Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Poems. A New Edition (1881), proof Signature I (Delaware Museum, first
revise, copy 2)
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.
- To-day? Lo! night is here.
- The glen grows heavy with some veil
- Risen from the earth or fall'n to make earth pale;
- And all stands hushed to eye and ear,
- Until the night-wind shake the shade like fear
210 And every covert quail.
- Ah! by a colder wave
- On deathlier airs the hour must come
- Which to thy heart, my love, shall call me home.
- Between the lips of the low cave
- Against that night the lapping waters lave,
- And the dark lips are dumb.
- But there Love's self doth stand,
- And with Life's weary wings far-flown,
- And with Death's eyes that make the water moan,
220 Gathers the water in his hand:
- And they that drink know nought of sky or land
- But only love alone.
- O soul-sequestered face
- Far off,—O were that night but now!
- So even beside that stream even I and thou
- Through thirsting lips should draw Love's grace,
- And in the zone of that supreme embrace
- Bind aching breast and brow.
- O water whispering
230 Still through the dark into mine ears,—
- As with mine eyes, is it not now with hers?—
- Mine eyes that add to thy cold spring,
- Wan water, wandering water weltering,
- This hidden tide of tears.
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;
10 Whose eyes are as blue skies, whose hair
- Is countless gold incomparable:
- Fresh flower, scarce touched with signs that tell
- Of Love's exuberant hotbed:—Nay,
- Poor 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;—
20 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,
- Whose 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:
30 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.
- Well, 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,—
40 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,—
- The 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,
50 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,
- And 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,
60 What is the thought?—conjectural
- On sorry matters best unsolved?—
- Or inly is each grace revolved
- To fit me with a lure?—or (sad
- To 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,
70 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,
- Whose 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:—
80 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
- Who 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,
90 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
- Your 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!
100 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
- Can 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 bounteous husbandman,
- Ere yet, in days of hankering breath,
110 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.
- But you had roses left in May,—
- They were not gone too. Jenny, nay,
- But must your roses die, and those
- Their purfled buds that should unclose?
- Even so; the leaves are curled apart,
- Still red as from the broken heart,
120 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,—
- Nothing 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;
130 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
- They 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,
140 When Saturday night is market-night
- Everywhere, be it dry or wet,
- And market-night in the Haymarket.
- Our learned London children know,
- Poor Jenny, all your pride and woe;
- Have seen your lifted silken skirt
- Advertise 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
150 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,
- A 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,
160 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
- In 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,
170 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,
- With 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
180 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,
- Two 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,
190 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,
- Shall 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.
200 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)
- For 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
210 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?
- Scorned 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?
220 How Jenny's clock ticks on the shelf!
- Might not the dial scorn itself
- That has such hours to register?
- Yet as to me, even so to her
- Are golden sun and silver moon,
- In daily largesse of earth's boon,
- Counted for life-coins to one tune.
- And if, as blindfold fates are toss'd,
- Through some one man this life be lost,
- Shall soul not somehow pay for soul?
230 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,—
- The shadows where the cheeks are thin,
- And pure wide curve from ear to chin,—
- With Raffael's, Leonardo's hand
- To show them to men's souls, might stand,
- Whole ages long, the whole world through,
240 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
- Man'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.
250 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
- In 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
260 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;
- And 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,
270 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:—
- Only 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 cipher of man's changeless sum
- Of lust, past, present, and to come,
280 Is left. A riddle that one shrinks
- To challenge from the scornful sphinx.
- Like a toad within a stone
- Seated while Time crumbles on;
- Which 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;
290 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
- Break 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,—
300 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!
- And there's an early waggon drawn
- To market, and some sheep that jog
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