Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Poems. A New Edition (1881), proof Signature P (Delaware Museum, earliest
proof, duplicate printer's copy)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 16
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Strangeways and Walden
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
- But Aloÿse still paused. Thereon
- Amelotte gathered voice
- In somewise from the torpid fear
- Coiled round her spirit. Low but clear
420 She said: ‘Speak, sister; for I hear.’
- But Aloÿse threw up her neck
- And called the name of God:—
- ‘Judge, God, 'twixt her and me to-day!
- She knows how hard this is to say,
- Yet will not have one word away.’
- Her sister was quite silent. Then
- Afresh:—‘Not she, dear Lord!
Thou be my judge, on Thee I call!’
- She ceased,—her forehead smote the wall:
430 ‘Is there a God,’ she said, ‘at all?’
- Amelotte shuddered at the soul,
- But did not speak. The pause
- Was long this time. At length the bride
- Pressed her hand hard against her side,
- And trembling between shame and pride
- Said by fierce effort: ‘From that night
- Often at nights we met:
- That night, his passion could but rave:
- The next, what grace his lips did crave
440 I knew not, but I know I gave.’
- Where Amelotte was sitting, all
- The light and warmth of day
- Were so upon her without shade,
- That the thing seemed by sunshine made
- Most foul and wanton to be said.
- She would have questioned more, and known
- The whole truth at its worst,
- But held her silent, in mere shame
- Of day. 'Twas only these words came:—
450 ‘Sister, thou hast not said his name.’
- ‘Sister,’ quoth Aloÿse, ‘thou know'st
- His name. I said that he
- Was in a manner of our kin.
- Waiting the title he might win,
- They called him the Lord Urscelyn.’
- The bridegroom's name, to Amelotte
- Daily familiar,—heard
- Thus in this dreadful history,—
- Was dreadful to her; as might be
460 Thine own voice speaking unto thee.
- The day's mid-hour was almost full;
- Upon the dial-plate
- The angel's sword stood near at One.
- An hour's remaining yet; the sun
- Will not decrease till all be done.
- Through the bride's lattice there crept in
- At whiles (from where the train
- Of minstrels, till the marriage-call,
- Loitered at windows of the wall,)
470 Stray lute-notes, sweet and musical.
- They clung in the green growths and moss
- Against the outside stone;
- Low like dirge-wail or requiem
- They murmured, lost 'twixt leaf and stem:
- There was no wind to carry them.
- Amelotte gathered herself back
- Into the wide recess
- That the sun flooded: it o'erspread
- Like flame the hair upon her head
480 And fringed her face with burning red.
- All things seemed shaken and at change:
- A silent place o' the hills
- She knew, into her spirit came:
- Within herself she said its name
- And wondered was it still the same.
- The bride (whom silence goaded) now
- Said strongly,—her despair
- By stubborn will kept underneath:—
- ‘Sister, 'twere well thou didst not breathe
490 That curse of thine. Give me my wreath.’
- ‘Sister,’ said Amelotte, ‘abide
- In peace. Be God thy judge,
- As thou hast said—not I. For me,
- I merely will thank God that he
- Whom thou hast lovèd loveth thee.’
- Then Aloÿse lay back, and laughed
- With wan lips bitterly,
- Saying, ‘Nay, thank thou God for this,—
- That never any soul like his
500 Shall have its portion where love is.’
- Weary of wonder, Amelotte
- Sat silent: she would ask
- No more, though all was unexplained:
- She was too weak; the ache still pained
- Her eyes,—her forehead's pulse remained.
- The silence lengthened. Aloÿse
- Was fain to turn her face
- Apart, to where the arras told
- Two Testaments, the New and Old,
510 In shapes and meanings manifold.
- One solace that was gained, she hid.
- Her sister, from whose curse
- Her heart recoiled, had blessed instead:
- Yet would not her pride have it said
- How much the blessing comforted.
- Only, on looking round again
- After some while, the face
- Which from the arras turned away
- Was more at peace and less at bay
520 With shame than it had been that day.
- She spoke right on, as if no pause
- Had come between her speech:
- ‘That year from warmth grew bleak and pass'd;’
- She said; ‘the days from first to last
- How slow,—woe's me! the nights how fast!’
- ‘From first to last it was not known:
- My nurse, and of my train
- Some four or five, alone could tell
- What terror kept inscrutable:
530 There was good need to guard it well.
- ‘Not the guilt only made the shame,
- But he was without land
- And born amiss. He had but come
- To train his youth here at our home
- And, being man, depart therefrom.
- ‘Of the whole time each single day
- Brought fear and great unrest:
- It seemed that all would not avail
- Some once,—that my close watch would fail,
540 And some sign, somehow, tell the tale.
- ‘The noble maidens that I knew,
- My fellows, oftentimes
- Midway in talk or sport, would look
- A wonder which my fears mistook,
- To see how I turned faint and shook.
- ‘They had a game of cards, where each
- By painted arms might find
- What knight she should be given to.
- Ever with trembling hand I threw
550 Lest I should learn the thing I knew.
- ‘And once it came. And Aure d'Onhault
- Held up the bended shield
- And laughed: “Gramercy for our share!—
- If to our bridal we but fare
- To smutch the blazon that we bear!”
- ‘But proud Denise de Villenbois
- Kissed me, and gave her wench
- The card, and said: “If in these bowers
- You women play at paramours,
560 You must not mix your game with ours.”
- ‘And one upcast it from her hand:
- “Lo! see how high he'll soar!”
- But then their laugh was bitterest;
- For the wind veered at fate's behest
- And blew it back into my breast.
- ‘Oh! if I met him in the day
- Or heard his voice,—at meals
- Or at the Mass or through the hall,—
- A look turned towards me would appal
570 My heart by seeming to know all.
- ‘Yet I grew curious of my shame,
- And sometimes in the church,
- On hearing such a sin rebuked,
- Have held my girdle-glass unhooked
- To see how such a woman looked.
- ‘But if at night he did not come,
- I lay all deadly cold
- To think they might have smitten sore
- And slain him, and as the night wore,
580 His corpse be lying at my door.
- ‘And entering or going forth,
- Our proud shield o'er the gate
- Seemed to arraign my shrinking eyes.
- With tremors and unspoken lies
- The year went past me in this wise.
- ‘About the spring of the next year
- An ailing fell on me;
- (I had been stronger till the spring;)
- 'Twas mine old sickness gathering,
590 I thought; but 'twas another thing.
- ‘I had such yearnings as brought tears,
- And a wan dizziness:
- Motion, like feeling, grew intense;
- Sight was a haunting evidence
- And sound a pang that snatched the sense.
- ‘It now was hard on that great ill
- Which lost our wealth from us
- And all our lands. Accursed be
- The peevish fools of liberty
600 Who will not let themselves be free!
- ‘The Prince was fled into the west:
- A price was on his blood,
- But he was safe. To us his friends
- He left that ruin which attends
- The strife against God's secret ends.
- ‘The league dropped all asunder,—lord,
- Gentle and serf. Our house
- Was marked to fall. And a day came
- When half the wealth that propped our name
610 Went from us in a wind of flame.
- ‘Six hours I lay upon the wall
- And saw it burn. But when
- It clogged the day in a black bed
- Of louring vapour, I was led
- Down to the postern, and we fled.
- ‘But ere we fled, there was a voice
- Which I heard speak, and say
- That many of our friends, to shun
- Our fate, had left us and were gone,
620 And that Lord Urscelyn was one.
- ‘That name, as was its wont, made sight
- And hearing whirl. I gave
- No heed but only to the name
- I held my senses, dreading them,
- And was at strife to look the same.
- ‘We rode and rode. As the speed grew,
- The growth of some vague curse
- Swarmed in my brain. It seemed to me
- Numbed by the swiftness, but would be—
630 That still—clear knowledge certainly.
- ‘Night lapsed. At dawn the sea was there
- And the sea-wind: afar
- The ravening surge was hoarse and loud,
- And underneath the dim dawn-cloud
- Each stalking wave shook like a shroud.
- ‘From my drawn litter I looked out
- Unto the swarthy sea,
- And knew. That voice, which late had cross'd
- Mine ears, seemed with the foam uptoss'd:
640 I knew that Urscelyn was lost.
- ‘Then I spake all: I turned on one
- And on the other, and spake:
- My curse laughed in me to behold
- Their eyes: I sat up, stricken cold,
- Mad of my voice till all was told.
- ‘Oh! of my brothers, Hugues was mute,
- And Gilles was wild and loud,
- And Raoul strained abroad his face,
- As if his gnashing wrath could trace
650 Even there the prey that it must chase.
- ‘And round me murmured all our train,
- Hoarse as the hoarse tongued sea;
- Till Hugues from silence louring woke,
- And cried: “What ails the foolish folk?
- Know yet not frenzy's lightning-stroke?”
- ‘But my stern father came to them
- And quelled them with his look,
- Silent and deadly pale. Anon
- I knew that we were hastening on,
660 My litter closed and the light gone.
- ‘And I remember all that day
- The barren bitter wind
- Without, and the sea's moaning there
- That I first moaned with unaware,
- And when I knew, shook down my hair.
- ‘Few followed us or faced our flight:
- Once only I could hear,
- Far in the front, loud scornful words,
- And cries I knew of hostile lords,
670 And crash of spears and grind of swords.
- ‘It was soon ended. On that day
- Before the light had changed
- We reached our refuge; miles of rock
- Bulwarked for war; whose strength might mock
- Sky, sea, or man, to storm or shock.
- ‘Listless and feebly conscious, I
- Lay far within the night
- Awake. The many pains incurred
- That day,—the whole, said, seen or heard,—
680 Stayed by in me as things deferred.
- ‘Not long. At dawn I slept. In dreams
- All was passed through afresh
- From end to end. As the morn heaved
- Towards noon, I, waking sore aggrieved,
- That I might die, cursed God, and lived.
- ‘Many days went, and I saw none
- Except my women. They
- Calmed their wan faces, loving me;
- And when they wept, lest I should see,
690 Would chaunt a desolate melody.
- ‘Panic unthreatened shook my blood
- Each sunset, all the slow
- Subsiding of the turbid light.
- I would rise, sister, as I might,
- And bathe my forehead through the night
- ‘To elude madness. The stark walls
- Made chill the mirk: and when
- We oped our curtains, to resume
- Sun-sickness after long sick gloom,
700 The withering sea-wind walked the room.
- Through the gaunt windows the great gales
- Bore in the tattered clumps
- Of waif-weed and the tamarisk-boughs;
- And sea-mews, 'mid the storm's carouse,
- Were flung, wild-clamouring, in the house.
- ‘My hounds I had not; and my hawk,
- Which they had saved for me,
- Wanting the sun and rain to beat
- His wings, soon lay with gathered feet;
710 And my flowers faded, lacking heat.
- ‘Such still were griefs: for grief was still
- A separate sense, untouched
- Of that despair which had become
- My life. Great anguish could benumb
- My soul,—my heart was quarrelsome.
- ‘Time crept. Upon a day at length
- My kinsfolk sat with me:
- That which they asked was bare and plain:
- I answered: the whole bitter strain
720 Was again said, and heard again.
- ‘Fierce Raoul snatched his sword, and turned
- The point against my breast.
- I bared it, smiling: “To the heart
- Strike home,” I said; “another dart
- Wreaks hourly there a deadlier smart.”
- ‘'Twas then my sire struck down the sword,
- And said with shaken lips:
- “She from whom all of you receive
- Your life, so smiled; and I forgive.”
730 Thus, for my mother's sake, I live.
- But I, a mother even as she,
- Turned shuddering to the wall:
- For I said: “Great God! and what would I do,
- When to the sword, with the thing I knew,
- I offered not one life but two!”
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