Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Poems. A New Edition (1881), proof Signature N (Delaware Museum, first proof
(partial printer's copy))
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 16 (circa)
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Strangeways and Walden
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
- As with doves' voices, taboring
- Upon their breasts, unto the King,—
150 A kingly conquest, Nineveh!
- . . . 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,
- Some tribe of the Australian plough
- Bear him afar,—a relic now
180 Of London, not of Nineveh!
- Or it may chance indeed that when
- Man's age is hoary among men,—
- His centuries threescore and ten,—
- His furthest childhood shall seem then
- More clear than later times may be:
- Who, finding in this desert place
- This form, shall hold us for some race
- That walked not in Christ's lowly ways,
- But bowed its pride and vowed its praise
190 Unto the God of Nineveh.
- The smile rose first,—anon drew nigh
- The thought: . . Those heavy wings spread high
- So sure of flight, which do not fly;
- That set gaze never on the sky;
- Those scriptured flanks it cannot see;
- Its crown, a brow-contracting load;
- Its planted feet which trust the sod: . . .
- (So grew the image as I trod:)
- O Nineveh, was this thy God,—
200 Thine also, mighty Nineveh?
- So once more the cry must be.
- Duteous mourning we fulfil
- In God's name; but by God's will,
- Doubt not, the last word is still
- In the music round this pall,
- Solemn grief yields earth to earth;
10 But what tones of solemn mirth
- In the pageant of new birth
- Rise and fall?
- For indeed,
- If our eyes were openèd,
- Who shall say what escort floats
- So methinks upon thy plain
- Falls some presage in the rain,
60 In the dew.
- And O thou,
- Watching with an exile's brow
- Unappeased, o'er death's dumb flood:—
- Lo! the saving strength of God
- In some new heart's English blood
- Slumbers now.
- Is this all thy work was for?—
- Thus to see thy self-sought aim,
70 Yea thy titles, yea thy name,
- In another's shame, to shame
- Bandied o'er? *
- Thy great work is but begun.
- With quick seed his end is rife
- Whose long tale of conquering strife
- Shows no triumph like his life
- Lost and won.
Transcribed Footnote (page 183):
* Date of the
Coup d' Etat: 2nd December, 1851.
How should I your true love know
From another one?’
By his cockle-hat and staff
And his sandal-schoon.’
- ‘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.’
- 'Tis of the Father Hilary.
- He strove, but could not pray; so took
- The steep-coiled stair, where his feet shook
- A sad blind echo. Ever up
- He toiled. 'Twas a sick sway of air
- That autumn noon within the stair,
- As dizzy as a turning cup.
- His brain benumbed him, void and thin;
- He shut his eyes and felt it spin;
10 The obscure deafness hemmed him in.
- He said: ‘O world, what world for me?’
- He leaned unto the balcony
- Where the chime keeps the night and day;
- It hurt his brain, he could not pray.
- He had his face upon the stone:
- Deep 'twixt the narrow shafts, his eye
- Passed all the roofs to the stark sky,
- Swept with no wing, with wind alone,
- Close to his feet the sky did shake
20 With wind in pools that the rains make:
- The ripple set his eyes to ache.
- He said: ‘O world, what world for me?’
- He stood within the mystery
- Girding God's blessed Eucharist:
- The organ and the chaunt had ceas'd.
- The last words paused against his ear
- Said from the altar: drawn round him
- The gathering rest was dumb and dim.
- And now the sacring-bell rang clear
30 And ceased and all was awe,—the breath
- Of God in man that warranteth
- The inmost utmost things of faith.
- He said: ‘O God, my world in Thee!’
- 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.
- ‘Sister,’ said busy Amelotte
- To listless Aloÿse;
- ‘Along your wedding-road the wheat
- Bends as to hear your horse's feet,
- And the noonday stands still for heat.’
- Amelotte laughed into the air
- With eyes that sought the sun:
- But where the walls in long brocade
- Were screened, as one who is afraid
10 Sat Aloÿse within the shade.
- And even in shade was gleam enough
- To shut out full repose
- From the bride's 'tiring-chamber, which
- Was like the inner altar-niche
- Whose dimness worship has made rich.
- Within the window's heaped recess
- The light was counterchanged
- In blent reflexes manifold
- From perfume-caskets of wrought gold
20 And gems the bride's hair could not hold
- All thrust together: and with these
- A slim-curved lute, which now,
- At Amelotte's sudden passing there,
- Was swept in somewise unaware,
- And shook to music the close air.
- Against the haloed lattice-panes
- The bridesmaid sunned her breast;
- Then to the glass turned tall and free,
- And braced and shifted daintily
30 Her loin-belt through her
- The belt was silver, and the clasp
- Of lozenged arm-bearings;
- A world of mirrored tints minute
- The rippling sunshine wrought into 't,
- That flushed her hand and warmed her foot.
- At least an hour had Aloÿse,—
- Her jewels in her hair,—
- Her white gown, as became a bride,
- Quartered in silver at each side,—
40 Sat thus aloof, as if to hide.
- Over her bosom, that lay still,
- The vest was rich in grain,
- With close pearls wholly overset:
- Around her throat the fastenings met
- Of chevesayle and mantelet.
- Her arms were laid along her lap
- With the hands open: life
- Itself did seem at fault in her:
- Beneath the drooping brows, the stir
50 Of thought made noonday heavier.
- Long sat she silent; and then raised
- Her head, with such a gasp
- As while she summoned breath to speak
- Fanned high that furnace in the cheek
- But sucked the heart-pulse cold and weak.
- (Oh gather round her now, all ye
- Past seasons of her fear,—
- Sick springs, and summers deadly cold!
- To flight your hovering wings unfold,
60 For now your secret shall be told.
- Ye many sunlights, barbed with darts
- Of dread detecting flame,—
- Gaunt moonlights that like sentinels
- Went past with iron clank of bells,—
- Draw round and render up your spells!)
- ‘Sister,’ said Aloÿse, ‘I had
- A thing to tell thee of
- Long since, and could not. But do thou
- Kneel first in prayer awhile, and bow
70 Thine heart, and I will tell thee now.
- Amelotte wondered with her eyes;
- But her heart said in her:
- ‘Dear Aloÿse would have me pray
- Because the awe she feels to-day
- Must need more prayers than she can say.’
- So Amelotte put by the folds
- That covered up her feet,
- And knelt,—beyond the arras'd gloom
- And the hot window's dull perfume,—
80 Where day was stillest in the room.
- ‘Queen Mary, hear,’ she said, ‘and say
- To Jesus the Lord Christ,
- This bride's new joy, which He confers,
- New joy to many ministers,
- And many griefs are bound in hers.’
- The bride turned in her chair, and hid
- Her face against the back,
- And took her pearl-girt elbows in
- Her hands, and could not yet begin,
90 But shuddering, uttered, ‘Urscelyn!’
- Most weak she was; for as she pressed
- Her hand against her throat,
- Along the arras she let trail
- Her face, as if all heart did fail,
- And sat with shut eyes, dumb and pale.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1