Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Poems. A New Edition (1881), proof Signature Q (Delaware Museum, first revise
proof (copy 4))
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 18 (circa)
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Strangeways and Walden
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
- ‘Then I fell back from them, and lay
- Outwearied. My tired sense
- Soon filmed and settled, and like stone
- I slept; till something made me moan,
740 And I woke up at night alone.
- ‘I woke at midnight, cold and dazed;
- Because I found myself
- Seated upright, with bosom bare,
- Upon my bed, combing my hair,
- Ready to go, I knew not where.
- It dawned light day,—the last of those
- Long months of longing days.
- That noon, the change was wrought on me
- In somewise,—nought to hear or see,—
750 Only a trance and agony.’
- The bride's voice failed her, from no will
- To pause. The bridesmaid leaned,
- And where the window-panes were white,
- Looked for the day: she knew not quite
- If there were either day or night.
- It seemed to Aloÿse that the whole
- Day's weight lay back on her
- Like lead. The hours that did remain
- Beat their dry wings upon her brain
760 Once in mid-flight, and passed again.
- There hung a cage of burnt perfumes
- In the recess: but these,
- For some hours, weak against the sun,
- Had simmered in white ash. From One
- The second quarter was begun.
- They had not heard the stroke. The air,
- Though altered with no wind,
- Breathed now by pauses, so to say:
- Each breath was time that went away,—
770 Each pause a minute of the day.
- I' the almonry, the almoner,
- Hard by, had just dispensed
- Church-dole and march-dole. High and wide
- Now rose the shout of thanks, which cried
- On God that He should bless the bride.
- Its echo thrilled within their feet,
- And in the furthest rooms
- Was heard, where maidens flushed and gay
- Wove with stooped necks the wreaths alway
780 Fair for the virgin's marriage-day.
- The mother leaned along, in thought
- After her child; till tears,
- Bitter, not like a wedded girl's,
- Fell down her breast along her curls,
- And ran in the close work of pearls.
- The speech ached at her heart. She said:
- ‘Sweet Mary, do thou plead
- This hour with thy most blessed Son
- To let these shameful words atone,
790 That I may die when I have done.’
- The thought ached at her soul. Yet now:—
- ‘Itself—that life’ (she said,)
- Out of my weary life—when sense
- Unclosed, was gone. What evil men's
- Most evil hands had borne it thence
- ‘I knew, and cursed them. Still in sleep
- I have my child; and pray
- To know if it indeed appear
- As in my dream's perpetual sphere,
800 That I—death reached—may seek it there.
- ‘Sleeping, I wept; though until dark
- A fever dried mine eyes
- Kept open; save when a tear might
- Be forced from the mere ache of sight.
- And I nursed hatred day and night.
- ‘Aye, and I sought revenge by spells;
- And vainly many a time
- Have laid my face into the lap
- Of a wise woman, and heard clap
810 Her thunder, the fiend's juggling trap.
- ‘At length I feared to curse them, lest
- From evil lips the curse
- Should be a blessing; and would sit
- Rocking myself and stifling it
- With babbled jargon of no wit.
- ‘But this was not at first: the days
- And weeks made frenzied months
- Before this came. My curses, pil'd
- Then with each hour unreconcil'd,
820 Still wait for those who took my child.’
- She stopped, grown fainter. ‘Amelotte,
- Surely,’ she said, ‘this sun
- Sheds judgment-fire from the fierce south:
- It does not let me breathe: the drouth
- Is like sand spread within my mouth.’
- The bridesmaid rose. I' the outer glare
- Gleamed her pale cheeks, and eyes
- Sore troubled; and aweary weigh'd
- Her brows just lifted out of shade;
830 And the light jarred within her head.
- 'Mid flowers fair-heaped there stood a bowl
- With water. She therein
- Through eddying bubbles slid a cup,
- And offered it, being risen up,
- Close to her sister's mouth, to sup.
- The freshness dwelt upon her sense,
- Yet did not the bride drink;
- But she dipped in her hand anon
- And cooled her temples; and all wan
840 With lids that held their ache, went on.
- Through those dark watches of my woe,
- Time, an ill plant, had waxed
- Apace. That year was finished. Dumb
- And blind, life's wheel with earth's had come
- Whirled round: and we might seek our home.
- ‘Our wealth was rendered back, with wealth
- Snatched from our foes. The house
- Had more than its old strength and fame:
- But still 'neath the fair outward claim
I rankled,—a fierce core of shame.
- ‘It chilled me from their eyes and lips
- Upon a night of those
- First days of triumph, as I gazed
- Listless and sick, or scarcely raised
- My face to mark the sports they praised.
- ‘The endless changes of the dance
- Bewildered me: the tones
- Of lute and cithern struggled tow'rds
- Some sense; and still in the last chords
860 The music seemed to sing wild words.
- ‘My shame possessed me in the light
- And pageant, till I swooned.
- But from that hour I put my shame
- From me, and cast it over them
- By God's command and in God's name
- ‘For my child's bitter sake. O thou
- Once felt against my heart
- With longing of the eyes,—a pain
- Since to my heart for ever,—then
870 Beheld not, and not felt again!’
- She scarcely paused, continuing:—
- ‘That year drooped weak in March;
- And April, finding the streams dry,
- Choked, with no rain, in dust: the sky
- Shall not be fainter this July.
- ‘Men sickened; beasts lay without strength;
- The year died in the land.
- But I, already desolate,
- Said merely, sitting down to wait,—
880 “The seasons change and Time wears late.”
- ‘For I had my hard secret told,
- In secret, to a priest;
- With him I communed; and he said
- The world's soul, for its sins, was sped,
- And the sun's courses numberèd.
- ‘The year slid like a corpse afloat:
- None trafficked,—who had bread
- Did eat. That year our legions, come
- Thinned from the place of war, at home
890 Found busier death, more burdensome.
- ‘Tidings and rumours came with them,
- The first for months. The chiefs
- Sat daily at our board, and in
- Their speech were names of friend and kin:
- One day they spoke of Urscelyn.
- ‘The words were light, among the rest:
- Quick glance my brothers sent
- To sift the speech; and I, struck through,
- Sat sick and giddy in full view:
900 Yet did none gaze, so many knew.
- ‘Because in the beginning, much
- Had caught abroad, through them
- That heard my clamour on the coast:
- But two were hanged; and then the most
- Held silence wisdom, as thou know'st.
- ‘That year the convent yielded thee
- Back to our home; and thou
- Then knew'st not how I shuddered cold
- To kiss thee, seeming to enfold
910 To my changed heart myself of old.
- ‘Then there was showing thee the house,
- So many rooms and doors;
- Thinking the while how thou would'st start
- If once I flung the doors apart
- Of one dull chamber in my heart.
- And yet I longed to open it;
- And often in that year
- Of plague and want, when side by side
- We've knelt to pray with them that died,
920 My prayer was, “Show her what I hide!”’
End of Part I.
- Between the hands, between the brows,
- Between the lips of Love-Lily,
- A spirit is born whose birth endows
- My blood with fire to burn through me;
- Who breathes upon my gazing eyes,
- Who laughs and murmurs in mine ear,
- At whose least touch my colour flies,
- And whom my life grows faint to hear.
- Within the voice, within the heart,
10 Within the mind of Love-Lily,
- A spirit is born who lifts apart
- His tremulous wings and looks at me;
- Who on my mouth his finger lays,
- And shows, while whispering lutes confer,
- That Eden of Love's watered ways
- Whose winds and spirits worship her.
- Brows, hands, and lips, heart, mind, and voice,
- Kisses and words of Love-Lily,—
- Oh! bid me with your joy rejoice
20 Till riotous longing rest in me!
- Ah! let not hope be still distraught,
- But find in her its gracious goal,
- Whose speech Truth knows not from her thought
- Nor Love her body from her soul.
- Peace in her chamber, wheresoe'er
- It be, a holy place:
- The thought still brings my soul such grace
- As morning meadows wear.
- Whether it still be small and light,
- A maid's who dreams alone,
- As from her orchard-gate the moon
- Its ceiling showed at night:
- Or whether, in a shadow dense
10 As nuptial hymns invoke,
- Innocent maidenhood awoke
- To married innocence:
- There still the thanks unheard await
- The unconscious gift bequeathed:
- For there my soul this hour has breathed
- An air inviolate.
- In a soft-complexioned sky,
- Fleeting rose and kindling grey,
- Have you seen Aurora fly
- At the break of day?
- So my maiden, so my plighted may
- Blushing cheek and gleaming eye
- Lifts to look my way.
- Where the inmost leaf is stirred
- With the heart-beat of the grove,
10 Have you heard a hidden bird
- Cast her note above?
- So my lady, so my lovely love,
- Echoing Cupid's prompted word,
- Makes a tune thereof.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1