Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Poems. A New Edition (1881), proof Signature E (Delaware Museum, first revise proof,
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 15 (circa)
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Strangeways and Walden
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
- He said, from life and death gone home.
- Amen: even so, Lord Jesus, come!
- But oh! what human tongue can speak
- That day when 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!
- Soul, is it Faith, or Love, or Hope,
- That lets me see her standing up
100 Where the light of the Throne is bright?
- Unto the left, unto the right,
- The cherubim, succinct, conjoint,
- Float inward to a golden point,
Transcribed Footnote (page 49):
* A Church legend of the Blessed Virgin's death.
- And from between the seraphim
- The glory issues for a hymn.
- O Mary Mother, be not loth
- To listen,—thou whom the stars clothe,
- Who seëst and mayst not be seen!
- Hear us at last, O Mary Queen!
110 Into our shadow bend thy face,
- Bowing thee from the secret place,
- O Mary Virgin, full of grace!
- ‘Yea, thou shalt learn how salt his food who fares
- Upon another's bread,—how steep his path
- Who treadeth up and down another's stairs.’
Div. Com. Parad. xvii.)
- ‘Behold, even I, even I am Beatrice.’
Div. Com. Purg. xxx.)
- OF Florence and of Beatrice
- Servant and singer from of old,
- O'er Dante's heart in youth had toll'd
- The knell that gave his Lady peace;
- And now in manhood flew the dart
- Wherewith his City pierced his heart.
- Yet if his Lady's home above
- Was Heaven, on earth she filled his soul;
- And if his City held control
10 To cast the body forth to rove,
- The soul could soar from earth's vain throng,
- And Heaven and Hell fulfil the song.
- Follow his feet's appointed way;—
- But little light we find that clears
- The darkness of the exiled years.
- Follow his spirit's journey:—nay,
- What fires are blent, what winds are blown
- On paths his feet may tread alone?
- Yet of the twofold life he led
20 In chainless thought and fettered will
- Some glimpses reach us,—somewhat still
- Of the steep stairs and bitter bread,—
- Of the soul's quest whose stern avow
- For years had made him haggard now.
- Alas! the Sacred Song whereto
- Both heaven and earth had set their hand
- Not only at Fame's gate did stand
- Knocking to claim the passage through,
- But toiled to ope that heavier door
30 Which Florence shut for evermore.
- Shall not his birth's baptismal Town
- One last high presage yet fulfil,
- And at that font in Florence still
- His forehead take the laurel-crown?
- O God! or shall dead souls deny
- The undying soul its prophecy?
- Aye, 'tis their hour. Not yet forgot
- The bitter words he spoke that day
- When for some great charge far away
40 Her rulers his acceptance sought.
- ‘And if I go, who stays?’—so rose
- His scorn:—‘and if I stay, who
- ‘Lo! thou art gone now, and we stay:’
- (The curled lips mutter): ‘and no star
- Is from thy mortal path so far
- As streets where childhood knew the way.
- To Heaven and Hell thy feet may win,
- But thine own house they come not in.’
- Therefore, the loftier rose the song
50 To touch the secret things of God,
- The deeper pierced the hate that trod
- On base men's track who wrought the wrong;
- Till the soul's effluence came to be
- Its own exceeding agony.
- Arriving only to depart,
- From court to court, from land to land,
- Like flame within the naked hand
- His body bore his burning heart
- That still on Florence strove to bring
60 God's fire for a burnt offering.
- Even such was Dante's mood, when now,
- Mocked for long years with Fortune's sport,
- He dwelt at yet another court,
- There where Verona's knee did bow
- And her voice hailed with all acclaim
- Can Grande della Scala's name.
- As that lord's kingly guest awhile
- His life we follow; through the days
- Which walked in exile's barren ways,—
70 The nights which still beneath one smile
- Heard through all spheres one song increase,—
- ‘Even I, even I am Beatrice.’
- At Can La Scala's court, no doubt,
- Due reverence did his steps attend;
- The ushers on his path would bend
- At ingoing as at going out;
- The penmen waited on his call
- At council-board, the grooms in hall.
- And pages hushed their laughter down,
80 And gay squires stilled the merry stir,
- When he passed up the dais-chamber
- With set brows lordlier than a frown;
- And tire-maids hidden among these
- Drew close their loosened bodices.
- Perhaps the priests, (exact to span
- All God's circumference,) if at whiles
- They found him wandering in their aisles,
- Grudged ghostly greeting to the man
- By whom, though not of ghostly guild,
90 With Heaven and Hell men's hearts were fill'd.
- And the court-poets (he, forsooth,
- A whole world's poet strayed to court!)
- Had for his scorn their hate's retort.
- He'd meet them flushed with easy youth,
- Hot on their errands. Like noon-flies
- They vexed him in the ears and eyes.
- But at this court, peace still must wrench
- Her chaplet from the teeth of war:
- By day they held high watch afar,
100 At night they cried across the trench;
- And still, in Dante's path, the fierce
- Gaunt soldiers wrangled o'er their spears.
- But vain seemed all the strength to him,
- As golden convoys sunk at sea
- Whose wealth might root out penury:
- Because it was not, limb with limb,
- Knit like his heart strings round the wall
- Of Florence, that ill pride might fall.
- Yet in the tiltyard, when the dust
110 Cleared from the sundered press of knights
- Ere yet again it swoops and smites,
- He almost deemed his longing must
- Find force to yield that multitude
- And hurl that strength the way he would.
- How should he move them,—fame and gain
- On all hands calling them at strife?
- He still might find but his one life
- To give, by Florence counted vain;
- One heart the false hearts made her doubt,
120 One voice she heard once and cast out.
- Oh! if his Florence could but come,
- A lily-sceptred damsel fair,
- As her own Giotto painted her
- On many shields and gates at home,—
- A lady crowned, at a soft pace
- Riding the lists round to the dais:
- Till where Can Grande rules the lists,
- As young as Truth, as calm as Force,
- She draws her rein now, while her horse
130 Bows at the turn of the white wrists;
- And when each knight within his stall
- Gives ear, she speaks and tells them all:
- All the foul tale,—truth sworn untrue
- And falsehood's triumph. All the tale?
- Great God! and must she not prevail
- To fire them ere they heard it through,—
- And hand achieve ere heart could rest
- That high adventure of her quest?
- How would his Florence lead them forth,
140 Her bridle ringing as she went;
- And at the last within her tent,
- 'Neath golden lilies worship-worth,
- How queenly would she bend the while
- And thank the victors with her smile!
- Also her lips should turn his way
- And murmur: ‘O thou tried and true,
- With whom I wept the long years through!
- What shall it profit if I say,
- Thee I remember? Nay, through thee
150 All ages shall remember me.’
- Peace, Dante, peace! The task is long,
- The time wears short to compass it.
- Within thine heart such hopes may flit
- And find a voice in deathless song:
- But lo! as children of man's earth,
- Those hopes are dead before their birth.
- Fame tells us that Verona's court
- Was a fair place. The feet might still
- Wander for ever at their will
160 In many ways of sweet resort;
- And still in many a heart around
- The Poet's name due honour found.
- Watch we his steps. He comes upon
- The women at their palm-playing.
- The conduits round the gardens sing
- And meet in scoops of milk-white stone,
- Where wearied damsels rest and hold
- Their hands in the wet spurt of gold.
- One of whom, knowing well that he,
170 By some found stern, was mild with them,
- Would run and pluck his garment's hem,
- Saying, ‘Messer Dante, pardon me,’—
- Praying that they might hear the song
- Which first of all he made, when young.
- ‘Donne che avete’* . . . Thereunto
- Thus would he murmur, having first
- Drawn near the fountain, while she nurs'd
Transcribed Footnote (page 59):
* ‘Donne che avete intelletto
d'amore:’—the first canzone of the
- His hand against her side: a few
- Sweet words, and scarcely those, half said:
180 Then turned, and changed, and bowed his head.
- For then the voice said in his heart,
- ‘Even I, even I am Beatrice;’
- And his whole life would yearn to cease:
- Till having reached his room, apart
- Beyond vast lengths of palace-floor,
- He drew the arras round his door.
- At such times, Dante, thou hast set
- Thy forehead to the painted pane
- Full oft, I know; and if the rain
190 Smote it outside, her fingers met
- Thy brow; and if the sun fell there,
- Her breath was on thy face and hair.
- Then, weeping, I think certainly
- Thou hast beheld, past sight of eyne,—
- Within another room of thine
- Where now thy body may not be
- But where in thought thou still remain'st,—
- A window often wept against:
- The window thou, a youth, hast sought,
200 Flushed in the limpid eventime,
- Ending with daylight the day's rhyme
- Of her; where oftenwhiles her thought
- Held thee—the lamp untrimmed to write—
- In joy through the blue lapse of night.
- At Can La Scala's court, no doubt,
- Guests seldom wept. It was brave sport,
- No doubt, at Can La Scala's court,
- Within the palace and without;
- Where music, set to madrigals,
210 Loitered all day through groves and halls.
- Because Can Grande of his life
- Had not had six-and-twenty years
- As yet. And when the chroniclers
- Tell you of that Vicenza strife
- And of strifes elsewhere,—you must not
- Conceive for church-sooth he had got
- Just nothing in his wits but war:
- Though doubtless 'twas the young man's joy
- (Grown with his growth from a mere boy,)
220To mark his ‘Viva Cane!’
- The foe's shut front, till it would reel
- All blind with shaken points of steel.
- But there were places—held too sweet
- For eyes that had not the due veil
- Of lashes and clear lids—as well
- In favour as his saddle-seat:
- Breath of low speech he scorned not there
- Nor light cool fingers in his hair.
- Yet if the child whom the sire's plan
230 Made free of a deep treasure-chest
- Scoffed it with ill-conditioned jest,—
- We may be sure too that the man
- Was not mere thews, nor all content
- With lewdness swathed in sentiment.
- So you may read and marvel not
- That such a man as Dante—one
- Who, while Can Grande's deeds were done,
- Had drawn his robe round him and thought—
- Now at the same guest-table far'd
240 Where keen Uguccio wiped his beard.*
- Through leaves and trellis-work the sun
- Left the wine cool within the glass,—
- They feasting where no sun could pass:
- And when the women, all as one,
- Rose up with brightened cheeks to go,
- It was a comely thing, we know.
- But Dante recked not of the wine;
- Whether the women stayed or went,
- His visage held one stern intent:
250 And when the music had its sign
- To breathe upon them for more ease,
- Sometimes he turned and bade it cease.
- And as he spared not to rebuke
- The mirth, so oft in council he
- To bitter truth bore testimony:
- And when the crafty balance shook
- Well poised to make the wrong prevail,
- Then Dante's hand would turn the scale.
Transcribed Footnote (page 63):
* Uguccione della Faggiuola, Dante's former protector, was
now his fellow-guest at
- And if some envoy from afar
260 Sailed to Verona's sovereign port
- For aid or peace, and all the court
- Fawned on its lord, ‘the Mars of war,
- Sole arbiter of life and death,’—
- Be sure that Dante saved his breath.
- And Can La Scala marked askance
- These things, accepting them for shame
- And scorn, till Dante's guestship came
- To be a peevish sufferance:
- His host sought ways to make his days
270 Hateful; and such have many ways.
- There was a Jester, a foul lout
- Whom the court loved for graceless arts;
- Sworn scholiast of the bestial parts
- Of speech; a ribald mouth to shout
- In Folly's horny tympanum
- Such things as make the wise man dumb.
- Much loved, him Dante loathed. And so,
- One day when Dante felt perplex'd
- If any day that could come next
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