Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Poems. A New Edition (1881), proof Signature F (Delaware Museum, first revise proof, copy 2)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 15 (circa)
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Strangeways and Walden
Issue: 1

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

Image of page 65 page: 65
Sig. F
  • 280 Were worth the waiting for or no,
  • And mute he sat amid their din,—
  • Can Grande called the Jester in.
  • Rank words, with such, are wit's best wealth.
  • Lords mouthed approval; ladies kept
  • Twittering with clustered heads, except
  • Some few that took their trains by stealth
  • And went. Can Grande shook his hair
  • And smote his thighs and laughed i' the air.
  • Then, facing on his guest, he cried,—
  • 290 ‘Say, Messer Dante, how it is
  • I get out of a clown like this
  • More than your wisdom can provide.’
  • And Dante: ‘'Tis man's ancient whim
  • That still his like seems good to him.’
  • Also a tale is told, how once,
  • At clearing tables after meat,
  • Piled for a jest at Dante's feet
  • Were found the dinner's well-picked bones;
  • So laid, to please the banquet's lord,
  • 300 By one who crouched beneath the board.
Image of page 66 page: 66
  • Then smiled Can Grande to the rest:—
  • ‘Our Dante's tuneful mouth indeed
  • Lacks not the gift on flesh to feed!’
  • ‘Fair host of mine,’ replied the guest,
  • ‘So many bones you'd not descry
  • If so it chanced the dog were I.’*
  • But wherefore should we turn the grout
  • In a drained cup, or be at strife
  • From the worn garment of a life
  • 310 To rip the twisted ravel out?
  • Good needs expounding; but of ill
  • Each hath enough to guess his fill.
  • They named him Justicer-at-Law:
  • Each month to bear the tale in mind
  • Of hues a wench might wear unfin'd
  • And of the load an ox might draw;
  • To cavil in the weight of bread
  • And to see purse-thieves gibbeted.
Transcribed Footnote (page 66):

* ‘ Messere, voi non vedreste tant 'ossa se cane io fossi .’ The

point of the reproach is difficult to render, depending as it does on

the literal meaning of the name Cane.

Image of page 67 page: 67
  • And when his spirit wove the spell
  • 320 (From under even to over-noon
  • In converse with itself alone,)
  • As high as Heaven, as low as Hell,—
  • He would be summoned and must go:
  • For had not Gian stabbed Giacomo?
  • Therefore the bread he had to eat
  • Seemed brackish, less like corn than tares;
  • And the rush-strown accustomed stairs
  • Each day were steeper to his feet;
  • And when the night-vigil was done,
  • 330 His brows would ache to feel the sun.
  • Nevertheless, when from his kin
  • There came the tidings how at last
  • In Florence a decree was pass'd
  • Whereby all banished folk might win
  • Free pardon, so a fine were paid
  • And act of public penance made,—
  • This Dante writ in answer thus,
  • Words such as these: ‘That clearly they
  • In Florence must not have to say,—
    Image of page 68 page: 68
  • 340The man abode aloof from us
  • Nigh fifteen years, yet lastly skulk'd
  • Hither to candleshrift and mulct.
  • ‘That he was one the Heavens forbid
  • To traffic in God's justice sold
  • By market-weight of earthly gold,
  • Or to bow down over the lid
  • Of steaming censers, and so be
  • Made clean of manhood's obloquy.
  • ‘That since no gate led, by God's will,
  • 350 To Florence, but the one whereat
  • The priests and money-changers sat,
  • He still would wander; for that still,
  • Even through the body's prison-bars,
  • His soul possessed the sun and stars.’
  • Such were his words. It is indeed
  • For ever well our singers should
  • Utter good words and know them good
  • Not through song only; with close heed
  • Lest, having spent for the work's sake
  • 360 Six days, the man be left to make.
Image of page 69 page: 69
  • Months o'er Verona, till the feast
  • Was come for Florence the Free Town:
  • And at the shrine of Baptist John
  • The exiles, girt with many a priest
  • And carrying candles as they went,
  • Were held to mercy of the saint.
  • On the high seats in sober state,—
  • Gold neck-chains range o'er range below
  • Gold screen-work where the lilies grow,—
  • 370 The Heads of the Republic sate,
  • Marking the humbled face go by
  • Each one of his house-enemy.
  • And as each proscript rose and stood
  • From kneeling in the ashen dust
  • On the shrine-steps, some magnate thrust
  • A beard into the velvet hood
  • Of his front colleague's gown, to see
  • The cinders stuck in the bare knee.
  • Tosinghi passed, Manelli passed,
  • 380 Rinucci passed, each in his place;
  • But not an Alighieri's face
    Image of page 70 page: 70
  • Went by that day from first to last
  • In the Republic's triumph; nor
  • A foot came home to Dante's door.
  • (Respublica—a public thing:
  • A shameful shameless prostitute,
  • Whose lust with one lord may not suit,
  • So takes by turns its revelling
  • A night with each, till each at morn
  • 390 Is stripped and beaten forth forlorn,
  • And leaves her, cursing her. If she,
  • Indeed, have not some spice-draught, hid
  • In scent under a silver lid,
  • To drench his open throat with—he
  • Once hard asleep; and thrust him not
  • At dawn beneath the stairs to rot.
  • Such this Republic!—not the Maid
  • He yearned for; she who yet should stand
  • With Heaven's accepted hand in hand,
  • 400 Invulnerable and unbetray'd:
  • To whom, even as to God, should be
  • Obeisance one with Liberty.)
Image of page 71 page: 71
  • Years filled out their twelve moons, and ceased
  • One in another; and alway
  • There were the whole twelve hours each day
  • And each night as the years increased;
  • And rising moon and setting sun
  • Beheld that Dante's work was done.
  • What of his work for Florence? Well
  • 410 It was, he knew, and well must be.
  • Yet evermore her hate's decree
  • Dwelt in his thought intolerable:—
  • His body to be burned,*—his soul
  • To beat its wings at hope's vain goal.
  • What of his work for Beatrice?
  • Now well-nigh was the third song writ,—
  • The stars a third time sealing it
  • With sudden music of pure peace:
  • For echoing thrice the threefold song,
  • 420 The unnumbered stars the tone prolong.†
Transcribed Footnote (page 71):

* Such was the last sentence passed by Florence against Dante,

as a recalcitrant exile.

Transcribed Footnote (page 71):

† ‘E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.’— Inferno.

‘Puro e disposto a salire alle stelle.’— Purgatorio.

‘L'amor che muove il sole e l'altre stelle.’— Paradiso.

Image of page 72 page: 72
  • Each hour, as then the Vision pass'd,
  • He heard the utter harmony
  • Of the nine trembling spheres, till she
  • Bowed her eyes towards him in the last,
  • So that all ended with her eyes,
  • Hell, Purgatory, Paradise.
  • ‘It is my trust, as the years fall,
  • To write more worthily of her
  • Who now, being made God's minister,
  • 430 Looks on His visage and knows all.’
  • Such was the hope that love dar'd blend
  • With grief's slow fires, to make an end
  • Of the ‘New Life,’ his youth's dear book:
  • Adding thereunto: ‘In such trust
  • I labour, and believe I must
  • Accomplish this which my soul took
  • In charge, if God, my Lord and hers,
  • Leave my life with me a few years.’
  • The trust which he had borne in youth
  • 440 Was all at length accomplished. He
  • At length had written worthily—
    Image of page 73 page: 73
  • Yea even of her; no rhymes uncouth
  • 'Twixt tongue and tongue; but by God's aid
  • The first words Italy had said.
  • Ah! haply now the heavenly guide
  • Was not the last form seen by him:
  • But there that Beatrice stood slim
  • And bowed in passing at his side,
  • For whom in youth his heart made moan
  • 450 Then when the city sat alone.*
  • Clearly herself; the same whom he
  • Met, not past girlhood, in the street,
  • Low-bosomed and with hidden feet;
  • And then as woman perfectly,
  • In years that followed, many an once,—
  • And now at last among the suns
  • In that high vision. But indeed
  • It may be memory might recall
  • Last to him then the first of all,—
    Transcribed Footnote (page 73):

    * ‘ Quomodo sedet sola civitas!’—The words quoted by Dante in

    the ‘Vita Nuova’ when he speaks of the death of Beatrice.

    Image of page 74 page: 74
  • 460 The child his boyhood bore in heed
  • Nine years. At length the voice brought peace,—
  • ‘Even I, even I am Beatrice.’
  • All this, being there, we had not seen.
  • Seen only was the shadow wrought
  • On the strong features bound in thought;
  • The vagueness gaining gait and mien;
  • The white streaks gathering clear to view
  • In the burnt beard the women knew.
  • For a tale tells that on his track,
  • 470 As through Verona's streets he went,
  • This saying certain women sent:—
  • ‘Lo, he that strolls to Hell and back
  • At will! Behold him, how Hell's reek
  • Has crisped his beard and singed his cheek.’
  • ‘Whereat’ (Boccaccio's words) ‘he smil'd
  • For pride in fame.’ It might be so:
  • Nevertheless we cannot know
  • If haply he were not beguil'd
  • To bitterer mirth, who scarce could tell
  • 480 If he indeed were back from Hell.
Image of page 75 page: 75
  • So the day came, after a space,
  • When Dante felt assured that there
  • The sunshine must lie sicklier
  • Even than in any other place,
  • Save only Florence. When that day
  • Had come, he rose and went his way.
  • He went and turned out. From his shoes
  • It may be that he shook the dust,
  • As every righteous dealer must
  • 490 Once and again ere life can close:
  • And unaccomplished destiny
  • Struck cold his forehead, it may be.
  • No book keeps record how the Prince
  • Sunned himself out of Dante's reach,
  • Nor how the Jester stank in speech:
  • While courtiers, used to cringe and wince,
  • Poets and harlots, all the throng,
  • Let loose their scandal and their song.
  • No book keeps record if the seat
  • 500 Which Dante held at his host's board
  • Were sat in next by clerk or lord,—
    Image of page 76 page: 76
  • If leman lolled with dainty feet
  • At ease, or hostage brooded there,
  • Or priest lacked silence for his prayer.
  • Eat and wash hands, Can Grande;—scarce
  • We know their deeds now: hands which fed
  • Our Dante with that bitter bread;
  • And thou the watch-dog of those stairs
  • Which, of all paths his feet knew well,
  • 510 Were steeper found than Heaven or Hell.
Image of page 77 page: 77
  • HEAVENBORN HELEN, Sparta's queen,
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Had two breasts of heavenly sheen,
  • The sun and moon of the heart's desire:
  • All Love's lordship lay between.
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • Helen knelt at Venus' shrine,
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • 10Saying, ‘A little gift is mine,
  • A little gift for a heart's desire.
  • Hear me speak and make me a sign!
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
Image of page 78 page: 78
  • ‘Look, I bring thee a carven cup;
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • See it here as I hold it up,—
  • Shaped it is to the heart's desire,
  • Fit to fill when the gods would sup.
  • 20 ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • ‘It was moulded like my breast;
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • He that sees it may not rest,
  • Rest at all for his heart's desire.
  • O give ear to my heart's behest!
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • ‘See my breast, how like it is;
  • 30 ( O Troy Town!)
  • See it bare for the air to kiss!
  • Is the cup to thy heart's desire?
  • O for the breast, O make it his!
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
Image of page 79 page: 79
  • ‘Yea, for my bosom here I sue;
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Thou must give it where 'tis due,
  • Give it there to the heart's desire.
  • 40Whom do I give my bosom to?
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • ‘Each twin breast is an apple sweet.
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Once an apple stirred the beat
  • Of thy heart with the heart's desire:—
  • Say, who brought it then to thy feet?
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • 50‘They that claimed it then were three:
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • For thy sake two hearts did he
  • Make forlorn of the heart's desire.
  • Do for him as he did for thee!
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
Image of page 80 page: 80
  • ‘Mine are apples grown to the south,
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Grown to taste in the days of drouth,
  • 60Taste and waste to the heart's desire:
  • Mine are apples meet for his mouth.’
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • Venus looked on Helen's gift,
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Looked and smiled with subtle drift,
  • Saw the work of her heart's desire:—
  • ‘There thou kneel'st for Love to lift!’
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • 70 Tall Troy's on fire!)
  • Venus looked in Helen's face,
  • ( O Troy Town!)
  • Knew far off an hour and place,
  • And fire lit from the heart's desire;
  • Laughed and said, ‘Thy gift hath grace!’
  • ( O Troy's down,
  • Tall Troy's on fire!)
Electronic Archive Edition: 1