Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Poems. A New Edition (1881), proof Signature T (Delaware Museum, first revise proof (uncorrected))
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 18 (circa)
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Strangeways and Walden
Issue: 1

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

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Sig. T

  • 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.
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  • As he that loves oft looks on the dear form
  • And guesses how it grew to womanhood,
  • And gladly would have watched the beauties bud
  • And the mild fire of precious life wax warm:—
  • So I, long bound within the threefold charm
  • Of Dante's love sublimed to heavenly mood,
  • Had marvelled, touching his Beatitude,
  • How grew such presence from man's shameful swarm.
  • At length within this book I found pourtrayed
  • 10 Newborn that Paradisal Love of his,
  • And simple like a child; with whose clear aid
  • I understood. To such a child as this,
  • Christ, charging well his chosen ones, forbade
  • Offence: ‘for lo! of such my kingdom is.’
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( In Memory of my Father .)
  • And did'st thou know indeed, when at the font
  • Together with thy name thou gav'st me his,
  • That also on thy son must Beatrice
  • Decline her eyes according to her wont,
  • Accepting me to be of those that haunt
  • The vale of magical dark mysteries
  • Where to the hills her poet's foot-track lies
  • And wisdom's living fountain to his chaunt
  • Trembles in music? This is that steep land
  • 10 Where he that holds his journey stands at gaze
  • Tow'rd sunset, when the clouds like a new height
  • Seem piled to climb. These things I understand:
  • For here, where day still soothes my lifted face,
  • On thy bowed head, my father, fell the night.
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I. An Old Picture.
  • The lilies stand before her like a screen,
  • Through which, upon this silent solemn day,
  • God surely hears. For there she kneels to pray
  • Who bore our Bourne of prayer—Mary the Queen.
  • She was Faith's Present, parting what had been
  • From what began with her and is for aye:
  • On either side God's twofold system lay,—
  • With meek bowed face a virgin prayed between.
  • So prays she, and the Dove flies in to her,
  • 10 And she has turned. Within the porch is one
  • Who looks as though proud awe made him to smile.
  • Heavy with heat, the growths yield shadow there,
  • The loud flies cross each other in the sun,
  • And the aisle-pillars meet the poplar-aisle.
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II. A Wayside Shrine.
  • Upon a sun-scorched road when noon was deep
  • I passed a little consecrated shrine,
  • Where among simple pictures ranged in line
  • The Blessed Mary holds her Son asleep.
  • To kneel here, shepherd-children leave their sheep
  • When silence broods at heart of the sunshine,
  • And again kneel here in the day's decline,
  • And here, when their life ails them, come to weep.
  • Night being full, I passed on the same road
  • 10By the same shrine. Within, a lamp was lit,
  • Which through the depth of utter darkness glow'd.
  • Thus, after heat of life, when doubts arise
  • Dim-hurtling, Faith's pure lamp must beam on it,—
  • How oft unfir'd in man,—how oft that dies!
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  • She fluted with her mouth as when one sips,
  • And gently waved her golden head, inclin'd
  • Outside his cage close to the window-blind;
  • Till her fond bird, with little turns and dips,
  • Piped low to her of sweet companionships.
  • And when he made an end, some seed took she
  • And fed him from her tongue, which rosily
  • Peeped as a piercing bud between her lips.
  • And like the child in Chaucer, on whose tongue
  • 10 The Blessed Mary laid, when he was dead,
  • A grain,—who straightway praised her name in song:
  • Even so, when she, a little lightly red,
  • Now turned on me and laughed, I heard the throng
  • Of inner voices praise her golden head.
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  • Weary already, weary miles to-night
  • I walked for bed: and so, to get some ease,
  • I dogged the flying moon with similes.
  • And like a wisp she doubled on my sight
  • In ponds; and caught in tree-tops like a kite;
  • And in a globe of film all liquorish
  • Swam full-faced like a silly silver fish;—
  • Last like a bubble shot the welkin's height
  • Where my road turned, and got behind me, and sent
  • 10 My wizened shadow craning round at me,
  • And jeered, ‘So, step the measure,—one two three!’—
  • And if I faced on her, looked innocent.
  • But just at parting, halfway down a dell,
  • She kissed me for good-night. So you'll not tell.
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( François Villon , 1450.)
  • Tell me now in what hidden way is
  • Lady Flora the lovely Roman?
  • Where's Hipparchia, and where is Thais,
  • Neither of them the fairer woman?
  • Where is Echo, beheld of no man,
  • Only heard on river and mere,—
  • She whose beauty was more than human?...
  • But where are the snows of yester-year?
  • Where's Héloise, the learned nun,
  • 10 For whose sake Abeillard, I ween,
  • Lost manhood and put priesthood on?
  • (From Love he won such dule and teen!)
  • And where, I pray you, is the Queen
  • Who willed that Buridan should steer
  • Sewed in a sack's mouth down the Seine?...
  • But where are the snows of yester-year?
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  • White Queen Blanche, like a queen of lilies,
  • With a voice like any mermaiden,—
  • Bertha Broadfoot, Beatrice, Alice,
  • 20 And Ermengarde the lady of Maine,—
  • And that good Joan whom Englishmen
  • At Rouen doomed and burned her there,—
  • Mother of God, where are they then? . . .
  • But where are the snows of yester-year?
  • Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
  • Where they are gone, nor yet this year,
  • Save with thus much for an overword,—
  • But where are the snows of yester-year?
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( François Villon .)
  • Death, of thee do I make my moan,
  • Who hadst my lady away from me,
  • Nor wilt assuage thine enmity
  • Till with her life thou hast mine own;
  • For since that hour my strength has flown.
  • Lo! what wrong was her life to thee,
  • Death?
  • Two we were, and the heart was one;
  • Which now being dead, dead I must be,
  • 10 Or seem alive as lifelessly
  • As in the choir the painted stone,
  • Death!
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( François Villon.)
  • Lady of Heaven and earth, and therewithal
  • Crowned Empress of the nether clefts of Hell,—
  • I, thy poor Christian, on thy name do call,
  • Commending me to thee, with thee to dwell,
  • Albeit in nought I be commendable.
  • But all mine undeserving may not mar
  • Such mercies as thy sovereign mercies are;
  • Without the which (as true words testify)
  • No soul can reach thy Heaven so fair and far.
  • 10 Even in this faith I choose to live and die.
  • Unto thy Son say thou that I am His,
  • And to me graceless make Him gracious.
  • Sad Mary of Egypt lacked not of that bliss,
  • Nor yet the sorrowful clerk Theophilus,
  • Whose bitter sins were set aside even thus
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  • Though to the Fiend his bounden service was.
  • Oh help me, lest in vain for me should pass
  • (Sweet Virgin that shalt have no loss thereby!)
  • The blessed Host and sacring of the Mass.
  • 20 Even in this faith I choose to live and die.
  • A pitiful poor woman, shrunk and old,
  • I am, and nothing learn'd in letter-lore.
  • Within my parish-cloister I behold
  • A painted Heaven where harps and lutes adore,
  • And eke an Hell whose damned folk seethe full sore:
  • One bringeth fear, the other joy to me.
  • That joy, great Goddess, make thou mine to be,—
  • Thou of whom all must ask it even as I;
  • And that which faith desires, that let it see.
  • 30 For in this faith I choose to live and die.
  • O excellent Virgin Princess! thou didst bear
  • King Jesus, the most excellent comforter,
  • Who even of this our weakness craved a share
  • And for our sake stooped to us from on high,
  • Offering to death His young life sweet and fair.
  • Such as He is, Our Lord, I Him declare,
  • And in this faith I choose to live and die.
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( Old French .)
  • John of Tours is back with peace,
  • But he comes home ill at ease.
  • ‘Good-morrow, mother.’ ‘Good-morrow, son;
  • Your wife has borne you a little one.’
  • ‘Go now, mother, go before,
  • Make me a bed upon the floor;
  • ‘Very low your foot must fall,
  • That my wife hear not at all.’
  • As it neared the midnight toll,
  • 10 John of Tours gave up his soul.
  • ‘Tell me now, my mother my dear,
  • What's the crying that I hear?’
  • ‘Daughter, it's the children wake
  • Crying with their teeth that ache.’
Electronic Archive Edition: 1