Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Poems. A New Edition (1881), proof Signature D (Delaware Museum, first revise
proof, with corrections)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 15
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Strangeways and Walden
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
Manuscript Addition: Revise
Editorial Description: Printer's note in upper left
Manuscript Addition: S4
Editorial Description: Notation in upper right.
- ‘Friend, stay in peace. God keep your head,
- And mine, where I will go;
- For He is here and there,’ he said.
- He passed the hill-side, slow,
20 And stood below.
- The Queen sat idle by her loom:
- She heard the arras stir,
- And looked up sadly: through the room
- The sweetness sickened her
- Of musk and myrrh.
- Her women, standing two and two,
- In silence combed the fleece.
- The Pilgrim said, ‘Peace be with you,
- Lady;’ and bent his knees.
30 She answered, ‘Peace.’
- Her eyes were like the wave within;
- Like water-reeds the poise
- Of her soft body, dainty thin;
- And like the water's noise
- Her plaintive voice.
- For him, the stream had never well'd
- In desert tracts malign
- So sweet; nor had he ever felt
- So faint in the sunshine
40 Of Palestine.
- Right so, he knew that he saw weep
- Each night through every dream
- The Queen's own face, confused in sleep
- With visages supreme
- Not known to him.
- ‘Lady,’ he said, ‘your lands lie burnt
- And waste: to meet your foe
- All fear: this I have seen and learnt.
- Say that it shall be so,
50 And I will go.’
- She gazed at him. ‘Your cause is just,
- For I have heard the same:’
- He said: ‘God's strength shall be my trust.
- Fall it to good or grame,
- 'Tis in His name.’
- ‘Sir, you are thanked. My cause is dead.
- Why should you toil to break
- A grave, and fall therein?’ she said.
- He did not pause but spake:
60 ‘For my vow's sake.’
- ‘Can such vows be, Sir—to God's ear,
- Not to God's will?’ ‘My vow
- Remains: God heard me there as here,’
- He said with reverent brow,
- ‘Both then and now.’
- They gazed together, he and she,
- The minute while he spoke;
- And when he ceased, she suddenly
- Looked round upon her folk
70 As though she woke.
- ‘Fight, Sir,’ she said; ‘my prayers
- Shall be your fellowship.’
- He whispered one among her train,—
- ‘To-morrow bid her keep
- This staff and scrip.’
- She sent him a sharp sword, whose belt
- About his body there
- As sweet as her own arms he felt.
- He kissed its blade, all bare,
80 Instead of her.
- She sent him a green banner wrought
- With one white lily stem,
- To bind his lance with when he fought.
- He writ upon the same
nd kissed her name.
- She sent him a white shield, whereon
- She bade that he should trace
- His will. He blent fair hues that shone,
- And in a golden space
90 He kissed her face.
- Born of the day that died, that eve
- Now dying sank to rest;
- As he, in likewise taking leave,
- Once with a heaving breast
- Looked to the west.
- And there the sunset skies unseal'd,
- Like lands he never knew,
- Beyond to-morrow's battle-field
- Lay open out of view
100 To ride into.
- Next day till dark the women pray'd:
- Nor any might know there
- How the fight went: the Queen has bade
- That there do come to her
- No messenger.
- The Queen is pale, her maidens ail;
- And to the organ-tones
- They sing but faintly, who sang well
- The matin-orisons,
110 The lauds and nones.
- Lo, Father, is thine ear inclin'd,
- And hath thine angel pass'd?
- For these thy watchers now are blind
- With vigil, and at last
- Dizzy with fast.
- Weak now to them the voice o' the priest
- As any trance affords;
- And when each anthem failed and ceas'd,
- It seemed that the last chords
120 Still sang the words.
- ‘Oh what is the light that shines so red?
- 'Tis long since the sun set;’
- Quoth the youngest to the
- ‘'Twas dim but now, and yet
- The light is great.’
- Quoth the other: ‘'Tis our sight is dazed
- That we see flame i' the air.’
- But the Queen held her brows and gazed,
- And said, ‘It is the glare
130 Of torches there.’
- ‘Oh what are the sounds that rise and spread?
- All day it was so still;’
- Quoth the youngest to the eldest maid
- ‘Unto the furthest hill
- The air they fill.’
- Quoth the other; ‘'Tis our sense is blurr'd
- With all the chants gone by.’
- But the Queen held her breath and heard,
- And said, ‘It is the cry
140 Of Victory.’
- The first of all the rout was sound,
- The next were dust and flame,
- And then the horses shook the ground:
- And in the thick of them
- A still band came.
- ‘Oh what do ye bring out of the fight,
- Thus hid beneath these boughs?’
- ‘Thy conquering guest returns to-night,
- And yet shall not carouse,
150 Queen, in thy house.’
- ‘Uncover ye his face,’ she said.
- ‘O changed in little space!’
- She cried, ‘O pale that was so red!
- O God, O God of grace!
- Cover his face.’
- His sword was broken in his hand
- Where he had kissed the blade.
- ‘O soft steel that could not withstand!
- O my hard heart unstayed,
160 That prayed and prayed!’
- His bloodied banner crossed his mouth
- Where he had kissed her name.
- ‘O east, and west, and north, and south,
- Fair flew my web, for shame,
- To guide Death's aim!’
- The tints were shredded from his shield
- Where he had kissed her face.
- ‘Oh, of all gifts that I could yield,
- Death only keeps its place,
170 My gift and grace!’
- Then stepped a damsel to her side,
- And spoke, and needs must weep:
- ‘For his sake, lady, if he died,
- He prayed of thee to keep
- This staff and scrip.’
- That night they hung above her bed,
- Till morning wet with tears.
- Year after year above her head
- Her bed his token wears,
180 Five years, ten years.
- That night the passion of her grief
- Shook them as there they hung.
- Each year the wind that shed the leaf
- Shook them and in its tongue
- A message flung.
- And once she woke with a clear mind
- That letters writ to calm
- Her soul lay in the scrip; to find
- Only a torpid balm
190 And dust of palm.
- They shook far off with palace sport
- When joust and dance were rife;
- And the hunt shook them from the court;
- For hers, in peace or strife,
- Was a Queen's life.
- A Queen's death now: as now they shake
- To gusts in chapel dim,—
- Hung where she sleeps, not seen to wake,
- (Carved lovely white and slim),
200 With them by him.
- Stand up to-day, still armed, with her,
- Good knight, before His brow
- Who then as now was here and there,
- Who had in mind thy vow
- Then even as now.
- The lists are set in Heaven to-day,
- The bright pavilions shine;
- Fair hangs thy shield, and none gainsay;
- The trumpets sound in sign
210 That she is thine.
- Not tithed with days' and years' decease
- He pays thy wage He owed,
- But with imperishable peace
- Here in His own abode,
- Thy jealous God.
- MOTHER of the Fair Delight,
- Thou handmaid perfect in God's sight,
- Now sitting fourth beside the Three,
- Thyself a woman-Trinity,—
- Being a daughter borne to God,
- Mother of Christ from stall to rood,
- And wife unto the Holy Ghost:—
- Oh when our need is uttermost,
- Think that to such as death may strike
10 Thou once wert sister sisterlike!
- Thou headstone of humanity,
- Groundstone of the great Mystery,
- Fashioned like us, yet more than we!
- Mind'st thou not (when June's heavy breath
- Warmed the long days in Nazareth,)
- That eve thou didst go forth to give
- Thy flowers some drink that they might live
- One faint night more amid the sands?
- Far off the trees were as pale wands
20 Against the fervid sky: the sea
- Sighed further off eternally
- As human sorrow sighs in sleep.
- Then suddenly the awe grew deep,
- As of a day to which all days
- Were footsteps in God's secret ways:
- Until a folding sense, like prayer,
- Which is, as God is, everywhere,
- Gathered about thee; and a voice
- Spake to thee without any noise,
30 Being of the silence:—‘Hail,’ it said,
- ‘Thou that art highly favourèd;
- The Lord is with thee here and now;
- Blessed among all women thou.’
- Ah! knew'st thou of the end, when first
- That Babe was on thy bosom nurs'd?—
- Or when He tottered round thy knee
- Did thy great sorrow dawn on thee?—
- And through His boyhood, year by year
- Eating with Him the Passover,
40 Didst thou discern confusedly
- That holier sacrament, when He,
- The bitter cup about to quaff,
- Should break the bread and eat thereof?—
- Or came not yet the knowledge, even
- Till on some day forecast in Heaven
- His feet passed through thy door to press
- Upon His Father's business?—
- Or still was God's high secret kept?
- Nay, but I think the whisper crept
50 Like growth through childhood. Work and play,
- Things common to the course of day,
- Awed thee with meanings unfulfill'd;
- And all through girlhood, something still'd
- Thy senses like the birth of light,
- When thou hast trimmed thy lamp at night
- Or washed thy garments in the stream;
- To whose white bed had come the dream
- That He was thine and thou wast His
- Who feeds among the field-lilies.
60 O solemn shadow of the end
- In that wise spirit long contain'd!
- O awful end! and those unsaid
- Long years when It was Finishèd!
- Mind'st thou not (when the twilight gone
- Left darkness in the house of John,)
- Between the naked window-bars
- That spacious vigil of the stars?—
- For thou, a watcher even as they,
- Wouldst rise from where throughout the day
70 Thou wroughtest raiment for His poor;
- And, finding the fixed terms endure
- Of day and night which never brought
- Sounds of His coming chariot,
- Wouldst lift through cloud-waste unexplor'd
- Those eyes which said, ‘How long, O Lord?’
- Then that disciple whom He loved,
- Well heeding, haply would be moved
- To ask thy blessing in His name;
- And that one thought in both, the same
80 Though silent, then would clasp ye round
- To weep together,—tears long bound,
- Sick tears of patience, dumb and slow.
- Yet, ‘Surely I come quickly,’—so
- He said, from life and death gone home.
- Amen: even so, Lord Jesus, come!
- But oh! what human tongue can speak
- That day when
death was sent
Michael came* to break
- From the tir'd spirit, like a veil,
- Its covenant with Gabriel
90 Endured at length unto the end?
- What human thought can apprehend
- That mystery of motherhood
- When thy Beloved at length renew'd
- The sweet communion severèd,—
- His left hand underneath thine head
- And His right hand embracing thee?—
- Lo! He was thine, and this is He!
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