[Rossetti, Dante Gabriel 1828-18
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/ Poems. (Privately printed). /
London, Strangeways and Wald
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/ 1869] / Proofs of Second Trial / book / Between Oct. 14 and Nov. / 1869.
Editorial Description: This is the Princeton University Library's cover-sheet to these proofs.
Note: This page contains hand-written editorial notes which are obscured in the
Note: Pages 1-26 not in these proofs.
Manuscript Addition: p. 14 repeated
Editorial Description: Pencil markings in upper right corner.
Note: An X is marked in the upper left corner of this page.
- 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?
- 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 28):
* During the excavations, the Tiyari workmen held their ser-
the shadow of the great bulls. (
Editorial Description: The number 16 has been added to the top right margin.
- 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?
- 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 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!
Editorial Description: The number 19 has been added to the top margin in manuscript.
- . . . 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,
Note: Pages 32-64 not in these proofs.
- 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 fail;
- There's morning air at Haye-la-Serre,
20 The watching maids look pale.
- 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.
- ‘For many a weary month to come
30 My lord keeps house with me,
- And sighing summer must lie cold
- In winter's company.
- ‘And many an hour I'll pass thee by
- And see thee and be seen;
- Yet not a glance must tell by chance
- How sweet these hours have been.
- ‘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.’
- The morrow's come and 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
- ‘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.’
- 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!’
- 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 dancers' feet
- Than fall her cards on the bright board
- As 'twere an heart that beat.
- Her fingers let them softly through,
20 Smooth polished silent things;
- And each one as it falls reflects
- In swift light-shadowings,
- Blood-red 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
- More, having 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;
- 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.
Transcribed Footnote (page 72):
* This little poem, written in 1847, was printed in a periodical
the outset of 1850, a month or two before the appearance of
,’ with which the metre (to be met with in old
writers) is now identified.
- She fell asleep on Christmas Eve:
- At length the long ungranted shade
- Of weary eyelide overweigh'd
- The pain nought else might yet relieve.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 spoke 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!’
‘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.’
- 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 76):
* A Triptych. In the centre, the Adoration: at the two sides,
as shepherd and David as king.
- 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?
- (From Love he won such dule and teen!)
- 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,—
- 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?
- 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,
- 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,
- John of Tours is back with peace,
- But he comes home ill at ease.
- ‘Good-morrow, mother.’
- 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 crying that I hear?’
- ‘Daughter, the children are awake,
- Crying with their teeth that ache.’
- ‘Tell me though, my mother my dear,
- What's the knocking that I hear?’
- ‘Daughter, it's the carpenter
- Mending planks upon the stair.’
- ‘Tell me too, my mother my dear,
20What's the singing that I hear?’
- ‘Daughter, it's the priests in rows
- Going round about our house.’
- ‘Tell me then, my mother my dear
- What's the dress that I should wear?’
- ‘Daughter, any reds or blues,
- But the black is most in use.’
- ‘Nay, but say, my mother my dear,
- Why do you fall weeping here?’
- ‘Oh! the truth must be said,—
30It'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,
- For you must shut the baby there.’
- 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.’
- ‘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! let him lose or win,
- He hath it still complete.’
- Like the sweet apple which reddens upon the topmost
- A-top on the topmost twig,—which the pluckers forgot,
- Forgot it not, nay, but got it not, for none could get it
- till now.
- Like the wild hyacinth flower which on the hills is found,
- Which the passing feet of the shepherds for ever tear and
- Until the purple blossom is trodden into the ground.
- 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.
- 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?
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.
- 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.
Note: Pages 91-94 not in these proofs.
- 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.’
- 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.
- 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!’
- 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?
- 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.
- As when two men have loved a woman well,
- Each hating each, through Love's and Death's deceit;
- Since not for either this stark 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 quiet, which is death's,—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.
- Listen alone beside the sea,
- Listen alone among the woods;
- Those voices of twin solitudes
- Shall have one sound alike to thee:
- Hark where the murmurs of thronged men
20 Surge and sink back and surge again,—
- Still the one voice of wave and tree.
- Gather a shell from the strown beach
- And listen at its lips: they sigh
- The same desire and mystery,
- The echo of the whole sea's speech.
- And all mankind is thus at heart
- Not anything but what thou art:
- And Earth, Sea, Man, are all in each.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 those few, out of the sun,
- The woodspurge flowered, three cups in one.
- From perfect grief there need not be
- Wisdom or even memory:
- One thing then learnt remains to me,—
- The woodspurge has a cup of three.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- Nay, but my heart when it flies to thy bower,
10 What does it find there that knows it again?
- There it must droop like a shower-beaten flower,
- Red at the rent core and dark with the rain.
- Ah! yet what shelter is still shed above it,—
- What waters still image its leaves torn apart?
- Thy soul is the shade that clings round it to love it,
- And tears are its mirror deep down in thy heart.
- What were my prize, could I enter thy bower,
- This day, to-morrow, at eve or at morn?
- Large lovely arms and a neck like a tower,
20 Bosom then heaving that now lies forlorn.
- Kindled with love-breath, (the sun's kiss 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?—
- Earth heaped against me or death in the air?
- Nay, but in day-dreams, for terror, for pity,
30 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,
- So dimly so few steps in front of my feet,—
- Yet shows me that her way is parted from my way. . . .
40 Out of sight, beyond light, at what goal may we meet?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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 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.
- 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!
- 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?
- 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.
- 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,
- Fawned on 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.
- 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 control doth from his harvest reap
- The sacred hour for which the years did sigh.
- First touched, the hand now warm around 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.
- 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.
- One flame-winged brought a white-winged harp-player
- Even where 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 Love's dear ones dear.’
- Then said I: ‘'Mid thine hautboy's rapturous tone
- Unto my lady still this harp makes moan,
- And still she deems the cadence deep and clear.’
- Then said my lady: ‘Thou art Passion of Love,
10 And this Love's Worship: both he plights to me.
- Thy mastering music walks the sunlit sea:
- But where wan water trembles in the grove
- And the wan moon is all the light thereof,
- This harp still makes my name its voluntary.’
- 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.
- Have you not noted, in some family
- Where two were born of a first marriage-bed,
- How still they own their gracious 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 life hinted of.
- O born with me somewhere that men forget,
- And though in years of sight and sound unmet,
- Known for my soul's birth-partner well enough!
- I stood where Love in brimming armfuls bore
- Slight wanton flowers and foolish toys of fruit:
- And round him ladies thronged in warm 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 true ministers.’
- 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?
- ‘When that dead face, bowered in the
- 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?’
- ‘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.’
- 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 deep-leaved! And would Love feign 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?
- 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.
- 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 these thy vanquished hours 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.
- 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.
- 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 make 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 161):
* The subject shows Cassandra prophesying among her kindred,
Hector leaves them for his last battle. They are on the
of a fortress, from which the Trojan troops are
marching out. Helen
is arming Paris; Priam soothes Hecuba; and
the child to her bosom.
- ‘O Hector, gone, gone, gone! O
- Two chariots wait, in Troy long bless'd 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.’
- And didst thou know indeed, when at the font
- Together with thy name thou gav'st me his,
- That also on thy son must Beatrice
- Decline her 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,
- On thy bowed head, my father, fell the night.
- Give honour unto Luke Evangelist;
- For he it was (the aged legends say)
- Who first taught Art to fold her hands and pray.
- Scarcely at once she dared to rend the mist
- Of devious symbols: but soon having wist
- How sky-breadth and field-silence and this day
- Are symbols also in some deeper way,
- She looked through these to God and was God's priest.
- And if, past noon, her toil began to irk,
10And she sought talismans, and turned in vain
- To soulless self-reflections of man's skill,—
- Yet now, in this the twilight, she might still
- Kneel in the latter grass to pray again,
- Ere the night cometh and she may not work.
- 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.
- 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 erst was mine where other shade might soothe
- By other streams, what while in fragrant 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.
- 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! Sheppard, 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.
- Our Lombard country-girls along the coast
- Wear daggers in their garters; for they know
- That they might hate another girl to death
- Or meet a German lover. Such a knife
- I bought her, with a hilt of horn and pearl.
- Father, you cannot know of all my thoughts
- That day in going to meet her,—that last day
- For the last time, she said;—of all the love
- And all the hopeless hope that she might change
10And go back with me. Ah! and everywhere,
- At places we both knew along the road,
- Some fresh shape of herself as once she was
- Grew present at my side; until it seemed—
- So close they gathered round me—they would all
- Be with me when I reached the spot at last,
- To plead my cause with her against herself
- So changed. O Father, if you knew all this
- You cannot know, then you would know too, Father,
- And only then, if God can pardon me.
20What can be told I'll tell, if you will hear.
- I passed a village-fair upon my road,
- And thought, being empty-handed, I would take
- Some little present, which might prove that day
- Either a pledge between us, or (God help me!)
- A parting gift. And there it was I bought
- The knife I spoke of, such as women wear.
- That day, some three hours afterwards, I found
- For certain, it must be a parting gift.
- And, standing silent now at last, I looked
30Into her scornful face; and heard the sea
- Still trying hard to din into my ears
- Some speech it knew which still might change her heart
- If only it could make me understand.
- One moment thus. Another, and her face
- Seemed further off than the last line of sea,
- So that I thought, if now she were to speak
- I could not hear her. Then again I knew
- All, as we stood together on the sand
- At Iglio, in the first thin shade o' the hills.
40 ‘Take it,’ I said, and held it out
- While the hilt glanced within my trembling hold;
- ‘Take it and keep it for my sake,’ I said,
- Her neck unbent not, neither did her eyes
- Move, nor her foot left beating of the sand;
- Only she put it by from her and laughed.
- Father, you hear my speech and not her laugh;
- But God was there and heard. Father, will God
- Remember all? He heard her when she laughed.
- It was another laugh than the sweet sound
50Which rose from her sweet childish heart, that day
- Eleven years before, when first I found her
- Alone upon the hill-side; and her curls
- Shook down in the warm grass as she looked up
- Out of her curls in my eyes bent to hers.
- She might have served a painter to pourtray
- That heavenly child which in the latter days
- Shall walk between the lion and the lamb.
- I had been for nights in hiding, worn and sick
- And hardly fed; and so her words at first
60Seemed fitful like the talking of the trees
- And voices in the air that knew my name.
- And I remember that I sat me down
- Upon the slope with her, and thought the world
- Must be all over or had never been,
- We seemed there so alone. And soon she told me
- Her parents both were gone away from her.
- I thought perhaps she meant that they had died;
- But when I asked her this, she looked again
- Into my face, and said that yestereve
70They kissed her long, and wept and made her weep,
- And gave her all the bread they had with them,
- And then had gone together up the hill
- Where we were sitting now, and had walked on
- Into the great red light: ‘and so,’ she said,
- ‘I have come up here too; and when this evening
- They step out of the light as they stepped in,
- I shall be here to kiss them.’ And she laughed.
- Then I bethought me suddenly of the famine;
- And how the church-steps throughout all the town,
80When last I had been there a month ago,
- Swarmed with starved folk; and how the bread was weighed
- By Austrians armed; and women that I knew
- For wives and mothers walked the public street,
- Telling their husbands how, if they still feared
- To snatch the children's food, themselves would stay
- Till they had earned it there. So then this child
- Was piteous to me; for all told me then
- Her parents must have left her to God's chance,
- To man's or to the Church's charity,
90Because of the great famine, rather than
- To watch her growing thin between their knees.
- With that, God took my mother's voice and spoke,
- And sights and sounds came back and things long since,
- And all my childhood found me on the hills;
- And so I took her with me.
- I was young,
- Scarce man then, Father; but the cause which gave
- The wounds I die of now had brought me then
- Some wounds already; and I lived alone,
- As any hiding hunted man must live.
100It was no easy thing to keep a child
- In safety; for herself it was not safe,
- And doubled my own danger: but I knew
- That God would help me.
- Yet a little while
- Pardon me, Father, if I pause. I think
- I have been speaking to you of some matters
- There was no need to speak of, have I not?
- You do not know how clearly those things stood
- Within my mind, which I have spoken of,
- Nor how they strove for utterance. Life all past
110Is like the sky when the sun sets in it,
- Clearest where furthest off.
- I told you how
- She scorned my parting gift and laughed. And yet
- A woman's laugh's another thing sometimes:
- I think they laugh in Heaven. I know last night
- I dreamed I saw into the garden of God,
- Where women walked whose painted images
- I have seen with candles round them in the church.
- They bent this way and that, one to another,
- Playing: and over the long golden hair
120Of each there floated like a ring of fire
- Which when she stooped stooped with her, and when she rose
- Rose with her. Then a breeze flew in among them,
- As if a window had been opened in heaven
- For God to give his blessing from, before
- This world of ours should set; (for in my dream
- I thought our world was setting, and the sun
- Flared, a spent taper;) and beneath that gust
- The rings of light quivered like forest-leaves.
- Then all the blessed maidens who were there
130Stood up together, as it were a voice
- That called them; and they threw their tresses back,
- And smote their palms, and all laughed up at once,
- For the strong heavenly joy they had in them
- To hear God bless the world. Wherewith I woke:
- And looking round, I saw as usual
- That she was standing there with her long locks
- Pressed to her side; and her laugh ended theirs.
- For always when I see her now, she laughs.
- And yet her childish laughter haunts me too,
140The life of this dead terror; as in days
- When she, a child, dwelt with me. I must tell
- Something of those days yet before the end.
- I brought her from the city—one such day
- When she was still a merry loving child,—
- The earliest gift I mind my giving her;
- A little image of a flying Love
- Made of our coloured glass-ware, in his hands
- A dart of gilded metal and a torch.
- And him she kissed and me, and fain would know
150Why were his poor eyes blindfold, why the wings
- And why the arrow. What I knew I told
- Of Venus and of Cupid,—strange old tales.
- And when she heard that he could rule the loves
- Of men and women, still she shook her head
- And wondered; and, ‘Nay, nay,’ she
- ‘So strong, and he a younger child than I!’
- And then she'd have me fix him on the wall
- Fronting her little bed; and then again
- She needs must fix him there herself, because
160I gave him to her and she loved him so,
- And he should make her love me better yet,
- If women loved the more, the more they grew.
- But the fit place upon the wall was high
- For her, and so I held her in my arms:
- And each time that the heavy pruning-hook
- I gave her for a hammer slipped away
- As it would often, still she laughed and laughed
- And kissed and kissed me. But amid her mirth,
- Just as she hung the image on the nail,
170It slipped and all its fragments strewed the ground:
- And as it fell she screamed, for in her hand
- The dart had entered deeply and drawn blood.
- And so her laughter turned to tears: and ‘Oh!’
- I said, the while I bandaged the small hand,—
- ‘That I should be the first to make you bleed,
- Who love and love and love
- The fingers till I got her safe to bed.
- And still she sobbed,—‘not for the pain
- She said, ‘but for the Love, the poor good Love
180You gave me.’ So she cried herself to sleep.
- Another later thing comes back to me.
- 'Twas in those hardest foulest days of all,
- When still from his shut palace, sitting clean
- Above the splash of blood, old Metternich
- (May his soul die, and never-dying worms
- Feast on its pain for ever!) used to thin
- His year's doomed hundreds daintily, eachmonth
- Thirties and fifties. This time, as I think,
- Was when his thrift forbad the poor to take
190That evil brackish salt which the dry rocks
- Keep all through winter when the sea draws in.
- The first I heard of it was a chance shot
- In the street here and there, and on the stones
- A stumbling clatter as of horse hemmed round.
- Then, when she saw me hurry out of doors,
- My gun slung at my shoulder and my knife
- Stuck in my girdle, she smoothed down my hair
- And laughed to see me look so brave, and leaped
- Up to my neck and kissed me. She was still
200A child; and yet that kiss was on my lips
- So hot all day where the smoke shut us in.
- For now, being always with her, the first love
- I had—the father's, brother's love—was changed,
- I think, in somewise; like a holy thought
- Which is a prayer before one knows of it.
- The first time I perceived this, I remember,
- Was once when after hunting I came home
- Weary, and she brought food and fruit for me,
- And sat down at my feet upon the floor
210Leaning against my side. But when I felt
- Her sweet head reach from that low seat of hers
- So high as to be laid upon my heart,
- I turned and looked upon my darling there
- And marked for the first time how tall she was;
- And my heart beat with so much violence
- Under her cheek, I thought she could not choose
- But wonder at it soon and ask me why;
- And so I bade her rise and eat with me.
- And when, remembering all and counting back
220The time, I made out fourteen years for her
- And told her so, she gazed at me with eyes
- As of the sky and sea on a grey day,
- And drew her long hands through her hair, and asked me
- If she was not a woman; and then laughed:
- And as she stooped in laughing, I could see
- Beneath the growing throat the breasts half globed
- Like folded lilies deepset in the stream.
- Yes, let me think of her as then; for so
- Her image, Father, is not like the sights
230Which come when you are gone. She had a mouth
- Made to bring death to life,—the underlip
- Sucked in, as if it strove to kiss itself.
- Her face was ever pale, as when one stoops
- Over wan water; and the dark crisped hair
- And the hair's shadow made it paler still:—
- Deep-serried locks, the darkness of the cloud
- Where the moon's gaze is set in eddying gloom.
- Her body bore her neck as the tree's stem
- Bears the top branch; and as the branch sustains
240The flower of the year's pride, her high neck bore
- That face made wonderful with night and day.
- Her voice was swift, yet ever the last words
- Fell lingeringly; and rounded finger-tips
- She had, that clung a little where they touched
- And then were gone o' the instant. Her great eyes,
- That sometimes turned half dizzily beneath
- The passionate lids, as faint, when she would speak,
- Had also in them hidden springs of mirth,
- Which under the dark lashes evermore
250Shook to her laugh, as when a bird flies low
- Between the water and the willow-leaves,
- And the shade quivers till he wins the light.
- I was a moody comrade to her then,
- For all the love I bore her. Italy,
- The weeping desolate mother, long has claimed
- Her sons' strong arms to lean on, and their hands
- To lop the poisonous thicket from her path,
- Cleaving her way to light. And from her need
- Had grown the fashion of my whole poor life
260Which I was proud to yield her, as my father
- Had yielded his. And this had come to be
- A game to play, a love to clasp, a hate
- To wreak, all things together that a man
- Needs for his blood to ripen: till at times
- All else seemed shadows, and I wondered still
- To see such life pass muster and be deemed
- Time's bodily substance. In those hours, no doubt,
- To the young girl my eyes were like my soul,—
- Dark wells of death-in-life that yearned for day.
270And though she ruled me always, I remember
- That once when I was thus and she still kept
- Leaping about the place and laughing, I
- Did almost chide her; whereupon she knelt
- And putting her two hands into my breast
- Sang me a song. Are these tears in my eyes?
- 'Tis long since I have wept for anything.
- I thought that song forgotten out of mind,
- And now, just as I spoke of it, it came
- All back. It is but a rude thing, ill rhymed,
280Such as a blind man chaunts and his dog hears
- Holding the platter, when the children run
- To merrier sport and leave him. Thus it goes:—
Transcribed Footnote (page 182):
- * She wept, sweet lady,
- And said in weeping:
- ‘What spell is keeping
- The stars so steady?
- Why does the power
- Of the sun's noon-hour
- To sleep so move me?
- And the moon in heaven,
- Stained where she passes
10 As a worn-out glass is,—
- Wearily driven,
- Why walks she above me?
- ‘Stars, moon, and sun too,
- I'm tired of either
- And all together!
- Whom speak they unto
- That I should listen?
- For very surely,
- Though my arms and shoulders
20 Dazzle beholders,
- And my eyes glisten,
- All's nothing purely!
- What are words said for
- At all about them,
- If he they are made for
- Can do without them?’
- She laughed, sweet lady,
- And said in laughing:
- ‘His hand clings half in
30 My own already!
- Oh! do you love me?
- Oh! speak of passion
- In no new fashion,
- No loud inveighings,
- But the old sayings
- You once said of me.
- ‘You said: “As summer,
- Through boughs grown brittle,
- Comes back a little
40 Ere frosts benumb her,—
- So bring'st thou to me
- All leaves and flowers,
- Though autumn's gloomy
- To-day in the bowers.”
- ‘Oh! does he love me,
- When my voice teaches
- The very speeches
- He then spoke of me?
- Alas! what flavour
50 Still with me lingers?’
- (But she laughed as my kisses
- Glowed in her fingers
- With love's old blisses.)
- ‘Oh! what one favour
- Remains to woo him,
- Whose whole poor savour
- Belongs not to him?’
- La bella donna*
- Piangendo disse:
- ‘Come son fisse
- Le stelle in cielo!
- Quel fiato anelo
- Dello stanco sole,
- Quanto m'assonna!
290E la luna, macchiata
- Come uno specchio
- Logoro e vecchio,—
- Faccia affannata,
- Che cosa vuole?
- ‘Chè stelle, luna, e sole,
- Ciascun m'annoja
- E m'annojano insieme;
- Non me ne preme
- Nè ci prendo gioja.
- Che le spalle sien franche
- E le braccia bianche
- E il seno caldo e tondo,
- Non mi fa niente.
- Chè cosa al mondo
- Posso più far di questi
- Se non piacciono a te, come dicesti?’
- La donna rise
- E riprese ridendo:—
310‘Questa mano che prendo
- E dunque mia?
- Tu m'ami dunque?
- Dimmelo ancora,
- Non in modo qualunque,
- Ma le parole
- Belle e precise
- Che dicesti pria.
La state talora
un qualche istante
Tornare innanzi inverno,
Così tu fai ch'io scerno
Le foglie tutte quante,
Ben ch'io certo tenessi
Per passato l'autunno.
- ‘Eccolo il mio alunno!
- Io debbo insegnargli
- Quei cari detti istessi
- Ch'ei mi disse una volta!
330Oimè! Che cosa dargli,’
- (Ma ridea piano piano
- Dei baci in sulla mano,)
- ‘Ch'ei non m'abbia da lungo tempo tolta?’
- That I should sing upon this bed!—with you
- To listen, and such words still left to say!
- Yet was it I that sang? The voice seemed hers,
- As on the very day she sang to me;
- When, having done, she took out of my hand
- Something that I had played with all the while
340And laid it down beyond my reach; and so
- Turning my face round till it fronted hers,—
- ‘Weeping or laughing, which was best?’
- But these are foolish tales. How should I show
- The heart that glowed then with love's heat, each day
- More and more brightly?—when for long years now
- The very flame that flew about the heart,
- And gave it fiery wings, has come to be
- The lapping blaze of hell's environment
- Whose tongues all bid the molten heart despair.
350 Yet one more thing comes back on me to-night
- Which I may tell you: for it bore my soul
- Dread firstlings of the brood that rend it now.
- It chanced that in our last year's wanderings
- We dwelt at Monza, far away from home,
- If home we had: and in the Duomo there
- I sometimes entered with her when she prayed.
- An Image of Our Lady stands there, wrought
- In marble by some great Italian hand
- In the great days when she and Italy
360Sat on one throne together: and to her
- And to none else my loved one told her heart.
- She was a woman then; and as she knelt,—
- Her sweet brow in the sweet brow's shadow there,—
- They seemed two kindred forms whereby our land
- (Whose work still serves the world for miracle)
- Made manifest herself in womanhood.
- Father, the day I speak of was the first
- For weeks that I had borne her company
- Into the Duomo; and those weeks had been
370Much troubled, for then first the glimpses came
- Of some impenetrable restlessness
- Growing in her to make her changed and cold.
- And as we entered there that day, I bent
- My eyes on the fair Image, and I said
- Within my heart, ‘Oh turn her heart to me!’
- And so I left her to her prayers, and went
- To gaze upon the pride of Monza's shrine,
- Where in the sacristy the light still falls
- Upon the Iron Crown of Italy,
380On whose crowned heads the day has closed, nor yet
- The daybreak gilds another head to crown.
- But coming back, I wondered when I saw
- That the sweet Lady of her prayers now stood
- Alone without her; until further off,
- Before some new Madonna gaily decked,
- Tinselled and gewgawed, a slight German toy,
- I saw her kneel, still praying. At my step
- She rose, and side by side we left the church.
- I was much moved, and sharply questioned her
390Of her transferred devotion; but she seemed
- Stubborn and heedless; till she lightly laughed
- And said: ‘The old Madonna? Aye indeed,
- ‘She had my old thoughts,—this one has
- Then silent to the soul I held my way:
- And from the fountains of the public place
- Unto the pigeon-haunted pinnacles,
- Bright wings and water winnowed the bright air;
- And stately with her laugh's subsiding smile
- She went, with clear-swayed waist and towering neck
400And hands held light before her; and the face
- Which long had made a day in my life's night
- Was night in day to me; as all men's eyes
- Turned on her beauty, and she seemed to tread
- Beyond my heart to the world made for her.
- Ah there! my wounds will snatch my sense again:
- The pain comes billowing on like a full cloud
- Of thunder, and the flash that breaks from it
- Leaves my brain burning. That's the wound he gave,
- The Austrian whose white coat I still made match
410With his white face, only the two were red
- As suits his trade. The devil makes them wear
- White for a livery, that the blood may show
- Braver that brings them to him. So he looks
- Sheer o'er the field and knows his own at once.
- Give me a draught of water in that cup;
- My voice feels thick; perhaps you do not hear;
- But you
must hear. If you mistake my words
- And so absolve me, I am sure the blessing
- Will burn my soul. If you mistake my words
420And so absolve me, Father, the great sin
- Is yours, not mine: mark this: your soul shall burn
- With mine for it. I have seen pictures where
- Souls burned with Latin shriekings in their mouths:
- Shall my end be as theirs? Nay, but I know
- 'Tis you shall shriek in Latin. Some bell rings,
- Rings through my brain: it strikes the hour in hell.
- You see I cannot, Father; I have tried,
- But cannot, as you see. These twenty times
- Beginning, I have come to the same point
430And stopped. Beyond, there are but broken words
- Which will not let you understand my tale.
- It is that then we have her with us here,
- As when she wrung her hair out in my dream
- To-night, till all the darkness reeked of it.
- Her hair is always wet, for she has kept
- Its tresses wrapped about her side for years;
- And when she wrung them round over the floor,
- I heard the blood between her fingers hiss;
- So that I sat up in my bed and screamed
440Once and again; and once to once, she laughed.
- Look that you turn not now,—she's at your back:
- Gather your robe up, Father, and keep close,
- Or she'll sit down on it and send you mad.
- At Iglio in the first thin shade o' the hills
- The sand is black and red. The black was black
- When what was spilt that day sank into it,
- And the red scarcely darkened. There I stood
- This night with her, and saw the sand the same.
- What would you have me tell you? Father, father,
450How shall I make you know? You have not known
- The dreadful soul of woman, who one day
- Forgets the old and takes the new to heart,
- Forgets what man remembers, and therewith
- Forgets the man. Nor can I clearly tell
- How the change happened between her and me.
- Her eyes looked on me from an emptied heart
- When most my heart was full of her; and still
- In every corner of myself I sought
- To find what service failed her; and no less
460Than in the good time past, there all was hers.
- What do you love? Your Heaven? Conceive it spread
- For one first year of all eternity
- All round you with all joys and gifts of God;
- And then when most your soul is blent with it
- And all yields song together,—then it stands
- O' the sudden like a pool that once gave back
- Your image, but now drowns it and is clear
- Again,—or like a sun bewitched, that burns
- Your shadow from you, and still shines in sight.
470How could you bear it? Would you not cry out,
- Among those eyes grown blind to you, those ears
- That hear no more your voice you hear the same,—
- ‘God! what is left but hell for company,
- But hell, hell, hell?’—until the name
- Whirled with hot wind and sucked you down in fire?
- Even so I stood the day her empty heart
- Left her place empty in our home, while yet
- I knew not why she went nor where she went
- Nor how to reach her: so I stood the day
480When to my prayers at last one sight of her
- Was granted, and I looked on heaven made pale
- With scorn, and heard heaven mock me in that laugh.
- O sweet, long sweet! Was that some ghost of you
- Even as your ghost that haunts me now,—twin shapes
- Of fear and hatred? May I find you yet
- Mine when death wakes? Ah! be it even in flame,
- We may have sweetness yet, if you but say
- As once in childish sorrow: ‘Not my pain,
- My pain was nothing: oh your poor poor love,
490Your broken love!’
- My Father, have I not
- Yet told you the last things of that last day
- On which I went to meet her by the sea?
- O God, O God! but I must tell you all.
- Midway upon my journey, when I stopped
- To buy the dagger at the village fair,
- I saw two cursed rats about the place
- I knew for spies—blood-sellers both. That day
- Was not yet over; for three hours to come
- I prized my life: and so I looked around
500For safety. A poor painted mountebank
- Was playing tricks and shouting in a crowd.
- I knew he must have heard my name, so I
- Pushed past and whispered to him who I was,
- And of my danger. Straight he hustled me
- Into his booth, as it were in the trick,
- And brought me out next minute with my face
- All smeared in patches and a zany's gown;
- And there I handed him his cups and balls
- And swung the sand-bags round to clear the ring
510For half an hour. The spies came once and looked;
- And while they stopped, and made all sights and sounds
- Sharp to my startled senses, I remember
- A woman laughed above me. I looked up
- And saw where a brown handsome harlot leaned
- Half through a tavern window thick with vine.
- Some man had come behind her in the room
- And caught her by her arms, and she had turned
- With that coarse empty laugh. I saw him there
- Munching her neck with kisses, while the vine
520Crawled in her back.
- And three hours afterwards,
- When she that I had run all risks to meet
- Laughed as I told you, my life burned to death
- Within me, for I thought it like the laugh
- Heard at the fair. She had not left me long;
- But all she might have changed to, or might change to,
- (I know nought since—she never speaks a word—)
- Seemed in that laugh. Have I not told you yet,
- Not told you all this time what happened, Father,
- When I had offered her the little knife,
530And bade her keep it for my sake that loved her,
- And she had laughed? Have I not told you yet?
- ‘Take it,’ I said to her
the second time,
- ‘Take it and keep it.’ And then came a fire
- That burnt my hand; and then the fire was blood.
- And sea and sky were blood and fire, and all
- The day was one red blindness; till it seemed
- Within the whirling brain's entanglement
- That she or I or all things bled to death.
- And then I found her lying at my feet
540And knew that I had stabbed her, and saw still
- The look she gave me when she took the knife
- Deep in her heart, even as I bade her then,
- And fell, and her stiff bodice scooped the sand
- Into her bosom.
- And she keeps it, see,
- Do you not see she keeps it?—there, beneath
- Wet fingers and wet tresses, in her heart.
- For look you, when she stirs her hand, it shows
- The little hilt of horn and pearl,—even such
- A dagger as our women of the coast
550Twist in their garters.
- Father, I have done:
- And from her side now she unwinds the thick
- Dark hair; all round her side it is wet through,
- But like the sand at Iglio does not change.
- Now you may see the dagger clearly. Father,
- I have told all: tell me at once what hope
- Can reach me still. For now she draws it out
- Slowly, and only smiles as yet: look, Father,
- She scarcely smiles: but I shall hear her laugh
- Soon, when she shows the crimson blade to God.
“Vengeance of Jenny's case! Fie on her! Never name her,
- Lazy laughing languid Jenny,
- Fond of a kiss and fond of a guinea,
- Whose head upon my knee to-night
- Rests for a while, as if grown light
- With all our dances and the sound
- To which the wild tunes spun you round:
- Fair Jenny mine, the thoughtless queen
- Of kisses which the blush between
- Could hardly make much daintier:—Nay,
10Poor flower left torn since yesterday
- Until to-morrow leave you bare;
- Poor handful of bright spring-water
- Flung in the whirlpool's shrieking face!—
- Poor shameful Jenny, full of grace
- Thus with your head upon my knee;—
- Whose person or whose purse may be
- The lodestar of your reverie?
- This room of yours, my Jenny, looks
- A change from mine so full of books,
20Whose serried ranks hold fast, forsooth,
- So many captive hours of youth,—
- The hours they thieve from day and night
- To make one's cherished work come right,
- And leave it wrong for all their theft,
- Even as to-night my work was left:
- Until I vowed that since my brain
- And eyes of dancing seemed so fain,
- My feet should have some dancing too:—
- And thus it was I met with you.
30Well, I suppose 'twas hard to part,
- For here I am. And now, sweetheart,
- You seem too tired to get to bed.
- It was a careless life I led
- When rooms like this were scarce so strange
- Not long ago. What breeds the change,—
- The many aims or the few years?
- Because to-night it all appears.
- Something I do not know again.
- The cloud's not danced out of my brain,—
40The cloud that made it turn and swim
- While hour by hour the books grew dim.
- Why, Jenny, as I watch you there,—
- For all your wealth of loosened hair,
- Your silk ungirdled and unlac'd
- And warm sweets open to the waist,
- All golden in the lamplight's gleam,—
- You know not what a book you seem,
- Half-read by lightning in a dream!
- How should you know, my Jenny? Nay,
50And I should be ashamed to say:—
- Poor beauty, so well worth a kiss!
- But while my thought runs on like this
- With wasteful whims more than enough,
- I wonder what you're thinking of.
- If of myself you think at all,
- What is the thought?—conjectural
- On sorry matters best unsolved?—
- Or inly is each grace revolved
- To fit me with a lure?—or (sad
60To think!) perhaps you're merely glad
- That I'm not drunk or ruffianly
- And let you rest upon my knee.
- For sometimes, were the truth confess'd,
- You're thankful for a little rest,—
- Glad from the crush to rest within,
- From the heart-sickness and the din
- Where envy's voice at virtue's pitch
- Mocks you because your gown is rich;
- And from the pale girl's dumb rebuke,
70Whose ill-clad grace and toil-worn look
- Proclaim the strength that keeps her weak
- And other nights than yours bespeak;
- And from the wise unchildish elf,
- To schoolmate lesser than himself
- Pointing you out, what thing you are:—
- Yes, from the daily jeer and jar,
- From shame and shame's outbraving too,
- Is rest not sometimes sweet to you?—
- But most from the hatefulness of man
80Who spares not to end what he began,
- Whose acts are ill and his speech ill,
- Who, having used you at his will,
- Thrusts you aside, as when I dine
- I serve the dishes and the wine.
- Well, handsome Jenny mine, sit up,
- I've filled our glasses, let us sup,
- And do not let me think of you,
- Lest shame of yours suffice for two.
- What, still so tired? Well, well then, keep
90Your head there, so you do not sleep;
- But that the weariness may pass
- And leave you merry, take this glass.
- Ah! lazy lily hand, more bless'd
- If ne'er in rings it had been dress'd
- Nor ever by a glove conceal'd!
- Behold the lilies of the field,
- They toil not neither do they spin;
- (So doth the ancient text begin,—
- Not of such rest as one of these
100Can share.) Another rest and ease
- Along each summer-sated path
- From its new lord the garden hath,
- Than that whose spring in blessings ran
- Which praised the righteous husbandman,
- Ere yet, in days of hankering breath,
- The lilies sickened unto death.
- What, Jenny, are your lilies dead?
- Aye, and the snow-white leaves are spread
- Like winter on the garden-bed.
110But you had roses left in May,—
- They were not gone too. Jenny, nay,
- But must your roses die, and those
- Their purfelled buds that should unclose?
- Even so; the leaves are curled apart,
- Still red as from the broken heart,
- And here's the naked stem of thorns.
- Nay, nay, mere words. Here nothing warns
- As yet of winter. Sickness here
- Or want alone could waken fear,—
120Nothing but passion wrings a tear.
- Except when there may rise unsought
- Haply at times a passing thought
- Of the old days which seem to be
- Much older than any history
- That is written in any book;
- When she would lie in fields and look
- Along the ground through the blown grass,
- And wonder where the city was,
- Far out of sight, whose broil and bale
130They told her then for a child's tale.
- Jenny, you know the city now.
- A child can tell the tale there, how
- Some things which are not yet enroll'd
- In market-lists are bought and sold
- Even till the early Sunday light,
- When Saturday night is market-night
- Everywhere, be it dry or wet,
- And market-night in the Haymarket.
- Our learned London children know,
140Poor Jenny, all your mirth and woe;
- Have seen your lifted silken skirt
- Advertize dainties through the dirt;
- Have seen your coach-wheels splash rebuke
- On virtue; and have learned your look
- When, wealth and health slipped past, you stare
- Along the streets alone, and there,
- Round the long park, across the bridge,
- The cold lamps at the pavement's edge
- Wind on together and apart,
150A fiery serpent for your heart.
- Let the thoughts pass, an empty cloud!
- Suppose I were to think aloud,—
- What if to her all this were said?
- Why, as a volume seldom read
- Being opened halfway shuts again,
- So might the pages of her brain
- Be parted at such words, and thence
- Close back upon the dusty sense.
- For is there hue or shape defin'd
160In Jenny's desecrated mind,
- Where all contagious currents meet,
- A Lethe of the middle street?
- Nay, it reflects not any face,
- Nor sound is in its sluggish pace,
- But as they coil those eddies clot,
- And night and day remember not.
- Why, Jenny, you're asleep at last!—
- Asleep, poor Jenny, hard and fast,—
- So young and soft and tired; so fair,
170With chin thus nestled in your hair,
- Mouth quiet, eyelids almost blue
- As if some sky of dreams shone through!
- Just as another woman sleeps!
- Enough to throw one's thoughts in heaps
- Of doubt and horror,—what to say
- Or think,—this awful secret sway,
- The potter's power over the clay!
- Of the same lump (it has been said)
- For honour and dishonour made,
180Two sister vessels. Here is one.
- My cousin Nell is fond of fun,
- And fond of dress, and change, and praise,
- So mere a woman in her ways:
- And if her sweet eyes rich in youth
- Are like her lips that tell the truth,
- My cousin Nell is fond of love.
- And she's the girl I'm proudest of.
- Who does not prize her, guard her well?
- The love of change, in cousin Nell,
190Shall find the best and hold it dear:
- The unconquered mirth turn quieter
- Not through her own, through others' woe:
- The conscious pride of beauty glow
- Beside another's pride in her,
- One little part of all they share.
- For Love himself shall ripen these
- In a kind soil to just increase
- Through years of fertilizing peace.
- Of the same lump (as it is said)
200For honour and dishonour made,
- Two sister vessels. Here is one.
- It makes a goblin of the sun.
- So pure,—so fall'n! How dare to think
- Of the first common kindred link?
- Yet, Jenny, till the world shall burn
- It seems that all things take their turn;
- And who shall say but this fair tree
- May need, in changes that may be,
- Your children's children's charity?
210Scorned then, no doubt, as you are scorn'd!
- Shall no man hold his pride forewarn'd
- Till in the end, the Day of Days,
- At Judgment, one of his own race,
- As frail and lost as you, shall rise,—
- His daughter, with his mother's eyes?
- Each of such curdled lives alike
- A life for which my twelve hours strike
- And time must be and time must end.
- Hard to keep sight of! What might tend
220To give the thought clear presence? Well,
- Remember it is possible,
- Whether I please or do not please,
- That in the making each of these
- A separate man has lost his soul.
- Fair shines the gilded aureole
- In which our highest painters place
- Some living woman's simple face.
- And the stilled features thus descried
- As Jenny's long throat droops aside,—
230The loving underlip drawn in,
- The shadows where the cheeks are thin,
- And pure wide curve from ear to chin,—
- With Raffael's or Da Vinci's hand
- To show them to men's souls, might stand,
- Whole ages long, the whole world through,
- For preachings of what God can do.
- What has man done here? How atone,
- Great God, for this which man has done?
- And for the body and soul which by
240Man's pitiless doom must now comply
- With lifelong hell, what lullaby
- Of sweet forgetful second birth
- Remains? All dark. No sign on earth
- What measure of God's rest endows
- The many mansions of his house.
- If but a woman's heart might see
- Such erring heart unerringly
- For once! But that can never be.
- Like a rose shut in a book
250In which pure women may not look,
- For its base pages claim control
- To crush the flower within the soul;
- Where through each dead rose-leaf that clings,
- Pale as transparent psyche-wings,
- To the vile text, are traced such things
- As might make lady's cheek indeed
- More than a living rose to read;
- So nought save foolish foulness may
- Watch with hard eyes the sure decay;
260And so the life-blood of this rose,
- Puddled with shameful knowledge, flows
- Through leaves no chaste hand may unclose:
- Yet still it keeps such faded show
- Of when 'twas gathered long ago,
- That the crushed petals' lovely grain,
- The sweetness of the sanguine stain,
- Seen of a woman's eyes, must make
- Her pitiful heart, so prone to ache,
- Love roses better for its sake:—
270Only that this can never be:—
- Even so unto her sex is she.
- Yet, Jenny, looking long at you,
- The woman almost fades from view.
- A cypher of man's changeless sum
- Of lust, past, present, and to come,
- Is left. A riddle that one shrinks
- To challenge from the scornful sphinx.
- Like a toad within a stone
- Seated while Time crumbles on;
280Which sits there since the earth was curs'd
- For Man's transgression at the first;
- Which, living through all centuries,
- Not once has seen the sun arise;
- Whose life, to its cold circle charmed,
- The earth's whole summers have not warmed;
- Which always—whitherso the stone
- Be flung—sits there, deaf, blind, alone;—
- Aye, and shall not be driven out
- Till that which shuts him round about
290Break at the very Master's stroke,
- And the dust thereof vanish as smoke,
- And the seed of Man vanish as dust:—
- Even so within this world is Lust.
- Come, come, what use in thoughts like this?
- Poor little Jenny, good to kiss,—
- You'd not believe by what strange roads
- Thought travels, when your beauty goads
- A man to-night to think of toads!
- Jenny, wake up. . . . Why, there's the dawn!
300 And there's an early waggon drawn
- To market, and some sheep that jog
- Bleating before a barking dog;
- And the old streets come peering through
- Another night that London knew;
- And all as ghostlike as the lamps.
- So on the wings of day decamps
- My last night's frolic. Glooms begin
- To shiver off as lights creep in
- Past the gauze curtains half drawn-to,
310And the lamp's doubled shade grows blue,—
- Your lamp, my Jenny, kept alight,
- Like a wise virgin's, all one night!
- And in the alcove coolly spread
- Glimmers with dawn your empty bed;
- And yonder your fair face I see
- Reflected lying on my knee,
- Where teems with first foreshadowings
- Your pier-glass scrawled with diamond rings.
- And somehow in myself the dawn
320Among stirred clouds and veils withdrawn
- Strikes greyly on her. Let her sleep.
- But will it wake her if I heap
- These cushions thus beneath her head
- Where my knee was? No,—there's your bed,
- My Jenny, while you dream. And there
- I lay among your golden hair
- Perhaps the subject of your dreams,
- These golden coins.
- For still one deems
330That Jenny's flattering sleep confers
- New magic on the magic purse,—
- Grim web, how clogged with shrivelled flies!
- Between the threads fine fumes arise
- And shape their pictures in the brain.
- There roll no streets in glare and rain,
- Nor flagrant man-swine whets his tusk;
- But delicately sighs in musk
- The homage of the dim boudoir;
- Or like a palpitating star
340Thrilled into song, the opera-night
- Breathes faint in the quick pulse of light;
- Or at the carriage-window shine
- Rich wares for choice; or, free to dine,
- Whirls through its hour of health (divine
- For her) the concourse of the Park.
- And though in the discounted dark
- Her functions there and here are one,
- Beneath the lamps and in the sun
- There reigns at least the acknowledged belle
350Apparelled beyond parallel.
- Ah Jenny, yes, we know your dreams.
- For even the Paphian Venus seems
- A goddess o'er the realms of love,
- When silver-shrined in shadowy grove:
- Aye, or let offerings nicely placed
- But hide Priapus to the waist,
- And whoso looks on him shall see
- An eligible deity.
- Why, Jenny, waking here alone
360May help you to remember one!
- I think I see you when you wake,
- And rub your eyes for me, and shake
- My gold, in rising, from your hair,
- A Danaë for a moment there.
- Jenny, my love rang true! for still
- Love at first sight is vague, until
- That tinkling makes him audible.
- And must I mock you to the last,
- Ashamed of my own shame,—aghast
370Because some thoughts not born amiss
- Rose at a poor fair face like this?
- Well, of such thoughts so much I know:
- In my life, as in hers, they show,
- By a far gleam which I may near,
- A dark path I can strive to clear.
- Only one kiss. Goodbye, my dear.
- This is her picture as she was:
- It seems a thing to wonder on,
- As though mine image in the glass
- Should tarry when myself am gone.
- I gaze until she seems to stir,—
- Until mine eyes almost aver
- That now, even now, the sweet lips part
- To breathe the words of the sweet heart:—
- And yet the earth is over her.
10In painting her I shrined her face
- Mid mystic trees, where light falls in
- Hardly at all; a covert place
- Where you might think to find a din
- Of doubtful talk, and a live flame
- Wandering, and many a shape whose name
- Not itself knoweth, and old dew,
- And your own footsteps meeting you,
- And all things going as they came.
- A deep dim wood; and there she stands
20 As in that wood that day. At least,
- Thus was the movement of her hands
- And thus the carriage of her waist.
- And passing fair the type must seem,
- Unknown the presence and the dream.
- 'Tis she: though of herself, alas!
- Less than her shadow on the grass
- Or than her image in the stream.
- That day we met there, I and she
- One with the other all alone;
30And we were blithe; yet memory
- Saddens those hours, as when the moon
- Looks upon daylight. And with her
- I stooped to drink the spring-water,
- Athirst where other waters sprang;
- And where the echo is, she sang,—
- My soul another echo there.
- Last night at last I could have slept,
- And yet delayed my sleep till dawn,
- Still wandering. Then it was I wept:
40 For unawares I came upon
- Those glades where then she walked with me:
- And as I stood there suddenly,
- All wan with traversing the night,
- Upon the desolate verge of light
- Yearned loud the iron-bosomed sea.
- Even so, where Heaven holds breath and hears
- The beating heart of Love's own breast,—
- Where round the secret of all spheres
- All angels lay their wings to rest,—
50How shall my soul stand rapt and awed,
- When, by the new birth borne abroad
- Throughout the music of the suns,
- It enters in her soul at once
- And knows the silence there for God!
- Here with her face doth memory sit
- Meanwhile, and wait the day's decline,
- Till other eyes shall look from it,
- Eyes of the spirit's Palestine,
- Even than the old gaze tenderer:
60While hopes and aims long lost with her
- Stand round her image side by side,
- Like tombs of pilgrims that have died
- About the Holy Sepulchre.