy woe:—
  • He most whom that fair woman arms, with show
  • Of wrath on her bent brows; for in this place
  • This hour thou bad'st all men in Helen's face
  • The ravished ravishing prize of Death to know.
  • What eyes, what ears hath sweet Andromache,
  • 10 Save for her Hector's form and step; as tear
  • On tear makes salt the warm last kiss he gave?
  • He goes. Cassandra's words beat heavily
  • Like crows above his crest, and at his ear
  • Ring hollow in the shield that shall not save.
Transcribed Footnote (page 168):

* The subject shows Cassandra prophesying among her kindred,

as Hector leaves them for his last battle. They are on the platform

of a fortress, from which the Trojan troops are marching out. Helen

is arming Paris; Priam soothes Hecuba; and Andromache holds

the child to her bosom.

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  • ‘O Hector, gone, gone, gone! Oh Hector, thee
  • Two chariots wait, in Troy long blessed and curs'd;
  • And Grecian spear and Phrygian sand athirst
  • Crave from thy veins the blood of victory.
  • Lo! long upon our hearth the brand had we,
  • Lit for the roof-tree's ruin: and to-day
  • The ground-stone quits the wall,—the wind hath way,—
  • And higher and higher the wings of fire are free.
  • ‘O Paris, Paris! O thou burning brand,
  • 10 Thou beacon of the sea whence Venus rose,
  • Lighting thy race to shipwreck! Even that hand
  • Wherewith she took thine apple let her close
  • Within thy curls at last, and while Troy glows
  • Lift thee her trophy to the sea and land.’
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  • Not that the earth is changing, O my God!
  • Nor that the seasons totter in their walk,—
  • Not that the virulent ill of act and talk
  • Seethes ever as a winepress ever trod,—
  • Not therefore are we certain that the rod
  • Weighs in thine hand to smite the world; though now
  • Beneath thine hand so many nations bow,
  • So many kings:—not therefore, O my God!—
  • But because Man is parcelled out in men
  • 10 Even thus; because, for any wrongful blow,
  • No man not stricken asks, ‘I would be told
  • Why thou dost strike;’ but his heart whispers then,
  • ‘He is he, I am I.’ By this we know
  • That the earth falls asunder, being old.
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  • As he that loves oft looks on the dear form
  • And guesses how it grew to womanhood,
  • And gladly would have watched the beauties bud
  • And the mild fire of precious life wax warm:—
  • So I, long bound within the threefold charm
  • Of Dante's love sublimed to heavenly mood,
  • Had marvelled, touching his Beatitude,
  • How grew such presence from man's shameful swarm.
  • At length within this book I found pourtrayed
  • 10 Newborn that Paradisal Love of his,
  • And simple like a child; with whose clear aid
  • I understood. To such a child as this,
  • Christ, charging well his chosen ones, forbade
  • Offence: ‘for lo! of such my kingdom is.’
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( In Memory of my Father.)
  • And did 'st thou know indeed, when at the font
  • Together with thy name thou gav'st me his,
  • That also on thy son must Beatrice
  • Bend her deep eyes according to her wont,
  • Accepting me to be of those that haunt
  • The vale of magical sweet mysteries
  • Where to the hills her poet's foot-track lies
  • And wisdom's living fountain to his chaunt
  • Trembles in music? This is that steep land
  • 10 Where he that holds his journey stands at gaze
  • Tow'rd sunset, when the clouds like a new height
  • Seem piled to climb. These things I understand:
  • For here, where day still soothes my lifted face,
  • Upon thy head, my father, fell the night.
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  • This sunlight shames November where he grieves
  • In dead red leaves, and will not let him shun
  • The day, though bough with bough be over-run:
  • But with a blessing every glade receives
  • High salutation; while from hillock-eaves
  • The deer gaze calling, dappled white and dun,
  • As if, being foresters of old, the sun
  • Had marked them with the shade of forest-leaves.
  • Here dawn to-day unveiled her magic glass;
  • 10 Here noon now gives the thirst and takes the dew;
  • Till eve bring rest when other good things pass.
  • And here the lost hours the lost hours renew
  • While I still lead my shadow o'er the grass,
  • Nor know, for longing, that which I should do.
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  • Sweet stream-fed glen, why say ‘farewell’ to thee
  • Who far'st so well and find'st for ever smooth
  • The brow of Time where man may read no ruth?
  • Nay, do thou rather say ‘farewell’ to me,
  • Who now fare forth in bitterer fantasy
  • Than when, where other trees might shade and soothe
  • By other streams in fragrant days of youth,
  • The bliss of being sad made melancholy.
  • And yet farewell! For better shalt thou fare
  • 10 When children bathe sweet faces in thy flow
  • And happy lovers blend sweet shadows there
  • In hours to come, than when an hour ago
  • Thine echoes had but one man's sighs to bear
  • And thy trees whispered what he feared to know.
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  • Weary already, weary miles to-night
  • I walked for bed: and so, to get some ease,
  • I dogged the flying moon with similes.
  • And like a wisp she doubled on my sight
  • In ponds; and caught in tree-tops like a kite;
  • And in a globe of film all vapourish
  • Swam full-faced like a silly silver fish;—
  • Last like a bubble shot the welkin's height
  • Where my road turned, and got behind me, and sent
  • 10 My wizened shadow craning round at me,
  • And jeered, ‘So, step the measure,—one two three!’—
  • And if I faced on her, looked innocent.
  • But just at parting, halfway down a dell,
  • She kissed me for goodnight. So you'll not tell.
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Sig. R
  • She fluted with her mouth as when one sips,
  • And gently waved her golden head, inclin'd
  • Outside his cage close to the window-blind;
  • Till her fond bird, with little turns and dips,
  • Piped low to her of sweet companionships.
  • And when he made an end, some seed took she
  • And fed him from her tongue, which rosily
  • Peeped as a piercing bud between her lips.
  • And like a child in Chaucer, on whose tongue
  • 10 The Blessed Mary laid, when he was dead,
  • A grain,—who straightway praised her name in song:
  • Even so, when she, a little lightly red,
  • Now turned on me and laughed, I heard the throng
  • Of inner voices praise her golden head.
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Planted by Wm Shakspeare; felled by the Rev. F. Gastrell.
  • This tree, here fall'n, no common birth or death
  • Shared with its kind. The world's enfranchised son,
  • Who found the trees of Life and Knowledge one,
  • Here set it, frailer than his laurel-wreath.
  • Shall not the wretch whose hand it fell beneath
  • Rank also singly—the supreme unhung?
  • Lo! murdered Turpin pleading, with black tongue,
  • This viler thief's unsuffocated breath!
  • We'll search thy glossary, Shakspeare! whence almost,
  • 10 And whence alone, some name shall be reveal'd
  • For this deaf drudge, to whom no length of ears
  • Sufficed to catch the music of the spheres;
  • Whose soul is carrion now,—too mean to yield
  • Some tailor's ninth allotment of a ghost.
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  • ‘Rivolsimi in quel lato
  • Là onde venìa la voce,
  • E parvemi una luce
  • Che lucea quanto stella:
  • La mia mente era quella.’
Bonaggiunta Urbiciani, (1250.)
Before any knowledge of painting was brought to

Florence, there were already painters in Lucca, and Pisa,

and Arezzo, who feared God and loved the art. The

workmen from Greece, whose trade it was to sell their own

works in Italy and teach Italians to imitate them, had

already found in rivals of the soil a skill that could

forestall their lessons and cheapen their labours, more

years than is supposed before the art came at all into

Florence. The pre-eminence to which Cimabue was raised

at once by his contemporaries, and which he still retains to

a wide extent even in the modern mind, is to be accounted

for, partly by the circumstances under which he arose, and

partly by that extraordinary purpose of fortune born with the

lives of some few, and through which it is not a little thing

for any who went before, if they are even remembered as

the shadows of the coming of such an one, and the voices

which prepared his way in the wilderness. It is thus, almost
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exclusively, that the painters of whom I speak are now

known. They have left little, and but little heed is taken of

that which men hold to have been surpassed; it is gone like

time gone,—a track of dust and dead leaves that merely led

to the fountain.
Nevertheless, of very late years and in very rare in-

stances, some signs of a better understanding have become

manifest. A case in point is that of the triptych and two

cruciform pictures at Dresden, by Chiaro di Messer Bello

dell' Erma, to which the eloquent pamphlet of Dr. Aemmster

has at length succeeded in attracting the students. There

is another still more solemn and beautiful work, now proved

to be by the same hand, in the Pitti gallery at Florence.

It is the one to which my narrative will relate.

This Chiaro dell' Erma was a young man of very

honorable family in Arezzo; where, conceiving art almost

for himself, and loving it deeply, he endeavoured from

early boyhood towards the imitation of any objects offered

in nature. The extreme longing after a visible embodiment

of his thoughts strengthened as his years increased, more

even than his sinews or the blood of his life; until he would

feel faint in sunsets and at the sight of stately persons.

When he had lived nineteen years, he heard of the famous

Giunta Pisano; and, feeling much of admiration, with per-

haps a little of that envy which youth always feels until it

has learned to measure success by time and opportunity, he
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determined that he would seek out Giunta, and, if possible,

become his pupil.
Having arrived in Pisa, he clothed himself in humble

apparel, being unwilling that any other thing than the desire

he had for knowledge should be his plea with the great

painter; and then, leaving his baggage at a house of enter-

tainment, he took his way along the street, asking whom he

met for the lodging of Giunta. It soon chanced that one of

that city, conceiving him to be a stranger and poor, took

him into his house and refreshed him; afterwards directing

him on his way.
When he was brought to speech of Giunta, he said

merely that he was a student, and that nothing in the world

was so much at his heart as to become that which he had

heard told of him with whom he was speaking. He was

received with courtesy and consideration, and soon stood

among the works of the famous artist. But the forms he saw

there were lifeless and incomplete; and a sudden exultation

possessed him as he said within himself, ‘I am the master

of this man.’ The blood came at first into his face, but the

next moment he was quite pale and fell to trembling. He

was able, however to conceal his emotion, speaking very

little to Giunta, but when he took his leave, thanking him

After this, Chiaro's first resolve was that he would work

out thoroughly some one of his thoughts, and let the world

know him. But the lesson which he had now learned, of

how small a greatness might win fame, and how little there

was to strive against, served to make him torpid, and ren-
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dered his exertions less continual. Also Pisa was a larger

and more luxurious city than Arezzo; and when, in his

walks, he saw the great gardens laid out for pleasure, and

the beautiful women who passed to and fro, and heard the

music that was in the groves of the city at evening, he was

taken with wonder that he had never claimed his share of

the inheritance of those years in which his youth was cast.

And women loved Chiaro; for, in despite of the burthen of

study, he was well-favoured and very manly in his walking;

and, seeing his face in front, there was a glory upon it, as

upon the face of one who feels a light round his hair.
So he put thought from him, and partook of his life.

But, one night, being in a certain company of ladies, a

gentleman that was there with him began to speak of the

paintings of a youth named Bonaventura, which he had seen

in Lucca; adding that Giunta Pisano might now look for a

rival. When Chiaro heard this, the lamps shook before

him, and the music beat in his ears. He rose up, alleging

a sudden sickness, and went out of that house with his teeth

set. And, being again within his room, he wrote up over

the door the name of Bonaventura, that it might stop him

when he would go out.
He now took to work diligently, not returning to Arezzo,

but remaining in Pisa, that no day more might be lost; only

living entirely to himself. Sometimes, after nightfall, he

would walk abroad in the most solitary places he could find;

hardly feeling the ground under him, because of the thoughts

of the day which held him in fever.
The lodging Chiaro had chosen was in a house that
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looked upon gardens fast by the Church of San Petronio. It

was here, and at this time, that he painted the Dresden

pictures; as also, in all likelihood, the one—inferior in

merit, but certainly his—which is now at Munich. For the

most part he was calm and regular in his manner of study;

though often he would remain at work through the whole of

a day, not resting once so long as the light lasted; flushed,

and with the hair from his face. Or, at times, when he

could not paint, he would sit for hours in thought of all the

greatness the world had known from of old; until he was

weak with yearning, like one who gazes upon a path of

He continued in this patient endeavour for about three

years, at the end of which his name was spoken throughout

all Tuscany. As his fame waxed, he began to be employed,

besides easel-pictures, upon wall-paintings; but I believe

that no traces remain to us of any of these latter. He

is said to have painted in the Duomo; and D'Agincourt

mentions having seen some portions of a picture by him

which originally had its place above the high altar in the

Church of the Certosa; but which, at the time he saw it,

being very dilapidated, had been hewn out of the wall, and

was preserved in the stores of the convent. Before the

period of Dr. Aemmster's researches, however, it had been

entirely destroyed.
Chiaro was now famous. It was for the race of fame

that he had girded up his loins; and he had not paused

until fame was reached; yet now, in taking breath, he found

that the weight was still at his heart. The years of his
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labour had fallen from him, and his life was still in its first

painful desire.
With all that Chiaro had done during these three years,

and even before with the studies of his early youth, there

had always been a feeling of worship and service. It was

the peace-offering that he made to God and to his own soul

for the eager selfishness of his aim. There was earth, indeed,

upon the hem of his raiment; but this was of the heaven,

heavenly. He had seasons when he could endure to think

of no other feature of his hope than this. Sometimes it had

even seemed to him to behold that day when his mistress

—his mystical lady (now hardly in her ninth year, but whose

smile at meeting had already lighted on his soul,)—even

she, his own gracious Italian Art— should pass, through the

sun that never sets, into the shadow of the tree of life,

and be seen of God and found good: and then it had

seemed to him that he, with many who, since his coming,

had joined the band of whom he was one (for, in his dream,

the body he had worn on earth had been dead an hundred

years), were permitted to gather round the blessed maiden,

and to worship with her through all ages and ages of ages,

saying, Holy, holy, holy. This thing he had seen with the

eyes of his spirit; and in this thing had trusted, believing

that it would surely come to pass.
But now, (being at length led to inquire closely into

himself,) even as, in the pursuit of fame, the unrest abiding

after attainment had proved to him that he had misinterpreted

the craving of his own spirit—so also, now that he would

willingly have fallen back on devotion, he became aware
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that much of that reverence which he had mistaken for faith

had been no more than the worship of beauty. Therefore,

after certain days passed in perplexity, Chiaro said within

himself, ‘My life and my will are yet before me: I will

take another aim to my life.’
From that moment Chiaro set a watch on his soul, and

put his hand to no other works but only to such as had for

their end the presentment of some moral greatness that

should influence the beholder: and to this end, he multiplied

abstractions, and forgot the beauty and passion of the world.

So the people ceased to throng about his pictures as hereto-

fore; and, when they were carried through town and town

to their destination, they were no longer delayed by the

crowds eager to gaze and admire: and no prayers or offer-

ings were brought to them on their path, as to his Madonnas,

and his Saints, and his Holy Children, wrought for the sake

of the life he saw in the faces that he loved. Only the critical

audience remained to him; and these, in default of more

worthy matter, would have turned their scrutiny on a puppet

or a mantle. Meanwhile, he had no more of fever upon

him; but was calm and pale each day in all that he did

and in his goings in and out. The works he produced

at this time have perished—in all likelihood, not unjustly.

It is said (and we may easily believe it), that, though

more laboured than his former pictures, they were cold

and unemphatic; bearing marked out upon them the

measure of that boundary to which they were made to

And the weight was still close at Chiaro's heart: but he
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held in his breath, never resting (for he was afraid), and

would not know it.
Now it happened, within these days, that there fell a

great feast in Pisa, for holy matters: and each man left his

occupation; and all the guilds and companies of the city

were got together for games and rejoicings. And there were

scarcely any that stayed in the houses, except ladies who

lay or sat along their balconies between open windows which

let the breeze beat through the rooms and over the spread

tables from end to end. And the golden cloths that their

arms lay upon drew all eyes upward to see their beauty;

and the day was long; and every hour of the day was bright

with the sun.
So Chiaro's model, when he awoke that morning on the

hot pavement of the Piazza Nunziata, and saw the hurry of

people that passed him, got up and went along with them;

and Chiaro waited for him in vain.
For the whole of that morning, the music was in Chiaro's

room from the Church close at hand; and he could hear

the sounds that the crowd made in the streets; hushed only

at long intervals while the processions for the feast-day

chanted in going under his windows. Also, more than once,

there was a high clamour from the meeting of factious

persons: for the ladies of both leagues were looking down;

and he who encountered his enemy could not choose but

draw upon him. Chiaro waited a long time idle; and then

knew that his model was gone elsewhere. When at his

work, he was blind and deaf to all else; but he feared

sloth: for then his stealthy thoughts would begin to beat
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round and round him, seeking a point for attack. He now

rose, therefore, and went to the window. It was within a

short space of noon; and underneath him a throng of people

was coming out through the porch of San Petronio.
The two greatest houses of the feud in Pisa had filled

the church for that mass. The first to leave had been the

Gherghiotti; who, stopping on the threshold, had fallen

back in ranks along each side of the archway: so that now,

in passing outward, the Marotoli had to walk between two

files of men whom they hated, and whose fathers had hated

theirs. All the chiefs were there and their whole adherence;

and each knew the name of each. Every man of the Maro-

toli, as he came forth and saw his foes, laid back his hood

and gazed about him, to show the badge upon the close cap

that held his hair. And of the Gherghiotti there were some

who tightened their girdles; and some shrilled and threw

up their wrists scornfully, as who flies a falcon; for that was

the crest of their house.
On the walls within the entry were a number of tall

narrow pictures, presenting a moral allegory of Peace, which

Chiaro had painted that year for the Church. The Gher-

ghiotti stood with their backs to these frescoes; and among

them Golzo Ninuccio, the youngest noble of the faction,

called by the people Golaghiotta, for his debased life. This

youth had remained for some while talking listlessly to his

fellows, though with his sleepy sunken eyes fixed on them

who passed: but now, seeing that no man jostled another,

he drew the long silver shoe off his foot and struck the dust

out of it on the cloak of him who was going by, asking him
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how far the tides rose at Viderza. And he said so because

it was three months since, at that place, the Gherghiotti had

beaten the Marotoli to the sands, and held them there while

the sea came in; whereby many had been drowned. And,

when he had spoken, at once the whole archway was daz-

zling with the light of confused swords; and they who had

left turned back; and they who were still behind made

haste to come forth: and there was so much blood cast up

the walls on a sudden, that it ran in long streams down

Chiaro's paintings.
Chiaro turned himself from the window; for the light

felt dry between his lids, and he could not look. He sat

down, and heard the noise of contention driven out of the

church-porch and a great way through the streets; and soon

there was a deep murmur that heaved and waxed from the

other side of the city, where those of both parties were

gathering to join in the tumult.
Chiaro sat with his face in his open hands. Once again

he had wished to set his foot on a place that looked green

and fertile; and once again it seemed to him that the thin

rank mask was about to spread away, and that this time the

chill of the water must leave leprosy in his flesh. The light

still swam in his head, and bewildered him at first; but

when he knew his thoughts, they were these:—
‘Fame failed me: faith failed me: and now this also,—

the hope that I nourished in this my generation of men,—

shall pass from me, and leave my feet and my hands

groping. Yet because of this are my feet become slow and

my hands thin. I am as one who, through the whole night,
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Sig. S

holding his way diligently, hath smitten the steel unto the

flint, to lead some whom he knew darkling; who hath kept

his eyes always on the sparks that himself made, lest they

should fail; and who, towards dawn, turning to bid them

that he had guided God speed, sees the wet grass untrodden

except of his own feet. I am as the last hour of the day,

whose chimes are a perfect number; whom the next fol-

loweth not, nor light ensueth from him; but in the same

darkness is the old order begun afresh. Men say, “This is

not God nor man; he is not as we are, neither above us:

let him sit beneath us, for we are many.” Where I write

Peace, in that spot is the drawing of swords, and there men's

footprints are red. When I would sow, another harvest is

ripe. Nay, it is much worse with me than thus much. Am

I not as a cloth drawn before the light, that the looker may

not be blinded; but which sheweth thereby the grain of its

own coarseness; so that the light seems defiled, and men

say, “We will not walk by it.” Wherefore through me they

shall be doubly accursed, seeing that through me they reject

the light. May one be a devil and not know it?’
As Chiaro was in these thoughts, the fever encroached

slowly on his veins, till he could sit no longer and would

have risen; but suddenly he found awe within him, and

held his head bowed, without stirring. The warmth of the

air was not shaken; but there seemed a pulse in the light,

and a living freshness, like rain. The silence was a painful

music, that made the blood ache in his temples; and he

lifted his face and his deep eyes.
A woman was present in his room, clad to the hands
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and feet with a green and grey raiment, fashioned to that

time. It seemed that the first thoughts he had ever known

were given him as at first from her eyes, and he knew her

hair to be the golden veil through which he beheld his

dreams. Though her hands were joined, her face was not

lifted, but set forward; and though the gaze was austere, yet

her mouth was supreme in gentleness. And as he looked,

Chiaro's spirit appeared abashed of its own intimate

presence, and his lips shook with the thrill of tears; it

seemed such a bitter while till the spirit might be indeed

She did not move closer towards him, but he felt her to

be as much with him as his breath. He was like one who,

scaling a great steepness, hears his own voice echoed in

some place much higher than he can see, and the name of

which is not known to him. As the woman stood, her

speech was with Chiaro: not, as it were, from her mouth or

in his ears; but distinctly between them.
‘I am an image, Chiaro, of thine own soul within thee.

See me, and know me as I am. Thou sayest that fame has

failed thee, and faith failed thee; but because at least thou

hast not laid thy life unto riches, therefore, though thus late,

I am suffered to come into thy knowledge. Fame sufficed

not, for that thou didst seek fame: seek thine own con-

science (not thy mind's conscience, but thine heart's), and

all shall approve and suffice. For Fame, in noble soils, is a

fruit of the Spring: but not therefore should it be said:

“Lo! my garden that I planted is barren: the crocus is

here, but the lily is dead in the dry ground, and shall not
Image of page 192 page: 192

lift the earth that covers it: therefore I will fling my garden

together, and give it unto the builders.” Take heed rather

that thou trouble not the wise secret earth; for in the mould

that thou throwest up shall the first tender growth lie to

waste; which else had been made strong in its season.

Yea, and even if the year fall past in all its months, and the

soil be indeed, to thee, peevish and incapable, and though

thou indeed gather all thy harvest, and it suffice for others,

and thou remain vexed with emptiness; and others drink of

thy streams, and the drouth rasp thy throat;—let it be

enough that these have found the feast good, and thanked

the giver: remembering that, when the winter is striven

through, there is another year, whose wind is meek, and

whose sun fulfilleth all.’
While he heard, Chiaro went slowly on his knees. It

was not to her that spoke, for the speech seemed within

him and his own. The air brooded in sunshine, and though

the turmoil was great outside, the air within was at peace.

But when he looked in her eyes, he wept. And she came

to him, and cast her hair over him, and took her hands

about his forehead, and spoke again:—
‘Thou hast said,’ she continued, gently, ‘that faith failed

thee. This cannot be. Either thou hadst it not, or thou

hast it. But who bade thee strike the point betwixt love

and faith? Wouldst thou sift the warm breeze from the

sun that quickens it? Who bade thee turn upon God and

say: “Behold, my offering is of earth, and not worthy: thy

fire comes not upon it; therefore, though I slay not my

brother whom thou acceptest, I will depart before thou
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smite me.” Why shouldst thou rise up and tell God He is

not content? Had He, of his warrant, certified so to thee?

Be not nice to seek out division; but possess thy love in

sufficiency: assuredly this is faith, for the heart must believe

first. What He hath set in thine heart to do, that do thou;

and even though thou do it without thought of Him, it shall

be well done; it is this sacrifice that He asketh of thee, and

his flame is upon it for a sign. Think not of Him; but

of his love and thy love. For God is no morbid exactor:

He hath no hand to bow beneath, nor a foot, that thou

shouldst kiss it.’
And Chiaro held silence, and wept into her hair which

covered his face; and the salt tears that he shed ran through

her hair upon his lips; and he tasted the bitterness of

Then the fair woman, that was his soul, spoke again to

him, saying:—
‘And for this thy last purpose, and for those unprofit-

able truths of thy teaching,—thine heart hath already put

them away, and it needs not that I lay my bidding upon

thee. How is it that thou, a man, wouldst say coldly to the

mind what God hath said to the heart warmly? Thy will

was honest and wholesome; but look well lest this also be

folly,—to say, “I, in doing this, do strengthen God among

men.” When at any time hath He cried unto thee, saying,

“My son, lend Me thy shoulder, for I fall?” Deemest thou

that the men who enter God's temple in malice, to the

provoking of blood, and neither for his love nor for his

wrath will abate their purpose,— shall afterwards stand with
Image of page 194 page: 194

thee in the porch, midway between Him and themselves, to

give ear unto thy thin voice, which merely the fall of their

visors can drown, and to see thy hands, stretched feebly,

tremble among their swords? Give thou to God no more

than He asketh of thee; but to man also, that which is man's.

In all that thou doest, work from thine own heart, simply; for

his heart is as thine, when thine is wise and humble; and

he shall have understanding of thee. One drop of rain is

as another, and the sun's prism in all: and shalt thou not

be as he, whose lives are the breath of One? Only by

making thyself his equal can he learn to hold communion

with thee, and at last own thee above him. Not till thou

lean over the water shalt thou see thine image therein:

stand erect, and it shall slope from thy feet and be lost.

Know that there is but this means whereby thou mayest

serve God with man:—Set thine hand and thy soul to

serve man with God.’
And when she that spoke had said these words within

Chiaro's spirit, she left his side quietly, and stood up as he

had first seen her: with her fingers laid together, and her

eyes steadfast, and with the breadth of her long dress

covering her feet on the floor. And, speaking again, she

‘Chiaro, servant of God, take now thine Art unto thee,

and paint me thus, as I am, to know me: weak, as I am,

and in the weeds of this time; only with eyes which seek

out labour, and with a faith, not learned, yet jealous of

prayer. Do this; so shall thy soul stand before thee always,

and perplex thee no more.’
Image of page 195 page: 195
And Chiaro did as she bade him. While he worked,

his face grew solemn with knowledge: and before the

shadows had turned, his work was done. Having finished,

he lay back where he sat, and was asleep immediately: for

the growth of that strong sunset was heavy about him, and

he felt weak and haggard; like one just come out of a dusk,

hollow country, bewildered with echoes, where he had lost

himself, and who has not slept for many days and nights.

And when she saw him lie back, the beautiful woman came

to him, and sat at his head, gazing, and quieted his sleep

with her voice.
The tumult of the factions had endured all that day

through all Pisa, though Chiaro had not heard it: and the

last service of that feast was a mass sung at midnight from

the windows of all the churches for the many dead who lay

about the city, and who had to be buried before morning,

because of the extreme heats.

In the spring of 1847, I was at Florence. Such as were

there at the same time with myself—those, at least, to

whom Art is something,— will certainly recollect how many

rooms of the Pitti Gallery were closed through that season,

in order that some of the pictures they contained might be

examined and repaired without the necessity of removal.

The hall, the staircases, and the vast central suite of apart-

ments, were the only accessible portions; and in these such

paintings as they could admit from the sealed penetralia
Image of page 196 page: 196
Note: Typo: in paragraph 38, the word “the” is repeated unnecessarily in the phrase “mirrored in the the reclaimed surface”

were profanely huddled together, without respect of dates,

schools, or persons.
I fear that, through this interdict, I may have missed

seeing many of the best pictures. I do not mean only the

most talked of: for these, as they were restored, generally

found their way somehow into the open rooms, owing to the

clamours raised by the students; and I remember how old

Ercoli's, the curator's, spectacles used to be mirrored in the

the reclaimed surface, as he leaned mysteriously over these

works with some of the visitors, to scrutinize and elucidate.
One picture that I saw that spring, I shall not easily

forget. It was among those, I believe, brought from the

other rooms, and had been hung, obviously out of all

chronology, immediately beneath that head by Raphael so

long known as the ‘Berrettino,’ and now said to be the

portrait of Cecco Ciulli.
The picture I speak of is a small one, and represents

merely the figure of a woman, clad to the hands and feet

with a green and grey raiment, chaste and early in its

fashion, but exceedingly simple. She is standing: her

hands are held together lightly, and her eyes set earnestly

The face and hands in this picture, though wrought

with great delicacy, had the appearance of being painted

at once, in a single sitting: the drapery is unfinished. As

soon as I saw the figure, it drew an awe upon me, like

water in shadow. I shall not attempt to describe it more

than I have already done; for the most absorbing wonder

of it was its literality. You knew that figure, when painted,
Image of page 197 page: 197
had been seen; yet it was not a thing to be seen of men.

This language will appear ridiculous to such as have never

looked on the work; and it may be even to some among

those who have. On examining it closely, I perceived in

one corner of the canvass the words Manus Animam pinxit,

and the date 1239.
I turned to my Catalogue, but that was useless, for the

pictures were all displaced. I then stepped up to the

Cavaliere Ercoli, who was in the room at the moment,

and asked him regarding the subject and authorship of the

painting. He treated the matter, I thought, somewhat

slightingly, and said that he could show me the reference

in the Catalogue, which he had compiled. This, when

found, was not of much value, as it merely said, ‘Schizzo

d'autore incerto,’ adding the inscription.* I could willingly

have prolonged my inquiry, in the hope that it might some-

how lead to some result; but I had disturbed the curator

from certain yards of Guido, and he was not communicative.

I went back therefore, and stood before the picture till it

grew dusk.
The next day I was there again; but this time a circle

of students was round the spot, all copying the ‘Berrettino.’

I contrived, however, to find a place whence I could see my
Transcribed Footnote (page 197):

* I should here say, that in the latest catalogues, (owing, as in

cases before mentioned, to the zeal and enthusiasm of Dr. Aemmster);

this, and several other pictures, have been more competently entered.

The work in question is now placed in the Sala Sessagona, a room

I did not see—under the number 161. It is described as ‘Figura

mistica di Chiaro dell' Erma,’ and there is a brief notice of the

author appended.

Image of page 198 page: 198
picture, and where I seemed to be in nobody's way. For

some minutes I remained undisturbed; and then I heard,

in an English voice: ‘Might I beg of you, sir, to stand a

little more to this side, as you interrupt my view.’
I felt vexed, for, standing where he asked me, a glare

struck on the picture from the windows, and I could not see

it. However, the request was reasonably made, and from a

countryman; so I complied, and turning away, stood by

his easel. I knew it was not worth while; yet I referred in

some way to the work underneath the one he was copying.

He did not laugh, but he smiled as we do in England:

Very odd, is it not?’ said he.
The other students near us were all continental; and

seeing an Englishman select an Englishman to speak with,

conceived, I suppose, that he could understand no language

but his own. They had evidently been noticing the interest

which the little picture appeared to excite in me.
One of them, an Italian, said something to another who

stood next to him. He spoke with a Genoese accent, and

I lost the sense in the villanous dialect. ‘Che so?’ re-

plied the other, lifting his eyebrows towards the figure;

‘roba mistica: 'st' Inglesi son matti sul misticismo: somiglia

alle nebbie di là. Li fa pensare alla patria,
  • “e intenerisce il core
  • Lo di ch' han detto ai dolci amici adio.”’
‘La notte, vuoi dire,’ said a third.
There was a general laugh. My compatriot was evi-

dently a novice in the language, and did not take in what

was said. I remained silent, being amused.
Image of page 199 page: 199
‘Et toi donc?’ said he who had quoted Dante, turning

to a student, whose birthplace was unmistakable, even had

he been addressed in any other language: ‘que dis-tu de ce

genre-là ?’
‘Moi?’ returned the Frenchman, standing back from his

easel, and looking at me and at the figure, quite politely,

though with an evident reservation: ‘Je dis, mon cher, que

c'est une spécialité dont je me fiche pas mal. Je tiens que

quand on ne comprend pas une chose, c'est qu'elle ne

signifie rien.’
My reader thinks possibly that the French student was

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