Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Poems. A New Edition (1881), proof Signature O (Delaware Museum, first proof
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.
- Amelotte still was on her knees
- As she had kneeled to pray.
- Deeming her sister swooned, she thought,
- At first, some succour to have brought;
100 But Aloÿse rocked, as one distraught.
- She would have pushed the lattice wide
- To gain what breeze might be;
- But marking that no leaf once beat
- The outside casement, it seemed meet
- Not to bring in more scent and heat
- So she said only: ‘Aloÿse,
- Sister, when happened it
- At any time that the bride came
- To ill, or spoke in fear of shame,
110 When speaking first the bridegroom's name?’
- A bird had out its song and ceased
- Ere the bride spoke. At length
- She said: ‘The name is as the thing:—
- Sin hath no second christening,
- And shame is all that shame can bring.
- ‘In divers places more than once
- I would have told thee this;
- But faintness took me, or a fit
- Like fever. God would not permit
120 That I should change thine eyes with it.
- ‘Yet once I spoke, hadst thou but heard:—
- That time we wandered out
- All the sun's hours, but missed our way
- When evening darkened, and so lay
- The whole night covered up in hay.
- ‘At last my face was hidden: so,
- Having God's hint, I paused
- Not long; but drew myself more near
- Where thou wast laid, and shook off fear,
130 And whispered quick into thine ear
- ‘Something of the whole tale. At first
- I lay and bit my hair
- For the sore silence thou didst keep:
- Till, as thy breath came long and deep,
- I knew that thou hadst been asleep.
- ‘The moon was covered, but the stars
- Lasted till morning broke.
- Awake, thou told'st me that thy dream
- Had been of me,—that all did seem
140 At jar,—but that it was a dream.
- ‘I knew God's hand and might not speak.
- After that night I kept
- Silence and let the record swell:
- Till now there is much more to tell
- Which must be told out ill or well.’
- She paused then, weary, with dry lips
- Apart. From the outside
- By fits there boomed a dull report
- From where i' the hanging tennis-court
150 The bridegroom's retinue made sport.
- The room lay still in dusty glare,
- Having no sound through it
- Except the chirp of a caged bird
- That came and ceased: and if she stirred,
- Amelotte's raiment could be heard.
- Quoth Amelotte: ‘The night this chanced
- Was a late summer night
- Last year! What secret, for Christ's love,
- Keep'st thou since then? Mary above!
160 What thing is this thou speakest of?
- ‘Mary and Christ! Lest when 'tis told
- I should be prone to wrath,—
- This prayer beforehand! How she errs
- Soe'er, take count of grief like hers,
- Whereof the days are turned to years!’
- She bowed her neck, and having said,
- Kept on her knees to hear;
- And then, because strained thought demands
- Quiet before it understands,
170 Darkened her eyesight with her hands.
- So when at last her sister spoke,
- She did not see the pain
- O' the mouth nor the ashamèd eyes,
- But marked the breath that came in sighs
- And the half-pausing for replies.
- This was the bride's sad prelude-strain:—
- ‘I' the convent where a girl
- I dwelt till near my womanhood,
- I had but preachings of the rood
180 And Aves told in solitude
- ‘To spend my heart on: and my hand
- Had but the weary skill
- To eke out upon silken cloth
- Christ's visage, or the long bright growth
- Of Mary's hair, or Satan wroth.
- ‘So when at last I went, and thou,
- A child not known before,
- Didst come to take the place I left,—
- My limbs, after such lifelong theft
190 Of life, could be but little deft
- ‘In all that ministers delight
- To noble women: I
- Had learned no word of youth's discourse,
- Nor gazed on games of warriors,
- Nor trained a hound, nor ruled a horse.
- ‘Besides, the daily life i' the sun
- Made me at first hold back.
- To thee this came at once; to me
- It crept with pauses timidly;
200 I am not blithe and strong like thee.
- ‘Yet my feet liked the dances well,
- The songs went to my voice,
- The music made me shake and weep;
- And often, all night long, my sleep
- Gave dreams I had been fain to keep.
- ‘But though I loved not holy things,
- To hear them scorned brought pain,—
- They were my childhood; and these dames
- Were merely perjured in saints' names
210 And fixed upon saints' days for games.
- ‘And sometimes when my father rode
- To hunt with his loud friends,
- I dared not bring him to be quaff'd,
- As my wont was, his stirrup-draught,
- Because they jested so and laugh'd.
- ‘At last one day my brothers said,
- “The girl must not grow thus,—
- Bring her a jennet,—she shall ride.”
- They helped my mounting, and I tried
220 To laugh with them and keep their side.
- ‘But brakes were rough and bents were steep
- Upon our path that day:
- My palfrey threw me; and I went
- Upon men's shoulders home, sore spent,
- While the chase followed up the scent.
- ‘Our shrift-father (and he alone
- Of all the household there
- Had skill in leechcraft,) was away
- When I reached home. I tossed, and lay
230 Sullen with anguish the whole day.
- ‘For the day passed ere some one brought
- To mind that in the hunt
- Rode a young lord she named, long bred
- Among the priests, whose art (she said)
- Might chance to stand me in much stead.
Manuscript Addition: X
Editorial Description: Printer's mark in margin of line 243 to correct faulty type.
- ‘I bade them seek and summon him:
- But long ere this, the chase
- Had scattered, and he was not found.
- I lay in the same weary stound,
240 Therefore, until the night came round.
- ‘It was dead night and near on twelve
- When the horse-tramp at length
- Beat up the echoes of the court:
- By then, my feverish breath was short
- With pain the sense could scarce support.
- ‘My fond nurse sitting near my feet
- Rose softly,—her lamp's flame
- Held in her hand, lest it should make
- My heated lids, in passing, ache;
250 And she passed softly, for my sake.
- ‘Returning soon, she brought the youth
- They spoke of. Meek he seemed,
- But good knights held him of stout heart.
- He was akin to us in part,
- And bore our shield, but barred athwart.
- ‘I now remembered to have seen
- His face, and heard him praised
- For letter-lore and medicine,
- Seeing his youth was nurtured in
260 Priests' knowledge, as mine own had been.’
- The bride's voice did not weaken here,
- Yet by her sudden pause
- She seemed to look for questioning;
- Or else (small need though) 'twas to bring
- Well to her mind the bygone thing.
- Her thought, long stagnant, stirred by speech,
- Gave her a sick recoil;
- As, dip thy fingers through the green
- That masks a pool,—where they have been
270 The naked depth is black between.
- Amelotte kept her knees; her face
- Was shut within her hands,
- As it had been throughout the tale;
- Her forehead's whiteness might avail
- Nothing to say if she were pale.
- Although the lattice had dropped loose,
- There was no wind; the heat
- Being so at rest that Amelotte
- Heard far beneath the plunge and float
280 Of a hound swimming in the moat.
- Some minutes since, two rooks had toiled
- Home to the nests that crowned
- Ancestral ash-trees. Through the glare
- Beating again, they seemed to tear
- With that thick caw the woof o' the air.
- But else, 'twas at the dead of noon
- Absolute silence; all,
- From the raised bridge and guarded sconce
- To green-clad places of pleasaùnce
290 Where the long lake was white with swans.
- Amelotte spoke not any word
- Nor moved she once; but felt
- Between her hands in narrow space
- Her own hot breath upon her face,
- And kept in silence the same place.
- Aloÿse did not hear at all
- The sounds without. She heard
- The inward voice (past help obey'd)
- Which might not slacken nor be stay'd,
300 But urged her till the whole were said.
- Therefore she spoke again: ‘That night
- But little could be done:
- My foot, held in my nurse's hands,
- He swathed up heedfully in bands,
- And for my rest gave close commands.
- ‘I slept till noon, but an ill sleep
- Of dreams: through all that day
- My side was stiff and caught the breath;
- Next day, such pain as sickeneth
310 Took me, and I was nigh to death.
- ‘Life strove, Death claimed me for his own
- Through days and nights: but now
- 'Twas the good father tended me,
- Having returned. Still, I did see
- The youth I spoke of constantly.
- ‘For he would with my brothers come
- To stay beside my couch,
- And fix my eyes against his own,
- Noting my pulse; or else alone,
320 To sit at gaze while I made moan.
- ‘(Some nights I knew he kept the watch,
- Because my women laid
- The rushes thick for his steel shoes.)
- Through many days this pain did use
- The life God would not let me lose.
- ‘At length, with my good nurse to aid,
- I could walk forth again:
- And still, as one who broods or grieves,
- At noons I'd meet him and at eves,
330 With idle feet that drove the leaves.
- ‘The day when I first walked alone
- Was thinned in grass and leaf
- And yet a goodly day o' the year:
- The last bird's cry upon mine ear
- Left my brain weak, it was so clear.
- The tears were sharp within mine eyes;
- I sat down, being glad,
- And wept; but stayed the sudden flow
- Anon, for footsteps that fell slow;
340 'Twas that youth passed me, bowing low.
Note: Because of type damage, the comma following the word when
in the first line of the next stanza resembles a period.
- ‘He passed me without speech; but when,
- At least an hour gone by,
- Rethreading the same covert, he
- Saw I was still beneath the tree,
- He spoke and sat him down with me.
- ‘Little we said; nor one heart heard
- Even what was said within;
- And, faltering some farewell, I soon
- Rose up; but then i' the autumn noon
350 My feeble brain whirled like a swoon.
- ‘He made me sit. “Cousin, I grieve
- Your sickness stays by you.”
- “I would,” said I, “that you did err
- So grieving. I am wearier
- Than death, of the sickening dying year.”
- ‘He answered: “If your weariness
- Accepts a remedy,
- I hold one and can give it you.”
- I gazed: “What ministers thereto,
360 Be sure,” I said, “that I will do.”
- ‘He went on quickly:—'Twas a cure
- He had not ever named
- Unto our kin, lest they should stint
- Their favour, for some foolish hint
- Of wizardry or magic in't:
- ‘But that if he were let to come
- Within my bower that night,
- (My women still attending me,
- He said, while he remain'd there,) he
370 Could teach me the cure privily.
- ‘I bade him come that night. He came;
- But little in his speech
- Was cure or sickness spoken of,
- Only a passionate fierce love
- That clamoured upon God above.
- ‘My women wondered, leaning close
- Aloof. At mine own heart
- I think great wonder was not stirr'd.
- I dared not listen, yet I heard
380 His tangled speech, word within word.
- ‘He craved my pardon first,—all else
- Wild tumult. In the end
- He remained silent at my feet
- Fumbling the rushes. Strange quick heat
- Made all the blood of my life meet.
- ‘And lo! I loved him. I but said,
- If he would leave me then,
- His hope some future might forecast.
- His hot lips stung my hand: at last
390 My damsels led him forth in haste.’
- The bride took breath to pause; and turned
- Her gaze where Amelotte
- Knelt,—the gold hair upon her back
- Quite still in all its threads,—the track
- Of her still shadow sharp and black.
- That listening without sight had grown
- To stealthy dread; and now
- That the one sound she had to mark
- Left her alone too, she was stark
400 Afraid, as children in the dark.
- Her fingers felt her temples beat;
- Then came that brain-sickness
- Which thinks to scream, and murmureth;
- And pent between her hands, the breath
- Was damp against her face like death.
- Her arms both fell at once; but when
- She gasped upon the light,
- Her sense returned. She would have pray'd
- To change whatever words still stay'd
410 Behind, but felt there was no aid.
- So she rose up, and having gone
- Within the window's arch
- Once more, she sat there, all intent
- On torturing doubts, and once more bent
- To hear, in mute bewilderment.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1