Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Poems. A New Edition (1881), proof Signature S (Delaware Museum, second
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 20 (circa)
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Strangeways and Walden
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
- Mother, is this the darkness of the end,
- The Shadow of Death? and is that outer sea
- Infinite imminent Eternity?
- And does the death-pang by man's seed sustain'd
- In Time's each instant cause thy face to bend
- Its silent prayer upon the Son, while he
- Blesses the dead with his hand silently
- To his long day which hours no more offend?
- Mother of grace, the pass is difficult,
10 Keen as these rocks, and the bewildered souls
- Throng it like echoes, blindly shuddering through.
- Thy name, O Lord, each spirit's voice extols,
- Whose peace abides in the dark avenue
- Amid the bitterness of things occult.
- Water, for anguish of the solstice:—nay,
- But dip the vessel slowly,—nay, but lean
- And hark how at its verge the wave sighs in
- Reluctant. Hush! Beyond all depth away
- The heat lies silent at the brink of day:
- Now the hand trails upon the viol-string
- That sobs, and the brown faces cease to sing,
- Sad with the whole of pleasure. Whither stray
- Her eyes now, from whose mouth the slim pipes creep
10 And leave it pouting, while the shadowed grass
- Is cool against her naked side? Let be:—
- Say nothing now unto her lest she weep,
- Nor name this ever. Be it as it was,—
- Life touching lips with Immortality.
- Scarcely, I think; yet it indeed
- The meaning reached him, when this music rang
- Clear through his frame, a sweet possessive pang,
- And he beheld these rocks and that ridged sea.
- But I believe that, leaning tow'rds them, he
- Just felt their hair carried across his face
- As each girl passed him; nor gave ear to trace
- How many feet; nor bent assuredly
- His eyes from the blind fixedness of thought
10 To know the dancers. It is bitter glad
- Even unto tears. Its meaning filleth it,
- A secret of the wells of Life: to wit:—
- The heart's each pulse shall keep the sense it had
- With all, though the mind's labour run to nought.
- A remote sky, prolonged to the sea's brim:
- One rock-point standing buffeted alone,
- Vexed at its base with a foul beast unknown,
- Hell-birth of geomaunt and teraphim:
- A knight, and a winged creature bearing him,
- Reared at the rock: a woman fettered there,
- Leaning into the hollow with loose hair
- And throat let back and heartsick trail of limb.
- The sky is harsh, and the sea shrewd and salt:
10 Under his lord the griffin-horse ramps blind
- With rigid wings and tail. The spear's lithe stem
- Thrills in the roaring of those jaws: behind,
- That evil length of body chafes at fault.
- She doth not hear nor see—she knows of them.
- Clench thine eyes now,—'tis the last instant,
- Draw in thy senses, set thy knees, and take
- One breath for all: thy life is keen awake,—
- Thou mayst not swoon. Was that the scattered whirl
- Of its foam drenched thee?—or the waves that curl
- And split, bleak spray wherein thy temples ache?
- Or was it his the champion's blood to flake
- Thy flesh?—or thine own blood's anointing, girl?
- Now, silence: for the sea's is such a sound
10 As irks not silence; and except the sea,
- All now is still. Now the dead thing doth cease
- To writhe, and drifts. He turns to her: and she,
- Cast from the jaws of Death, remains there, bound,
- Again a woman in her nakedness.
- Dusk-haired and gold-robed o'er the golden wine
- She stoops, wherein, distilled of death and shame,
- Sink the black drops; while, lit with fragrant flame,
- Round her spread board the golden sunflowers shine.
- Doth Helios here with Hecatè combine
- (O Circe, thou their votaress?) to proclaim
- For these thy guests all rapture in Love's name,
- Till pitiless Night give Day the countersign?
- Lords of their hour, they come. And by her knee
10 Those cowering beasts, their equals heretofore,
- Wait; who with them in new equality
- To-night shall echo back the sea's dull roar
- With a vain wail from passion's tide-strown shore
- Where the dishevelled seaweed hates the sea.
- This is that blessed Mary, pre-elect
- God's Virgin. Gone is a great while, and she
- Dwelt young in Nazareth of Galilee.
- Unto God's will she brought devout respect,
- Profound simplicity of intellect,
- And supreme patience. From her mother's knee
- Faithful and hopeful; wise in charity;
- Strong in grave peace; in pity circumspect.
- So held she through her girlhood; as it were
10 An angel-watered lily, that near God
- Grows and is quiet. Till, one dawn at home,
- She woke in her white bed, and had no fear
- At all,—yet wept till sunshine, and felt awed:
- Because the fulness of the time was come.
- Here meet together the prefiguring day
- And day prefigured. ‘Eating, thou shalt stand,
- Feet shod, loins girt, thy road-staff in thine hand,
- With blood-stained door and lintel,’—did God say
- By Moses' mouth in ages passed away.
- And now, where this poor household doth comprise
- At Paschal-Feast two kindred families,—
- Lo! the slain lamb confronts the Lamb to slay.
- The pyre is piled. What agony's crown attained,
10 What shadow of Death the Boy's fair brow subdues
- Who holds that blood wherewith the porch is stained
- By Zachary the priest? John binds the shoes
- He deemed himself not worthy to unloose;
- And Mary culls the bitter herbs ordained.
Transcribed Footnote (page 266):
* The scene is in the house-porch, where Christ holds a bowl of
blood from which Zacharias is sprinkling the posts and lintel.
Joseph has brought the lamb and Elizabeth lights the pyre. The
shoes which John fastens and the bitter herbs which Mary is gather-
ing form part of the ritual.
- ‘Why wilt thou cast the roses from thine hair?
- Nay, be thou all a rose,—wreath, lips, and cheek.
- Nay, not this house,—that banquet-house we seek;
- See how they kiss and enter; come thou there.
- This delicate day of love we two will share
- Till at our ear love's whispering night shall speak.
- What, sweet one,—hold'st thou still the foolish freak?
- Nay, when I kiss thy feet they'll leave the stair.’
- ‘Oh loose me! See'st thou not my Bridegroom's face
10 That draws me to Him? For His feet my kiss,
- My hair, my tears He craves to-day:—and oh!
- What words can tell what other day and place
- Shall see me clasp those blood-stained feet of His?
- He needs me, calls me, loves me: let me go!’
Transcribed Footnote (page 267):
* In the drawing Mary has left a procession of revellers, and
ascending by a sudden impulse the steps of the house where she
Christ. Her lover has followed her and is trying to turn her
- Rend, rend thine hair, Cassandra: he will go.
- Yea, rend thy garments, wring thine hands, and cry
- From Troy still towered to the unreddened sky.
- See, all but she that bore thee mock thy woe:—
- He most whom that fair woman arms, with show
- Of wrath on her bent brows; for in this place
- This hour thou bad'st all men in Helen's face
- The ravished ravishing prize of Death to know.
- What eyes, what ears hath sweet Andromache,
10 Save for her Hector's form and step; as tear
- On tear make salt the warm last kiss he gave?
- He goes. Cassandra's words beat heavily
- Like crows above his crest, and at his ear
- Ring hollow in the shield that shall not save.
Transcribed Footnote (page 268):
* The subject shows Cassandra prophesying among her kindred,
Hector leaves them for his last battle. They are on the
of a fortress, from which the Trojan troops are
marching out. Helen
is arming Paris; Priam soothes Hecuba; and
Andromache holds the
child to her bosom.
- ‘O Hector, gone, gone, gone! O Hector, thee
- Two chariots wait, in Troy long bless'd and curs'd;
- And Grecian spear and Phrygian sand athirst
- Crave from thy veins the blood of victory.
- Lo! long upon our hearth the brand had we,
- Lit for the roof-tree's ruin: and to-day
- The ground-stone quits the wall,—the wind hath
- And higher and higher the wings of fire are free.
- O Paris, Paris! O thou burning brand,
10 Thou beacon of the sea whence Venus rose,
- Lighting thy race to shipwreck! Even that hand
- Wherewith she took thine apple let her close
- Within thy curls at last, and while Troy glows
- Lift thee her trophy to the sea and land.’
- She hath the apple in her hand for thee,
- Yet almost in her heart would hold it back;
- She muses, with her eyes upon the track
- Of that which in thy spirit they can see.
- Haply, ‘Behold, he is at peace,’ saith she;
- ‘Alas! the apple for his lips,—the dart
- That follows its brief sweetness to his heart,—
- The wandering of his feet perpetually!’
- A little space her glance is still and coy;
10 But if she give the fruit that works her spell,
- Those eyes shall flame as for her Phrygian boy.
- Then shall her bird's strained throat the woe
- And her far seas moan as a single shell,
- And through her dark grove strike the light of Troy.
- What of the end, Pandora? Was it thine,
- The deed that set these fiery pinions free?
- Ah! wherefore did the Olympian consistory
- In its own likeness make thee half divine?
- Was it that Juno's brow might stand a sign
- For ever? and the mien of Pallas be
- A deadly thing? and that all men might see
- In Venus' eyes the gaze of Proserpine?
- What of the end? These beat their wings at will,
10 The ill-born things, the good things turned to ill,—
- Powers of the impassioned hours prohibited.
- Aye, clench the casket now! Whither they go
- Thou mayst not dare to think: nor canst thou know
- If Hope still pent there be alive or dead.
- Not that the earth is changing, O my God!
- Nor that the seasons totter in their walk,—
- Not that the virulent ill of act and talk
- Seethes ever as a winepress ever trod,—
- Not therefore are we certain that the rod
- Weighs in thine hand to smite thy world; though now
- Beneath thine hand so many nations bow,
- So many kings:—not therefore, O my God!—
- But because Man is parcelled out in men
10 To-day; because, for any wrongful blow,
- No man not stricken asks, ‘I would be told
- Why thou dost thus;’ but his heart whispers then,
- ‘He is he, I am I.’ By this we know
- That our earth falls asunder, being old.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1