Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: The Collected Works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, vol. 1 (1886)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1886
Publisher: Ellis and Scrutton
Printer: Hazell, Watson, and Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury
Edition: 1

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

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Manuscript Addition: 2 vol s[et] / $
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Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.
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The most adequate mode of prefacing the Collected

Works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as of most

authors, would probably be to offer a broad general

view of his writings, and to analyse with some critical

precision his relation to other writers, contemporary or

otherwise, and the merits and defects of his performances.

In this case, as in how few others, one would also have

to consider in what degree his mind worked con-

sentaneously or diversely in two several arts—the art of

poetry and the art of painting. But the hand of a

brother is not the fittest to undertake any work of this

scope. My preface will not therefore deal with themes

such as these, but will be confined to minor matters,

which may nevertheless be relevant also within their

limits. And first may come a very brief outline of the

few events of an outwardly uneventful life.
Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, who, at an early stage

of his professional career, modified his name into Dante

Gabriel Rossetti, was born on 12th May 1828, at No.

38 Charlotte Street, Portland Place, London. In blood

he was three-fourths Italian, and only one-fourth Eng-

lish; being on the father's side wholly Italian (Abruzzese),

and on the mother's side half Italian (Tuscan) and half

English. His father was Gabriele Rossetti, born in

1783 at Vasto, in the Abruzzi, Adriatic coast, in the then

kingdom of Naples. Gabriele Rossetti (died 1854) was
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a man of letters, a custodian of ancient bronzes in the

Museo Borbonico of Naples, and a poet; he distinguished

himself by patriotic lays which fostered the popular

movement resulting in the grant of a constitution by

Ferdinand I. of Naples in 1820. The King, after the

fashion of Bourbons and tyrants, revoked the constitution

in 1821, and persecuted the abettors of it, and Rossetti

had to escape for his freedom, or perhaps even for his

life. He settled in London towards 1824, married, and

became Professor of Italian in King's College, London,

publishing also various works of bold speculation in the

way of Dantesque commentary and exposition. His

wife was Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori (died 1886),

daughter of Gaetano Polidori (died 1853), a teacher of

Italian and literary man who had in early youth been

secretary to the poet Alfieri, and who published various

books, including a complete translation of Milton's

poems. Frances Polidori was English on the side of

her mother, whose maiden name was Pierce. The

family of Rossetti and his wife consisted of four

children, born in four successive years—Maria Fran-

cesca (died 1876), Dante Gabriel, William Michael, and

Christina Georgina, the two last-named being now the only

survivors. Few more affectionate husbands and fathers

have lived, and no better wife and mother, than Gabriele

and Frances Rossetti. The means of the family were

always strictly moderate, and became scanty towards

1843, when the father's health began to fail. In or about

that year Dante Gabriel left King's College School, where

he had learned Latin, French, and a beginning of Greek;

and he entered upon the study of the art of painting, to

which he had from earliest childhood exhibited a very

marked bent. After a while he was admitted to the
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school of the Royal Academy, but never proceeded be-

yond its antique section. In 1848 Rossetti co-operated

with two of his fellow-students in painting, John Everett

Millais and William Holman Hunt, and with the sculptor

Thomas Woolner, in forming the so-called Præraphaelite

Brotherhood. There were three other members of the

Brotherhood—James Collinson (succeeded after two or

three years by Walter Howell Deverell), Frederic

George Stephens, and the present writer. Ford Madox

Brown, the historical painter, was known to Rossetti

much about the same time when the Præraphaelite

scheme was started, and bore an important part both in

directing his studies and in upholding the movement,

but he did not think fit to join the Brotherhood in any

direct or complete sense. Through Deverell, Rossetti

came to know Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal, daughter of a

Sheffield cutler, herself a milliner's assistant, gifted with

some artistic and some poetic faculty; in the Spring of

1860, after a long engagement, they married. Their

wedded life was of short duration, as she died in

February 1862, having meanwhile given birth to a still-

born child. For several years up to this date Rossetti,

designing and painting many works, in oil-colour or as

yet more frequently in water-colour, had resided at

No. 14 Chatham Place, Blackfriars Bridge, a line of

street now demolished. In the autumn of 1862 he re-

moved to No. 16 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. At first

certain apartments in the house were occupied by Mr.

George Meredith the novelist, Mr. Swinburne the poet,

and myself. This arrangement did not last long,

although I myself remained a partial inmate of the house

up to 1873. My brother continued domiciled in Cheyne

Walk until his death; but from about 1869 he was
Sig. b
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frequently away at Kelmscot manorhouse, in Oxford-

shire, not far from Lechlade, occupied jointly by himself,

and by the poet Mr. William Morris with his family.

From the autumn of 1872 till the summer of 1874 he

was wholly settled at Kelmscot, scarcely visiting London

at all. He then returned to London, and Kelmscot

passed out of his ken.
In the early months of 1850 the members of the

Præraphaelite Brotherhood, with the co-operation of

some friends, brought out a short-lived magazine named

The Germ (afterwards Art and Poetry); here appeared

the first verses and the first prose published by Rossetti,

including The Blessed Damozel and Hand and Soul .

In 1856 he contributed a little to The Oxford and

Cambridge Magazine
, printing there The Burden of

. In 1861, during his married life, he published

his volume of translations The Early Italian Poets , now

entitled Dante and his Circle . By the time therefore of

the death of his wife he had a certain restricted yet far

from inconsiderable reputation as a poet, along with his

recognized position as a painter—a non-exhibiting painter,

it may here be observed, for, after the first two

or three years of his professional course, he ad-

hered with practical uniformity to the plan of abstaining

from exhibition altogether. He had contemplated bring-

ing out in or about 1862 a volume of original poems;

but, in the grief and dismay which overwhelmed

him in losing his wife, he determined to sacri-

fice to her memory this long-cherished project, and he

buried in her coffin the manuscripts which would have

furnished forth the volume. With the lapse of years he

came to see that, as a final settlement of the matter,

this was neither obligatory nor desirable; so in 1869 the
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manuscripts were disinterred, and in 1870 his volume

named Poems was issued. For some considerable

while it was hailed with general and lofty praise,

chequered by only moderate stricture or demur; but

late in 1871 Mr. Robert Buchanan published under a

pseudonym, in the Contemporary Review , a very hostile

article named The Fleshly School of Poetry , attacking

the poems on literary and more especially on moral

grounds. The article, in an enlarged form, was after-

wards reissued as a pamphlet. The assault produced

on Rossetti an effect altogether disproportionate to its

intrinsic importance; indeed, it developed in his cha-

racter an excess of sensitiveness and of distempered

brooding which his nearest relatives and friends had

never before surmised,—for hitherto he had on the whole

had an ample sufficiency of high spirits, combined with

a certain underlying gloominess or abrupt moodiness of

nature and outlook. Unfortunately there was in him

already only too much of morbid material on which this

venom of detraction was to work. For some years the

state of his eyesight had given very grave cause for appre-

hension, he himself fancying from time to time that the

evil might end in absolute blindness, a fate with which

our father had been formidably threatened in his closing

years. From this or other causes insomnia had ensued,

coped with by far too free a use of chloral, which may

have begun towards the end of 1869. In the summer of

1872 he had a dangerous crisis of illness; and from that

time forward, but more especially from the middle of

1874, he became secluded in his habits of life, and often

depressed, fanciful, and gloomy. Not indeed that there

were no intervals of serenity, even of brightness; for in

fact he was often genial and pleasant, and a most agreeable
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companion, with as much bonhomie as acuteness for wiling

an evening away. He continued also to prosecute his

pictorial work with ardour and diligence, and at times he

added to his product as a poet. The second of his original

volumes, Ballads and Sonnets , was published in the

autumn of 1881. About the same time he sought change

of air and scene in the Vale of St. John, near Keswick,

Cumberland; but he returned to town more shattered in

health and in mental tone than he had ever been before.

In December a shock of a quasi-paralytic character struck

him down. He rallied sufficiently to remove to Birching-

ton-on-Sea, near Margate. The hand of death was then

upon him, and was to be relaxed no more. The last

stage of his maladies was uræmia. Tended by his

mother and his sister Christina, with the constant com-

panionship at Birchington of Mr. Hall Caine, and in the

presence likewise of Mr. Theodore Watts, Mr. Frederick

Shields, and myself, he died on Easter Sunday, April 9th

1882. His sister-in-law, the daughter of Madox Brown,

arrived immediately after his latest breath had been

drawn. He lies buried in the churchyard of Birchington.
Few brothers were more constantly together, or shared

one another's feelings and thoughts more intimately, in

childhood, boyhood, and well on into mature manhood,

than Dante Gabriel and myself. I have no idea of

limning his character here at any length, but will de-

fine a few of its leading traits. He was always and

essentially of a dominant turn, in intellect and in

temperament a leader. He was impetuous and vehe-

ment, and necessarily therefore impatient; easily

angered, easily appeased, although the embittered

feelings of his later years obscured this amiable quality

to some extent; constant and helpful as a friend where
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he perceived constancy to be reciprocated; free-handed

and heedless of expenditure, whether for himself or for

others; in family affection warm and equable, and (except

in relation to our mother, for whom he had a fondling

love) not demonstrative. Never on stilts in matters of

the intellect or of aspiration, but steeped in the sense

of beauty, and loving, if not always practising, the good;

keenly alive also (though many people seem to discredit

this now) to the laughable as well as the grave or solemn

side of things; superstitious in grain, and anti-scientific

to the marrow. Throughout his youth and early man-

hood I considered him to be markedly free from vanity,

though certainly well equipped in pride; the distinction

between these two tendencies was less definite in his

closing years. Extremely natural and therefore totally

unaffected in tone and manner, with the naturalism

characteristic of Italian blood; good-natured and hearty,

without being complaisant or accommodating; reserved

at times, yet not haughty; desultory enough in youth,

diligent and persistent in maturity; self-centred always,

and brushing aside whatever traversed his purpose or

his bent. He was very generally and very greatly liked

by persons of extremely diverse character; indeed, I

think it can be no exaggeration to say that no one ever

disliked him. Of course I do not here confound the

question of liking a man's personality with that of

approving his conduct out-and-out.
Of his manner I can perhaps convey but a vague

impression. I have said that it was natural; it was

likewise eminently easy, and even of the free-and-easy

kind. There was a certain British bluffness, streaking

the finely poised Italian suppleness and facility. As he

was thoroughly unconventional, caring not at all to
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fall in with the humours or prepossessions of any

particular class of society, or to conciliate or approxi-

mate the socially distinguished, there was little in him

of any veneer or varnish of elegance; none the less he

was courteous and well-bred, meeting all sorts of persons

upon equal terms— i.e., upon his own terms; and I am

satisfied that those who are most exacting in such

matters found in Rossetti nothing to derogate from the

standard of their requirements. In habit of body he was

indolent and lounging, disinclined to any prescribed

or trying exertion of any sort, and very difficult to stir

out of his ordinary groove, yet not wanting in active

promptitude whenever it suited his liking. He often

seemed totally unoccupied, especially of an evening;

no doubt the brain was busy enough.
The appearance of my brother was to my eye rather

Italian than English, though I have more than once

heard it said that there was nothing observable to

bespeak foreign blood. He was of rather low middle

stature, say five feet seven and a half, like our father;

and, as the years advanced, he resembled our father

not a little in a characteristic way, yet with highly

obvious divergences. Meagre in youth, he was at

times decidedly fat in mature age. The complexion,

clear and warm, was also dark, but not dusky or sombre.

The hair was dark and somewhat silky; the brow grandly

spacious and solid; the full-sized eyes blueish-grey;

the nose shapely, decided, and rather projecting, with an

aquiline tendency and large nostrils, and perhaps no

detail in the face was more noticeable at a first glance

than the very strong indentation at the spring of the

nose below the forehead; the mouth moderately well-

shaped, but with a rather thick and unmoulded under-
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lip; the chin unremarkable; the line of the jaw, after

youth was passed, full, rounded, and sweeping; the ears

well-formed and rather small than large. His hips were

wide, his hands and feet small; the hands very much

those of the artist or author type, white, delicate,

plump, and soft as a woman's. His gait was resolute

and rapid, his general aspect compact and deter-

mined, the prevailing expression of the face that

of a fiery and dictatorial mind concentrated into re-

pose. Some people regarded Rossetti as eminently

handsome; few, I think, would have refused him the

epithet of well-looking. It rather surprises me to

find from Mr. Caine's book of Recollections that that

gentleman, when he first saw Rossetti in 1880, con-

sidered him to look full ten years older than he really

was,—namely, to look as if sixty-two years old. To my

own eye nothing of the sort was apparent. He wore

moustaches from early youth, shaving his cheeks; from

1870 or thereabouts he grew whiskers and beard, mode-

rately full and auburn-tinted, as well as moustaches. His

voice was deep and harmonious; in the reading of poetry,

remarkably rich, with rolling swell and musical cadence.
My brother was very little of a traveller; he disliked

the interruption of his ordinary habits of life, and the

flurry or discomfort, involved in locomotion. In boy-

hood he knew Boulogne: he was in Paris three or four

times, and twice visited some principal cities of Belgium.

This was the whole extent of his foreign travelling.

He crossed the Scottish border more than once, and

knew various parts of England pretty well—Hastings,

Bath, Oxford, Matlock, Stratford-on-Avon, Newcastle-

on-Tyne, Bognor, Herne Bay; Kelmscot, Keswick, and

Birchington-on-Sea, have been already mentioned. From
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1878 or thereabouts he became, until he went to the

neighbourhood of Keswick, an absolute home-keeping

recluse, never even straying outside the large garden of

his own house, except to visit from time to time our

mother in the central part of London.
From an early period of life he had a large circle of

friends, and could always have commanded any amount

of intercourse with any number of ardent or kindly

well-wishers, had he but felt elasticity and cheerfulness

of mind enough for the purpose. I should do injustice

to my own feelings if I were not to mention here some

of his leading friends. First and foremost I name Mr.

Madox Brown, his chief intimate throughout life, on

the unexhausted resources of whose affection and con-

verse he drew incessantly for long years; they were at

last separated by the removal of Mr. Brown to Man-

chester, for the purpose of painting the Town Hall

frescoes. The Præraphaelites—Millais, Hunt, Woolner,

Stephens, Collinson, Deverell—were on terms of un-

bounded familiarity with him in youth; owing to death

or other causes, he lost sight eventually of all of them

except Mr. Stephens. Mr. William Bell Scott was, like

Mr. Brown, a close friend from a very early period until

the last; Scott being both poet and painter, there was

a strict bond of affinity between him and Rossetti.

Mr. Ruskin was extremely intimate with my brother

from 1854 till about 1865, and was of material help to

his professional career. As he rose towards celebrity,

Rossetti knew Burne Jones, and through him Morris

and Swinburne, all staunch and fervently sympathetic

friends. Mr. Shields was a rather later acquaintance,

who soon became an intimate, equally respected and

cherished. Then Mr. Hueffer the musical critic (now
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a close family connection, editor of the Tauchnitz edition

of Rossetti's works), and Dr. Hake the poet. Through

the latter my brother came to know Mr. Theodore

Watts, whose intellectual companionship and incessant

assiduity of friendship did more than anything else

towards assuaging the discomforts and depression of his

closing years. In the latest period the most intimate

among new acquaintances were Mr. William Sharp and

Mr. Hall Caine, both of them known to Rossettian readers

as his biographers. Nor should I omit to speak of the

extremely friendly relation in which my brother stood to

some of the principal purchasers of his pictures—Mr.

Leathart, Mr. Rae, Mr. Leyland, Mr. Graham, Mr. Valpy,

Mr. Turner, and his early associate Mr. Boyce. Other

names crowd upon me—James Hannay, John Tupper,

Patmore, Thomas and John Seddon, Mrs. Bodichon,

Browning, John Marshall, Tebbs, Mrs. Gilchrist, Miss

Boyd, Sandys, Whistler, Joseph Knight, Fairfax Murray,

Mr. and Mrs. Stillman, Treffry Dunn, Lord and Lady

Mount-Temple, Oliver Madox Brown, the Marstons,

father and son—but I forbear.
Before proceeding to some brief account of the

sequence, etc., of my brother's writings, it may be worth

while to speak of the poets who were particularly

influential in nurturing his mind and educing its own

poetic endowment. The first poet with whom he

became partially familiar was Shakespeare. Then fol-

lowed the usual boyish fancies for Walter Scott and

Byron. The Bible was deeply impressive to him,

perhaps above all Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Apocalypse.

Byron gave place to Shelley when my brother was about

sixteen years of age; and Mrs. Browning and the old

English or Scottish ballads rapidly ensued. It may have
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been towards this date, say 1845, that he first seriously

applied himself to Dante, and drank deep of that in-

exhaustible well-head of poesy and thought; for the

Florentine, though familiar to him as a name, and in

some sense as a pervading penetrative influence, from

earliest childhood, was not really assimilated until boy-

hood was practically past. Bailey's Festus was enor-

mously relished about the same time—read again and

yet again; also Faust, Victor Hugo, De Musset (and

along with them a swarm of French novelists), and

Keats, whom my brother for the most part, though not

without some compunctious visitings now and then,

truly preferred to Shelley. The only classical poet

whom he took to in any degree worth speaking of was

Homer, the Odyssey considerably more than the Iliad.

Tennyson reigned along with Keats, and Edgar Poe and

Coleridge along with Tennyson. In the long run he

perhaps enjoyed and revered Coleridge beyond any other

modern poet whatsoever; but Coleridge was not so

distinctly or separately in the ascendant, at any par-

ticular period of youth, as several of the others. Blake

likewise had his peculiar meed of homage, and Charles

Wells, the influence of whose prose style, in the Stories

after Nature
, I trace to some extent in Rossetti's Hand

and Soul
. Lastly came Browning, and for a time, like

the serpent-rod of Moses, swallowed up all the rest.

This was still at an early stage of life; for I think the

year 1847 cannot certainly have been passed before my

brother was deep in Browning. The readings or frag-

mentary recitations of Bells and Pomegranates, Para-

, and above all Sordello, are something to remember

from a now distant past. My brother lighted upon

Pauline (published anonymously) in the British Museum,
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copied it out, recognized that it must be Browning's, and

wrote to the great poet at a venture to say so, receiving

a cordial response, followed by a genial and friendly inter-

course for several years. One prose-work of great

influence upon my brother's mind, and upon his product

as a painter, must not be left unspecified—Malory's

Mort d'Arthur, which engrossed him towards 1856.

The only poet whom I feel it needful to add to the

above is Chatterton. In the last two or three years of

his life my brother entertained an abnormal—I think

an exaggerated—admiration of Chatterton. It appears

to me that (to use a very hackneyed phrase) he “evolved

this from his inner consciousness” at that late period;

certainly in youth and early manhood he had no such

feeling. He then read the poems of Chatterton with

cursory glance and unexcited spirit, recognizing them

as very singular performances for their date in English

literature, and for the author's boyish years, but beyond

that laying no marked stress upon them.
The reader may perhaps be surprised to find some

names unmentioned in this list: I have stated the facts

as I remember and know them. Chaucer, Spenser,

the Elizabethan dramatists (other than Shakespeare),

Milton, Dryden, Pope, Wordsworth, are unnamed. It

should not be supposed that he read them not at all, or

cared not for any of them; but, if we except Chaucer in

a rather loose way and (at a late period of life) Marlowe

in some of his non-dramatic poems, they were compara-

tively neglected. Thomas Hood he valued highly; also

very highly Burns in mature years, but he was not

a constant reader of the Scottish lyrist. Of Italian poets

he earnestly loved none save Dante: Cavalcanti in his

degree, and also Poliziano and Michelangelo — not
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Petrarca, Boccaccio, Ariosto, Tasso, or Leopardi, though

in boyhood he delighted well enough in Ariosto. Of

French poets, none beyond Hugo and De Musset;

except Villon, and partially Dumas, whose novels ranked

among his favourite reading. In German poetry he

read nothing currently in the original, although (as our

pages bear witness) he had in earliest youth so far

mastered the language as to make some translations.

Calderon, in Fitzgerald's version, he admired deeply;

but this was only at a late date. He had no liking for

the specialities of Scandinavian, nor indeed of Teutonic,

thought and work, and little or no curiosity about

Oriental—such as Indian, Persian, or Arabic—poetry.

Any writing about devils, spectres, or the supernatural

generally, whether in poetry or in prose, had always

a fascination for him; at one time, say 1844, his supreme

delight was the blood-curdling romance of Maturin,

Melmoth the Wanderer.
I now pass to a specification of my brother's own

writings. Of his merely childish or boyish performances

I need have said nothing, were it not that they have

been mentioned in other books regarding Rossetti. First

then there was The Slave , a “drama” which he

composed and wrote out in or about the sixth year of his

age. It is of course simple nonsense. “Slave” and

“traitor” were two words which he found passim in

Shakespeare; so he gave to his principal or only

characters the names of Slave and Traitor. If what

they do is meaningless, what they say (when they deviate

from prose) is probably unmetrical; but it is so long

since I read The Slave that I speak about this with

uncertainty. Towards his thirteenth year he began

a romantic prose-tale named Roderick and Rosalba . I
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hardly think that he composed anything else prior to

the ballad narrative Sir Hugh the Heron , founded on

a tale by Allan Cunningham. Our grandfather printed it

in 1843, which is probably the year of its composition.

It is correctly enough versified, but has no merit, and

little that could even be called promise. Soon afterwards a

prose-tale named Sorrentino , in which the devil played

a conspicuous part, was begun, and carried to some

length; it was of course boyish, but it must, I think, have

shown some considerable degree of cleverness. In 1844

or 1845 there was a translation of Bürger's Lenore ,

spirited and I suppose fairly efficient; and in November

1845 was begun a translation of the Nibelungenlied ,

almost deserving (if my memory serves me) to be con-

sidered good. Several hundred lines of it must certainly

have been written. My brother was by this time a

practised and competent versifier, at any rate, and his

mere prentice-work may count as finished.
Other original verse, not in any large quantity,

succeeded, along with the version of Der Arme Heinrich ,

and the beginning of his translations from the early

Italians. These must, I think, have been in full career

in the first half of 1847, if not in 1846. They show

a keen sensitiveness to whatsoever is poetic in the

originals, and a sinuous strength and ease in providing

English equivalents, with the command of a rich and

romantic vocabulary. In his nineteenth year, or before

12th May 1847, he wrote The Blessed Damozel .* As

that is universally recognized as one of his typical

Transcribed Footnote (page xxix):

* My brother said so, in a letter published by Mr. Caine. He

must presumably have been correct; otherwise I should have

thought that his twentieth year, or even his twenty-first, would

be nearer the mark.

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Note: Page is misnumbered as xx
or consummate productions, marking the high level of

his faculty whether inventive or executive, I may here

close this record of preliminaries; the poems, with such

slight elucidations as my notes supply, being left to

speak for themselves. I will only add that for some

while, more especially in the later part of 1848 and in

1849, my brother practised his pen to no small extent in

writing sonnets to bouts-rimés. He and I would sit

together in our bare little room at the top of No. 50

Charlotte Street, I giving him the rhymes for a sonnet,

and he me the rhymes for another; and we would write

off our emulous exercises with considerable speed, he

constantly the more rapid of the two. From five to eight

minutes may have been the average time for one of his

sonnets; not unfrequently more, and sometimes hardly

so much. In fact, the pen scribbled away at its fastest.

Many of his bouts-rimés sonnets still exist in my posses-

sion, a little touched up after the first draft. Two or

three seemed to me nearly good enough to appear in the

present collection, but on the whole I decided against

them all. Some have a faux air of intensity of meaning,

as well as of expression; but their real core of signifi-

cance is necessarily small, the only wonder being how

he could spin so deftly with so weak a thread. I may

be allowed to mention that most of my own sonnets (and

not sonnets alone) published in The Germ were bouts-

rimes experiments such as above described. In poetic

tone they are of course inferior to my brother's work of

like fashioning; in point of sequence or self-congruity of

meaning, the comparison might be less to my disadvantage.
Dante Rossetti's published works were as follows:

three volumes, chiefly of poetry. I shall transcribe the

title-pages verbatim.
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(1 a) The Early Italian Poets from Ciullo d'Alcamo to

Dante Alighieri (1100—1200—1300) in the Original

Metres. Together with Dante's Vita Nuova. Translated

by D. G. Rossetti. Part I. Poets chiefly before Dante.

Part II. Dante and his Circle. London: Smith, Elder

and Co., 65, Cornhill. 1861. The rights of translation

and reproduction, as regards all editorial parts of this

work, are reserved.
(1 b) Dante and his Circle , with the Italian Poets pre-

ceding him (1100—1200—1300). A Collection of Lyrics,

edited, and translated in the original metres, by Dante

Gabriel Rossetti. Revised and rearranged edition.

Part I. Dante's Vita Nuova, &c. Poets of Dante's

Circle. Part II. Poets chiefly before Dante. London:

Ellis and White, 29 New Bond Street. 1874.
(2 a) Poems by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. London:

F. S. Ellis, 33 King Street, Covent Garden. 1870.
(2 b) Poems by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. A new edition.

London: Ellis and White, 29 New Bond Street. 1881.
(3) Ballads and Sonnets by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

London: Ellis and White, 29, New Bond Street, W. 1881.
The reader will understand that 1 b is essentially the

same book as 1 a, but altered in arrangement, chiefly

by inverting the order in which the poems of Dante

and of the Dantesque epoch, and those of an earlier

period, are printed. In the present collection, I reprint

1 b, taking no further count of 1 a. The volume 2 b is to

a great extent the same as 2 a, yet by no means identical

with it. 2 a contained a section named Sonnets and

Songs, towards a work to be called “The House of Life.”

In 1881, when 2 b and 3 were published simultaneously,

The House of Life was completed, was made to consist

solely of sonnets, and was transferred to 3; while the
Image of page xxxii page: xxxii

gap thus left in 2 b was filled up by other poems. With

this essential modification of The House of Life it was

clearly my duty not to interfere.
It thus became impossible for me to reproduce 2 a:

but the question had to be considered whether I should

reprint 2 b and 3 exactly as they stood in 1881, adding

after them a section of poems not hitherto printed in

any one of my brother's volumes; or whether I should

recast, in point of arrangement, the entire contents of

2 b and 3, inserting here and there, in their most appro-

priate sequence, the poems hitherto unprinted. I have

chosen the latter alternative, as being in my own opinion

the only arrangement which is thoroughly befitting for

an edition of Collected Works. I am aware that some

readers would have preferred to see the old order— i.e.,

the order of 1881—retained, so that the two volumes of

that year could be perused as they then stood. Indeed,

one of my brother's friends, most worthy, whether as

friend or as critic, to be consulted on such a subject,

decidedly advocated that plan. On the other hand, I

found my own view confirmed by my sister Christina,

who, both as a member of the family and as a poetess,

deserved an attentive hearing. The reader who inspects

my table of contents will be readily able to follow the

method of arrangement which is here adopted. I have

divided the materials into Principal Poems, Miscellaneous

Poems, Translations, and some minor headings; and

have in each section arranged the poems—and the

same has been done with the prose-writings—in some

approximate order of date. This order of date is cer-

tainly not very far from correct; but I could not make it

absolute, having frequently no distinct information to go

by. The few translations which were printed in 2 b (as
Image of page xxxiii page: xxxiii
Sig. c
also in 2 a) have been removed to follow on after 1 b. I

shall give in a tabular form some particulars which will

enable the reader to follow out for himself, if he takes

an interest in such minutiæ, the original arrangement of

2 a, 2 b, and 3.
There are two poems by my brother, unpublished as

yet, which I am unable to include among his Collected

Works. One of these is a grotesque ballad about a

Dutchman, begun at a very early date, and finished in

his last illness. The other is a brace of sonnets, in-

teresting in subject, and as being the very last thing

that he wrote. These works were presented as a gift

of love and gratitude to a friend, with whom it remains

to publish them at his own discretion. I have also

advisedly omitted three poems; two of them sonnets,

the third a ballad of no great length. One of the

sonnets is that entitled Nuptial Sleep . It appeared in

the volume of Poems 1870 (2 a), but was objected

to by Mr. Buchanan, and I suppose by some other

censors, as being indelicate; and my brother excluded

it from The House of Life in his third volume. I con-

sider that there is nothing in the sonnet which need

imperatively banish it from his Collected Works; but

his own decision commands mine, and besides it could

not now be reintroduced into The House of Life ,

which he moulded into a complete whole without it,

and would be misplaced if isolated by itself—a point

as to which his opinion is very plainly set forth in

his prose-paper The Stealthy School of Criticism . The

second sonnet, named On the French Liberation of Italy,

was put into print by my brother while he was pre-

paring his volume of 1870, but he resolved to leave

it unpublished. Its title shows plainly enough that it
Image of page xxxiv page: xxxiv
relates to a matter in which sexual morals have no

part; but the subject is treated under the form of a

vigorous and perhaps repulsive metaphor, and here

again I follow his own lead. The ballad above referred

to, Dennis Shand , is a skilful and really very harmless

production; it was printed but not published, like the

sonnet last-mentioned, and no writer other than one

who took a grave view of questions of moral propriety

would have preferred to suppress it. My brother's

opinion is worded thus in a letter to Mr. Caine, which

that gentleman has published: “The ballad . . . deals

trivially with a base amour (it was written very early),

and is therefore really reprehensible to some extent.”

I will not be less jealously scrupulous for him than he

was for himself.
Dante Rossetti was a very fastidious writer, and, I

might add, a very fastidious painter. He did not indeed

“cudgel his brains” for the idea of a poem or the

structure or diction of a stanza. He wrote out of a

large fund or reserve of thought and consideration,

which would culminate in a clear impulse or (as we

say) an inspiration. In the execution he was always

heedful and reflective from the first, and he spared no

after-pains in clarifying and perfecting. He abhorred

anything straggling, slipshod, profuse, or uncondensed.

He often recurred to his old poems, and was reluctant to

leave them merely as they were. A natural concomitant

of this state of mind was a great repugnance to the

notion of publishing, or of having published after his

death, whatever he regarded as juvenile, petty, or

inadequate. As editor of his Collected Works, I have

had to regulate myself by these feelings of his, whether

my own entirely correspond with them or not. The
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amount of unpublished work which he left behind him

was by no means large; out of the moderate bulk I

have been careful to select only such examples as I

suppose that he would himself have approved for the

purpose, or would, at any rate, not gravely have objected

to. A list of the new items is given at page xli, and a

few details regarding them will be found among my

notes. Some projects or arguments of poems which he

never executed are also printed among his prose-writings.

These particular projects had, I think, been practically

abandoned by him in all the later years of his life; but

there was one subject which he had seriously at heart,

and for which he had collected some materials, and he

would perhaps have put it into shape had he lived a

year or two longer—a ballad on the subject of Joan Darc,

to match The White Ship and The King's Tragedy .
I have not unfrequently heard my brother say that

he considered himself more essentially a poet than a

painter. To vary the form of expression, he thought that

he had mastered the means of embodying poetical concep-

tions in the verbal and rhythmical vehicle more thoroughly

than in form and design, perhaps more thoroughly than

in colour.
I may take this opportunity of observing that I hope

to publish at an early date a substantial selection from

the family-letters written by my brother, to be pre-

ceded by a Memoir drawn up by Mr. Theodore Watts,

who will be able to express more freely and more im-

partially than myself some of the things most apposite

to be said about Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
William M. Rossetti.

London, June 1886.
Image of page xxxvi page: xxxvi
Note: The table indexes poems by “Position in present edition”, and includes references to “VOL. PAGE”

    • 2a.—Contents of Poems, 1870.
      • Poems:
      • The Blessed Damozel . . . . . . i. . 232
      • Love's Nocturn . . . . . . . i. . 288
      • Troy Town . . . . . . . . i. . 305
      • The Burden of Nineveh . . . . . i. . 266
      • Eden Bower . . . . . . . . i. . 308
      • Ave . . . . . . . . . i. . 244
      • The Staff and Scrip . . . . . . i. . 75
      • A Last Confession . . . . . . i. . 18
      • Dante at Verona . . . . . . . i. . 1
      • Jenny . . . . . . . . i. . 83
      • The Portrait . . . . . . . . i. . 240
      • Sister Helen . . . . . . . . i. . 66
      • Stratton Water . . . . . . . i. . 274
      • The Stream's Secret . . . . . . i. . 95
      • The Card-dealer . . . . . . . i. . 248
      • My Sister's Sleep . . . . . . . i. . 229
      • A New Year's Burden . . . . . . i. . 296
      • Even So . . . . . . . . i. . 297
      • An Old Song Ended . . . . . . i. . 300
      • Aspecta Medusa . . . . . . . i. . 357
      • Three Translations from Villon . . . . ii.461,etc.
      • John of Tours . . . . . . . ii. . 465
      • My Father's Close . . . . . . ii. . 467
      • One Girl ( now named Beauty) . . . . ii. . 469
    • Sonnets and Songs towards a Work to be entitled “The

      House of Life.”
    • Fifty Sonnets . . . . . . i. 177, etc.
    • [For the titles of them see vol. i., p. 517.]
    • Image of page xxxvii page: xxxvii
      • Songs:
      • Love-lily . . . . . . . . i. . 315
      • First Love Remembered . . . . . i. . 293
      • Plighted Promise . . . . . . . i. . 294
      • Sudden Light . . . . . . . i. . 295
      • A Little While . . . . . . . i. . 304
      • The Song of the Bower . . . . . . i. . 301
      • Penumbra . . . . . . . . i. . 283
      • The Woodspurge . . . . . . . i. . 298
      • The Honeysuckle . . . . . . . i. . 298
      • A Young Fir-wood . . . . . . i. . 273
      • The Sea Limits . . . . . . . i. . 254
      • [Here ended the “House of Life” Series.]
      • Sonnets for Pictures, and other Sonnets:
      • For Our Lady of the Rocks, by Leonardo da
      • Vinci . . . . . . . . i. . 344
      • For a Venetian Pastoral, by Giorgione . . . i. . 345
      • For an Allegorical Dance of Women, by Man-
      • tegna . . . . . . . . i. . 346
      • For Ruggiero and Angelica, by Ingres . . . i. . 347
      • For the Wine of Circe, by Burne Jones . . i. . 350
      • Mary's Girlhood . . . . . . . i. . 353
      • The Passover in the Holy Family . . . . i. . 355
      • Mary Magdalene at the Door of Simon the
      • Pharisee . . . . . . . . i. . 356
      • St. Luke the Painter . . . . . . i. . 214
      • Lilith . . . . . . . . . i. . 216
      • Sibylla Palmifera . . . . . . . i. . 215
      • Venus . . . . . . . . . i. . 360
      • Cassandra . . . . . . . . i. . 358
      • Pandora . . . . . . . . . i. . 360
      • On Refusal of Aid between Nations . . . i. . 252
      • On the Vita Nuova of Dante . . . . . i. . 252
      • Dantis Tenebræ . . . . . . . i. . 299
      • Beauty and the Bird . . . . . . i. . 286
      • A Match with the Moon . . . . . i. . 287
    • Image of page xxxviii page: xxxviii
      • Sonnets for Pictures, and other Sonnets, continued:
      • Autumn Idleness . . . . . . . i. . 211
      • Farewell to the Glen . . . . . . i. . 219
      • The Monochord . . . . . . . i. . 216
    • 2b.—Contents of Poems, 1881.
      • Poems:
      • [This section contains the same compositions as the section Poems

        in the volume of 1870, but in a different sequence, and also the fol-


      • Down Stream . . . . . . . i. . 319
      • Wellington's Funeral . . . . . . i. . 281
      • World's Worth . . . . . . . i. . 250
      • The Bride's Prelude . . . . . . i. . 35
      • [But the following are removed to a section headed]

      • Lyrics:
      • A New Year's Burden . . . . . . i. . 296
      • Even So . . . . . . . . . i. . 297
      • [In other respects the section Lyrics consists of the Songs which used

        to form part of “The House of Life.”]

      • Sonnets:
      • [Contains the various compositions which appeared in the volume

        of 1870 under the heading Sonnets for Pictures, and other Sonnets,

        except St. Luke the Painter, Lilith, Sibylla Palmifera, Autumn Idleness,

        Farewell to the Glen, and The Monochord; these six sonnets were

        transferred to The House of Life in the Ballads and Sonnets (3),

        the Lilith and Sibylla Palmifera being renamed Body's Beauty and

        Soul's Beauty.]

      • Translations:
      • [Contains the six translations which in the volume of 1870 appeared

        under the heading “Poems,” the title One Girl being now superseded by

        the title Beauty (Sappho); also the following]

      • Youth and Lordship (Italian Street-song) . . i. . 366
      • The Leaf (Leopardi) . . . . . . ii. . 409
      • Francesca da Rimini (Dante) . . . . ii. . 405
  • Image of page xxxix page: xxxix
    • 3.—Contents of Ballads and Sonnets.
      • Ballads:
      • Rose Mary . . . . . . . . i. . 103
      • The White Ship . . . . . . . i. . 137
      • The King's Tragedy . . . . . . i. . 148
      • The House of Life— A Sonnet Sequence. . . i. . 176
      • Lyrics &c:
      • Soothsay . . . . . . . . i. . 334
      • Chimes . . . . . . . . . i. . 330
      • Parted Presence . . . . . . . i. . 324
      • A Death-parting . . . . . . . i. . 322
      • Spheral Change . . . . . . . i. . 326
      • Sunset Wings . . . . . . . i. . 316
      • Song and Music . . . . . . . i. . 253
      • Three Shadows . . . . . . . i. . 321
      • Alas so long! . . . . . . . . i. . 327
      • Adieu . . . . . . . . . i. . 333
      • Insomnia . . . . . . . . i. . 328
      • Possession . . . . . . . . i. . 329
      • The Cloud Confines . . . . . . i. . 317
      • Sonnets:
      • For the Holy Family, by Michelangelo . . . i. . 351
      • For Spring, by Sandro Botticelli . . . . i. . 352
      • Five English Poets . . . . . . i. . 337
      • Tiber, Nile, and Thames . . . . . i. . 340
      • The Last Three from Trafalgar . . . . i. . 342
      • Czar Alexander II. . . . . . . i. . 342
      • Words on the Window-pane . . . . i. . 299
      • Winter . . . . . . . . . i. . 341
      • Spring . . . . . . . . . i. . 323
      • The Church Porch . . . . . . . i. . 272
      • Untimely Lost (Oliver Madox Brown) . . . i. . 323
    • Image of page xl page: xl
      Note: Broken type: In the seventh line, the dot of the "i" for the page number is missing.
      • Sonnets, continued:
      • Place de la Bastille, Paris . . . . . i. . 261
      • “Found” (for a Picture) . . . . . i. . 363
      • A Sea-spell . . . . . . . . i. . 361
      • Fiammetta . . . . . . . . i. . 362
      • The Day-dream . . . . . . . i. . 364
      • Astarte Syriaca . . . . . . . i. . 361
      • Proserpina (Italian and English) . . . . i. . 370
      • La Bella Mano ” . . . . i. . 372

I add here the dedications to Rossetti's volumes 1a,

2a, 2b, and 3. The dedication to 1b appears in its

proper place.
  • 1a.— The Early Italian Poets:

    Whatever is mine in this book is inscribed to my Wife.—

    D.G.R. 1861.
  • 2a.— Poems, 1870:

    To William Michael Rossetti, these Poems, to so many

    of which, so many years back, he gave the first brotherly

    hearing, are now at last dedicated.
  • 2b.— Poems, 1881:

    Same dedication, adding the dates “1870—1881.”
  • 3.— Ballads and Sonnets:

    To Theodore Watts, the Friend whom my verse won for

    me, these few more pages are affectionately inscribed.

Image of page xli page: xli
In the Poems, 1881, appeared the ensuing “Adver-


“‘Many poems in this volume were written between 1847

and 1853. Others are of recent date, and a few belong to

the intervening period. It has been thought unnecessary

to specify the earlier work, as nothing is included which

the author believes to be immature.’

“The above brief note was prefixed to these poems when

first published in 1870. They have now been for some time

out of print.

“The fifty sonnets of the House of Life, which first appeared

here, are now embodied with the full series in the volume

entitled Ballads and Sonnets.

“The fragment of The Bride's Prelude, now first printed,

was written very early, and is here associated with other

work of the same date; though its publication in an un-

finished form needs some indulgence.”

On comparing the list which I have now given of

the “Poems published by Rossetti during his Lifetime”

with the contents of the present Collected Works,

section Poems, it will be found that the following

compositions are new. I put an asterisk against the

titles of the few which had been printed by my

brother in some outlying form, but not in his volumes.

For any further particulars the reader may be referred

to my notes.
  • At the Sun-rise in 1848 . . . . . . . 237
  • *Autumn Song . . . . . . . . 237
  • The Lady's Lament . . . . . . . . 238
  • A Trip to Paris and Belgium . . . . . . 255
  • The Staircase of Notre Dame, Paris . . . . 261
  • Near Brussels—A Half-way Pause . . . . . 262
  • *Antwerp and Bruges . . . . . . . 263
  • Image of page xlii page: xlii
  • On Leaving Bruges . . . . . . . . 264
  • Vox Ecclesiæ, Vox Christi . . . . . . 265
  • The Mirror . . . . . . . . . 272
  • During Music . . . . . . . . . 273
  • *On the Site of a Mulberry-tree, etc. . . . . 285
  • *On certain Elizabethan Revivals . . . . . 285
  • English May . . . . . . . . . 286
  • Dawn on the Night-journey . . . . . . 303
  • To Philip Bourke Marston . . . . . . 340
  • *Raleigh's Cell in the Tower . . . . . . 341
  • For an Annunciation . . . . . . . 343
  • *For a Virgin and Child by Memmelinck . . . 348
  • *For a Marriage of St. Catherine, by the same . . 349
  • *Mary's Girlhood, No. 2 . . . . . . . 354
  • Michael Scott's Wooing . . . . . . . 357
  • Mnemosyne . . . . . . . . . 362
  • La Ricordanza (Memory) . . . . . 370-1
  • Con manto d'oro, etc. (With golden mantle, etc.) . 372-3
  • Robe d'or, etc. (A golden robe, etc.) . . . 372-3
  • Barcarola . . . . . . . . . . 374
  • Barcarola . . . . . . . . . . 375
  • Bambino Fasciato . . . . . . . . 375
  • Thomæ Fides . . . . . . . . . 376
  • Versicles and Fragments . . . . . 377-80
Image of page [xliii] page: [xliii]
Image of page [xliv] page: [xliv]
Note: blank page
Image of page [1] page: [1]

  • Yea, thou shalt learn how salt his food who fares
  • Upon another's bread,—how steep his path
  • Who treadeth up and down another's stairs.
( Div. Com. Parad. xvii.)
  • Behold, even I, even I am Beatrice.
( Div. Com. Purg. xxx.)
  • Of Florence and of Beatrice
  • Servant and singer from of old,
  • O'er Dante's heart in youth had toll'd
  • The knell that gave his Lady peace;
  • And now in manhood flew the dart
  • Wherewith his City pierced his heart.
  • Yet if his Lady's home above
  • Was Heaven, on earth she filled his soul;
  • And if his City held control
  • 10 To cast the body forth to rove,
  • The soul could soar from earth's vain throng,
  • And Heaven and Hell fulfil the song.
  • Follow his feet's appointed way;—
  • But little light we find that clears
  • The darkness of the exiled years.
  • Follow his spirit's journey:—nay,
  • What fires are blent, what winds are blown
  • On paths his feet may tread alone?
Sig. 1
Image of page 2 page: 2
  • Yet of the twofold life he led
  • 20 In chainless thought and fettered will
  • Some glimpses reach us,—somewhat still
  • Of the steep stairs and bitter bread,—
  • Of the soul's quest whose stern avow
  • For years had made him haggard now.
  • Alas! the Sacred Song whereto
  • Both heaven and earth had set their hand
  • Not only at Fame's gate did stand
  • Knocking to claim the passage through,
  • But toiled to ope that heavier door
  • 30 Which Florence shut for evermore.
  • Shall not his birth's baptismal Town
  • One last high presage yet fulfil,
  • And at that font in Florence still
  • His forehead take the laurel-crown?
  • O God! or shall dead souls deny
  • The undying soul its prophecy?
  • Aye, 'tis their hour. Not yet forgot
  • The bitter words he spoke that day
  • When for some great charge far away
  • 40 Her rulers his acceptance sought.
  • “And if I go, who stays?”—so rose
  • His scorn:—“and if I stay, who goes?”
  • “Lo! thou art gone now, and we stay”:
  • (The curled lips mutter): “and no star
  • Is from thy mortal path so far
  • As streets where childhood knew the way.
  • To Heaven and Hell thy feet may win,
  • But thine own house they come not in.”
  • Therefore, the loftier rose the song
  • 50 To touch the secret things of God,
  • The deeper pierced the hate that trod
  • Image of page 3 page: 3
  • On base men's track who wrought the wrong;
  • Till the soul's effluence came to be
  • Its own exceeding agony.
  • Arriving only to depart,
  • From court to court, from land to land,
  • Like flame within the naked hand
  • His body bore his burning heart
  • That still on Florence strove to bring
  • 60 God's fire for a burnt offering.
  • Even such was Dante's mood, when now,
  • Mocked for long years with Fortune's sport,
  • He dwelt at yet another court,
  • There where Verona's knee did bow
  • And her voice hailed with all acclaim
  • Can Grande della Scala's name.
  • As that lord's kingly guest awhile
  • His life we follow; through the days
  • Which walked in exile's barren ways,—
  • 70 The nights which still beneath one smile
  • Heard through all spheres one song increase,—
  • “Even I, even I am Beatrice.”
  • At Can La Scala's court, no doubt,
  • Due reverence did his steps attend;
  • The ushers on his path would ben
  • At ingoing as at going out;
  • The penmen waited on his call
  • At council-board, the grooms in hall.
  • And pages hushed their laughter down,
  • 80 And gay squires stilled the merry stir,
  • When he passed up the dais-chamber
  • With set brows lordlier than a frown;
  • And tire-maids hidden among these
  • Drew close their loosened bodices.
Image of page 4 page: 4
Note: The first l in “wall” is missing in line 107.
  • Perhaps the priests, (exact to span
  • All God's circumference,) if at whiles
  • They found him wandering in their aisles,
  • Grudged ghostly greeting to the man
  • By whom, though not of ghostly guild,
  • 90 With Heaven and Hell men's hearts were fill'd.
  • And the court-poets (he, forsooth,
  • A whole world's poet strayed to court!)
  • Had for his scorn their hate's retort.
  • He'd meet them flushed with easy youth,
  • Hot on their errands. Like noon-flies
  • They vexed him in the ears and eyes.
  • But at this court, peace still must wrench
  • Her chaplet from the teeth of war:
  • By day they held high watch afar,
  • 100 At night they cried across the trench;
  • And still, in Dante's path, the fierce
  • Gaunt soldiers wrangled o'er their spears.
  • But vain seemed all the strength to him,
  • As golden convoys sunk at sea
  • Whose wealth might root out penury:
  • Because it was not, limb with limb,
  • Knit like his heart-strings round the wa l
  • Of Florence, that ill pride might fall.
  • Yet in the tiltyard, when the dust
  • 110 Cleared from the sundered press of knights
  • Ere yet again it swoops and smites,
  • He almost deemed his longing must
  • Find force to yield that multitude
  • And hurl that strength the way he would.
  • How should he move them,—fame and gain
  • On all hands calling them at strife?
  • He still might find but his one life
  • Image of page 5 page: 5
  • To give, by Florence counted vain:
  • One heart the false hearts made her doubt,
  • 120 One voice she heard once and cast out.
  • Oh! if his Florence could but come,
  • A lily-sceptred damsel fair,
  • As her own Giotto painted her
  • On many shields and gates at home,—
  • A lady crowned, at a soft pace
  • Riding the lists round to the dais:
  • Till where Can Grande rules the lists,
  • As young as Truth, as calm as Force,
  • She draws her rein now, while her horse
  • 130 Bows at the turn of the white wrists;
  • And when each knight within his stall
  • Gives ear, she speaks and tells them all:
  • All the foul tale,—truth sworn untrue
  • And falsehood's triumph. All the tale?
  • Great God! and must she not prevail
  • To fire them ere they heard it through,—
  • And hand achieve ere heart could rest
  • That high adventure of her quest?
  • How would his Florence lead them forth,
  • 140 Her bridle ringing as she went;
  • And at the last within her tent,
  • 'Neath golden lilies worship-worth,
  • How queenly would she bend the while
  • And thank the victors with her smile!
  • Also her lips should turn his way
  • And murmur: “O thou tried and true,
  • With whom I wept the long years through!
  • What shall it profit if I say,
  • Thee I remember? Nay, through thee
  • 150 All ages shall remember me.”
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  • Peace, Dante, peace! The task is long,
  • The time wears short to compass it.
  • Within thine heart such hopes may flit
  • And find a voice in deathless song:
  • But lo! as children of man's earth,
  • Those hopes are dead before their birth.
  • Fame tells us that Verona's court
  • Was a fair place. The feet might still
  • Wander for ever at their will
  • 160 In many ways of sweet resort;
  • And still in many a heart around
  • The Poet's name due honour found.
  • Watch we his steps. He comes upon
  • The women at their palm-playing.
  • The conduits round the gardens sing
  • And meet in scoops of milk-white stone,
  • Where wearied damsels rest and hold
  • Their hands in the wet spurt of gold.
  • One of whom, knowing well that he,
  • 170 By some found stern, was mild with them,
  • Would run and pluck his garment's hem,
  • Saying, “Messer Dante, pardon me,”—
  • Praying that they might hear the song
  • Which first of all he made, when young.
  • “Donne che avete”* . . . Thereunto
  • Thus would he murmur, having first
  • Drawn near the fountain, while she nurs'd
  • His hand against her side: a few
  • Sweet words, and scarcely those, half said:
  • 180 Then turned, and changed, and bowed his head.
Transcribed Footnote (page 6):

* Donne che avete intelletto d'amore:—the first canzone of

the Vita Nuova.

Image of page 7 page: 7
  • For then the voice said in his heart,
  • “Even I, even I am Beatrice;”
  • And his whole life would yearn to cease:
  • Till having reached his room, apart
  • Beyond vast lengths of palace-floor,
  • He drew the arras round his door.
  • At such times, Dante, thou hast set
  • Thy forehead to the painted pane
  • Full oft, I know; and if the rain
  • 190 Smote it outside, her fingers met
  • Thy brow; and if the sun fell there,
  • Her breath was on thy face and hair.
  • Then, weeping, I think certainly
  • Thou hast beheld, past sight of eyne,—
  • Within another room of thine
  • Where now thy body may not be
  • But where in thought thou still remain'st,—
  • A window often wept against:
  • The window thou, a youth, hast sought,
  • 200 Flushed in the limpid eventime,
  • Ending with daylight the day's rhyme
  • Of her; where oftenwhiles her thought
  • Held thee—the lamp untrimmed to write—
  • In joy through the blue lapse of night.
  • At Can La Scala's court, no doubt,
  • Guests seldom wept. It was brave sport,
  • No doubt, at Can La Scala's court,
  • Within the palace and without;
  • Where music, set to madrigals,
  • 210 Loitered all day through groves and halls.
  • Because Can Grande of his life
  • Had not had six-and-twenty years
  • As yet. And when the chroniclers
  • Image of page 8 page: 8
  • Tell you of that Vicenza strife
  • And of strifes elsewhere,—you must not
  • Conceive for church-sooth he had got
  • Just nothing in his wits but war:
  • Though doubtless 'twas the young man's joy
  • (Grown with his growth from a mere boy,)
  • 220To mark his “Viva Cane!” scare
  • The foe's shut front, till it would reel
  • All blind with shaken points of steel.
  • But there were places—held too sweet
  • For eyes that had not the due veil
  • Of lashes and clear lids—as well
  • In favour as his saddle-seat:
  • Breath of low speech he scorned not there
  • Nor light cool fingers in his hair.
  • Yet if the child whom the sire's plan
  • 230 Made free of a deep treasure-chest
  • Scoffed it with ill-conditioned jest,—
  • We may be sure too that the man
  • Was not mere thews, nor all content
  • With lewdness swathed in sentiment.
  • So you may read and marvel not
  • That such a man as Dante—one
  • Who, while Can Grande's deeds were done,
  • Had drawn his robe round him and thought—
  • Now at the same guest-table far'd
  • 240 Where keen Uguccio wiped his beard.*
  • Through leaves and trellis-work the sun
  • Left the wine cool within the glass,—
  • They feasting where no sun could pass:
  • Transcribed Footnote (page 8):

    * Uguccione della Faggiuola, Dante's former protector, was

    now his fellow-guest at Verona.

    Image of page 9 page: 9
  • And when the women, all as one,
  • Rose up with brightened cheeks to go,
  • It was a comely thing, we know.
  • But Dante recked not of the wine;
  • Whether the women stayed or went,
  • His visage held one stern intent:
  • 250 And when the music had its sign
  • To breathe upon them for more ease,
  • Sometimes he turned and bade it cease.
  • And as he spared not to rebuke
  • The mirth, so oft in council he
  • To bitter truth bore testimony:
  • And when the crafty balance shook
  • Well poised to make the wrong prevail,
  • Then Dante's hand would turn the scale.
  • And if some envoy from afar
  • 260 Sailed to Verona's sovereign port
  • For aid or peace, and all the court
  • Fawned on its lord, “the Mars of war,
  • Sole arbiter of life and death,”—
  • Be sure that Dante saved his breath.
  • And Can La Scala marked askance
  • These things, accepting them for shame
  • And scorn, till Dante's guestship came
  • To be a peevish sufferance:
  • His host sought ways to make his days
  • 270 Hateful; and such have many ways.
  • There was a Jester, a foul lout
  • Whom the court loved for graceless arts;
  • Sworn scholiast of the bestial parts
  • Of speech; a ribald mouth to shout
  • In Folly's horny tympanum
  • Such things as make the wise man dumb.
Image of page 10 page: 10
  • Much loved, him Dante loathed. And so,
  • One day when Dante felt perplex'd
  • If any day that could come next
  • 280 Were worth the waiting for or no,
  • And mute he sat amid their din,—
  • Can Grande called the Jester in.
  • Rank words, with such, are wit's best wealth.
  • Lords mouthed approval; ladies kept
  • Twittering with clustered heads, except
  • Some few that took their trains by stealth
  • And went. Can Grande shook his hair
  • And smote his thighs and laughed i' the air.
  • Then, facing on his guest, he cried,—
  • 290 “Say, Messer Dante, how it is
  • I get out of a clown like this
  • More than your wisdom can provide.”
  • And Dante: “'Tis man's ancient whim
  • That still his like seems good to him.”
  • Also a tale is told, how once,
  • At clearing tables after meat,
  • Piled for a jest at Dante's feet
  • Were found the dinner's well-picked bones;
  • So laid, to please the banquet's lord,
  • 300 By one who crouched beneath the board.
  • Then smiled Can Grande to the rest:—
  • “Our Dante's tuneful mouth indeed
  • Lacks not the gift on flesh to feed!”
  • “Fair host of mine,” replied the guest,
  • “So many bones you'd not descry
  • If so it chanced the dog were I.”*
Transcribed Footnote (page 10):

* “ Messere, voi non vedreste tant 'ossa se cane io fossi .” The

point of the reproach is difficult to render, depending as it does on

the literal meaning of the name Cane.

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  • But wherefore should we turn the grout
  • In a drained cup, or be at strife
  • From the worn garment of a life
  • 310 To rip the twisted ravel out?
  • Good needs expounding; but of ill
  • Each hath enough to guess his fill.
  • They named him Justicer-at-Law:
  • Each month to bear the tale in mind
  • Of hues a wench might wear unfin'd
  • And of the load an ox might draw;
  • To cavil in the weight of bread
  • And to see purse-thieves gibbeted.
  • And when his spirit wove the spell
  • 320 (From under even to over-noon
  • In converse with itself alone,)
  • As high as Heaven, as low as Hell,—
  • He would be summoned and must go:
  • For had not Gian stabbed Giacomo?
  • Therefore the bread he had to eat
  • Seemed brackish, less like corn than tares;
  • And the rush-strown accustomed stairs
  • Each day were steeper to his feet;
  • And when the night-vigil was done,
  • 330 His brows would ache to feel the sun.
  • Nevertheless, when from his kin
  • There came the tidings how at last
  • In Florence a decree was pass'd
  • Whereby all banished folk might win
  • Free pardon, so a fine were paid
  • And act of public penance made,—
  • This Dante writ in answer thus,
  • Words such as these: “That clearly they
  • In Florence must not have to say,—
  • Image of page 12 page: 12
  • 340The man abode aloof from us
  • Nigh fifteen years, yet lastly skulk'd
  • Hither to candleshrift and mulct.
  • “That he was one the Heavens forbid
  • To traffic in God's justice sold
  • By market-weight of earthly gold,
  • Or to bow down over the lid
  • Of steaming censers, and so be
  • Made clean of manhood's obloquy.
  • “That since no gate led, by God's will,
  • 350 To Florence, but the one whereat
  • The priests and money-changers sat,
  • He still would wander; for that still,
  • Even through the body's prison-bars,
  • His soul possessed the sun and stars.”
  • Such were his words. It is indeed
  • For ever well our singers should
  • Utter good words and know them good
  • Not through song only; with close heed
  • Lest, having spent for the work's sake
  • 360 Six days, the man be left to make.
  • Months o'er Verona, till the feast
  • Was come for Florence the Free Town:
  • And at the shrine of Baptist John
  • The exiles, girt with many a priest
  • And carrying candles as they went,
  • Were held to mercy of the saint.
  • On the high seats in sober state,—
  • Gold neck-chains range o'er range below
  • Gold screen-work where the lilies grow,—
  • 370 The Heads of the Republic sate,
  • Marking the humbled face go by
  • Each one of his house-enemy.
Image of page 13 page: 13
  • And as each proscript rose and stood
  • From kneeling in the ashen dust
  • On the shrine-steps, some magnate thrust
  • A beard into the velvet hood
  • Of his front colleague's gown, to see
  • The cinders stuck in his bare knee.
  • Tosinghi passed, Manelli passed,
  • 380 Rinucci passed, each in his place;
  • But not an Alighieri's face
  • Went by that day from first to last
  • In the Republic's triumph; nor
  • A foot came home to Dante's door.
  • (Respublica—a public thing:
  • A shameful shameless prostitute,
  • Whose lust with one lord may not suit,
  • So takes by turn its revelling
  • A night with each, till each at morn
  • 390 Is stripped and beaten forth forlorn,
  • And leaves her, cursing her. If she,
  • Indeed, have not some spice-draught, hid
  • In scent under a silver lid,
  • To drench his open throat with—he
  • Once hard asleep; and thrust him not
  • At dawn beneath the stairs to rot.
  • Such this Republic!—not the Maid
  • He yearned for; she who yet should stand
  • With Heaven's accepted hand in hand,
  • 400 Invulnerable and unbetray'd:
  • To whom, even as to God, should be
  • Obeisance one with Liberty.)
  • Years filled out their twelve moons, and ceased
  • One in another; and alway
  • There were the whole twelve hours each day
  • Image of page 14 page: 14
  • And each night as the years increased;
  • And rising moon and setting sun
  • Beheld that Dante's work was done.
  • What of his work for Florence? Well
  • 410 It was, he knew, and well must be.
  • Yet evermore her hate's decree
  • Dwelt in his thought intolerable:—
  • His body to be burned,*—his soul
  • To beat its wings at hope's vain goal.
  • What of his work for Beatrice?
  • Now well-nigh was the third song writ,—
  • The stars a third time sealing it
  • With sudden music of pure peace:
  • For echoing thrice the threefold song,
  • 420 The unnumbered stars the tone prolong.†
  • Each hour, as then the Vision pass'd,
  • He heard the utter harmony
  • Of the nine trembling spheres, till she
  • Bowed her eyes towards him in the last,
  • So that all ended with her eyes,
  • Hell, Purgatory, Paradise.
  • “It is my trust, as the years fall,
  • To write more worthily of her
  • Who now, being made God's minister,
  • 430 Looks on His visage and knows all.”
  • Such was the hope that love dar'd blend
  • With grief's slow fires, to make an end
Transcribed Footnote (page 14):

* Such was the last sentence passed by Florence against Dante,

as a recalcitrant exile.

Transcribed Footnote (page 14):

† E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.— Inferno.

Puro e disposto a salire alle stelle.— Purgatorio.

L'amor che muove il sole e l'altre stelle.— Paradiso.

Image of page 15 page: 15
  • Of the “New Life,” his youth's dear book:
  • Adding thereunto: “In such trust
  • I labour, and believe I must
  • Accomplish this which my soul took
  • In charge, if God, my Lord and hers,
  • Leave my life with me a few years.”
  • The trust which he had borne in youth
  • 440 Was all at length accomplished. He
  • At length had written worthily—
  • Yea even of her; no rhymes uncouth
  • 'Twixt tongue and tongue; but by God's aid
  • The first words Italy had said.
  • Ah! haply now the heavenly guide
  • Was not the last form seen by him:
  • But there that Beatrice stood slim
  • And bowed in passing at his side,
  • For whom in youth his heart made moan
  • 450 Then when the city sat alone.*
  • Clearly herself: the same whom he
  • Met, not past girlhood, in the street,
  • Low-bosomed and with hidden feet;
  • And then as woman perfectly,
  • In years that followed, many an once,—
  • And now at last among the suns
  • In that high vision. But indeed
  • It may be memory might recall
  • Last to him then the first of all,—
  • 460 The child his boyhood bore in heed
  • Nine years. At length the voice brought peace,—
  • “Even I, even I am Beatrice.”
Transcribed Footnote (page 15):

* Quomodo sedet sola civitas!—The words quoted by Dante

in the Vita Nuova when he speaks of the death of Beatrice.

Image of page 16 page: 16
  • All this, being there, we had not seen.
  • Seen only was the shadow wrought
  • On the strong features bound in thought;
  • The vagueness gaining gait and mien;
  • The white streaks gathering clear to view
  • In the burnt beard the women knew.
  • For a tale tells that on his track,
  • 470 As through Verona's streets he went,
  • This saying certain women sent:—
  • “Lo, he that strolls to Hell and back
  • At will! Behold him, how Hell's reek
  • Has crisped his beard and singed his cheek.”
  • “Whereat” (Boccaccio's words) “he smil'd
  • For pride in fame.” It might be so:
  • Nevertheless we cannot know
  • If haply he were not beguil'd
  • To bitterer mirth, who scarce could tell
  • 480 If he indeed were back from Hell.
  • So the day came, after a space,
  • When Dante felt assured that there
  • The sunshine must lie sicklier
  • Even than in any other place,
  • Save only Florence. When that day
  • Had come, he rose and went his way.
  • He went and turned out. From his shoes
  • It may be that he shook the dust,
  • As every righteous dealer must
  • 490 Once and again ere life can close:
  • And unaccomplished destiny
  • Struck cold his forehead, it may be.
  • No book keeps record how the Prince
  • Sunned himself out of Dante's reach,
  • Nor how the Jester stank in speech:
  • Image of page 17 page: 17
  • While courtiers, used to cringe and wince,
  • Poets and harlots, all the throng,
  • Let loose their scandal and their song.
  • No book keeps record if the seat
  • 500 Which Dante held at his host's board
  • Were sat in next by clerk or lord,—
  • If leman lolled with dainty feet
  • At ease, or hostage brooded there,
  • Or priest lacked silence for his prayer.
  • Eat and wash hands, Can Grande;—scarce
  • We know their deeds now: hands which fed
  • Our Dante with that bitter bread;
  • And thou the watch-dog of those stairs
  • Which, of all paths his feet knew well,
  • 510 Were steeper found than Heaven or Hell.
Sig. 2
Image of page 18 page: 18

( Regno Lombardo-Veneto , 1848.)

  • Our Lombard country-girls along the coast
  • Wear daggers in their garters: for they know
  • That they might hate another girl to death
  • Or meet a German lover. Such a knife
  • I bought her, with a hilt of horn and pearl.
  • Father, you cannot know of all my thoughts
  • That day in going to meet her,—that last day
  • For the last time, she said;—of all the love
  • And all the hopeless hope that she might change
  • 10 And go back with me. Ah! and everywhere,
  • At places we both knew along the road,
  • Some fresh shape of herself as once she was
  • Grew present at my side; until it seemed—
  • So close they gathered round me—they would all
  • Be with me when I reached the spot at last,
  • To plead my cause with her against herself
  • So changed. O Father, if you knew all this
  • You cannot know, then you would know too, Father,
  • And only then, if God can pardon me.
  • 20 What can be told I'll tell, if you will hear.
  • I passed a village-fair upon my road,
  • And thought, being empty-handed, I would take
  • Some little present: such might prove, I said,
  • Either a pledge between us, or (God help me!)
  • A parting gift. And there it was I bought
  • The knife I spoke of, such as women wear.
Image of page 19 page: 19
  • That day, some three hours afterwards, I found
  • For certain, it must be a parting gift.
  • And, standing silent now at last, I looked
  • 30 Into her scornful face; and heard the sea
  • Still trying hard to din into my ears
  • Some speech it knew which still might change her heart,
  • If only it could make me understand.
  • One moment thus. Another, and her face
  • Seemed further off than the last line of sea,
  • So that I thought, if now she were to speak
  • I could not hear her. Then again I knew
  • All, as we stood together on the sand
  • At Iglio, in the first thin shade o' the hills.
  • 40 “Take it,” I said, and held it out to her,
  • While the hilt glanced within my trembling hold;
  • “Take it and keep it for my sake,” I said.
  • Her neck unbent not, neither did her eyes
  • Move, nor her foot left beating of the sand;
  • Only she put it by from her and laughed.
  • Father, you hear my speech and not her laugh;
  • But God heard that. Will God remember all?
  • It was another laugh than the sweet sound
  • Which rose from her sweet childish heart, that day
  • 50 Eleven years before, when first I found her
  • Alone upon the hill-side; and her curls
  • Shook down in the warm grass as she looked up
  • Out of her curls in my eyes bent to hers.
  • She might have served a painter to pourtray
  • That heavenly child which in the latter days
  • Shall walk between the lion and the lamb.
  • I had been for nights in hiding, worn and sick
  • And hardly fed; and so her words at first
  • Seemed fiftul like the talking of the trees
  • 60 And voices in the air that knew my name.
  • And I remember that I sat me down
  • Upon the slope with her, and thought the world
  • Image of page 20 page: 20
  • Must be all over or had never been,
  • We seemed there so alone. And soon she told me
  • Her parents both were gone away from her.
  • I thought perhaps she meant that they had died;
  • But when I asked her this, she looked again
  • Into my face and said that yestereve
  • They kissed her long, and wept and made her weep,
  • 70 And gave her all the bread they had with them,
  • And then had gone together up the hill
  • Where we were sitting now, and had walked on
  • Into the great red light; “and so,” she said,
  • “I have come up here too; and when this evening
  • They step out of the light as they stepped in,
  • I shall be here to kiss them.” And she laughed.
  • Then I bethought me suddenly of the famine;
  • And how the church-steps throughout all the town,
  • When last I had been there a month ago,
  • 80 Swarmed with starved folk; and how the bread was
  • weighed
  • By Austrians armed; and women that I knew
  • For wives and mothers walked the public street,
  • Saying aloud that if their husbands feared
  • To snatch the children's food, themselves would stay
  • Till they had earned it there. So then this child
  • Was piteous to me; for all told me then
  • Her parents must have left her to God's chance,
  • To man's or to the Church's charity,
  • Because of the great famine, rather than
  • 90 To watch her growing thin between their knees.
  • With that, God took my mother's voice and spoke,
  • And sights and sounds came back and things long since,
  • And all my childhood found me on the hills;
  • And so I took her with me.
  • I was young.
  • Scarce man then, Father: but the cause which gave
  • The wounds I die of now had brought me then
  • Some wounds already; and I lived alone,
  • Image of page 21 page: 21
  • As any hiding hunted man must live.
  • It was no easy thing to keep a child
  • 100 In safety; for herself it was not safe,
  • And doubled my own danger: but I knew
  • That God would help me.
  • Yet a little while
  • Pardon me, Father, if I pause. I think
  • I have been speaking to you of some matters
  • There was no need to speak of, have I not?
  • You do not know how clearly those things stood
  • Within my mind, which I have spoken of,
  • Nor how they strove for utterance. Life all past
  • Is like the sky when the sun sets in it,
  • 110 Clearest where furthest off.
  • I told you how
  • She scorned my parting gift and laughed. And yet
  • A woman's laugh's another thing sometimes:
  • I think they laugh in Heaven. I know last night
  • I dreamed I saw into the garden of God,
  • Where women walked whose painted images
  • I have seen with candles round them in the church.
  • They bent this way and that, one to another,
  • Playing: and over the long golden hair
  • Of each there floated like a ring of fire
  • 120 Which when she stooped stooped with her, and when she
  • rose
  • Rose with her. Then a breeze flew in among them,
  • As if a window had been opened in heaven
  • For God to give His blessing from, before
  • This world of ours should set; (for in my dream
  • I thought our world was setting, and the sun
  • Flared, a spent taper;) and beneath that gust
  • The rings of light quivered like forest-leaves.
  • Then all the blessed maidens who were there
  • Stood up together, as it were a voice
  • 130 That called them; and they threw their tresses back,
  • And smote their palms, and all laughed up at once,
  • For the strong heavenly joy they had in them
  • Image of page 22 page: 22
  • To hear God bless the world. Wherewith I woke:
  • And looking round, I saw as usual
  • That she was standing there with her long locks
  • Pressed to her side; and her laugh ended theirs.
  • For always when I see her now, she laughs.
  • And yet her childish laughter haunts me too,
  • The life of this dead terror; as in days
  • 140 When she, a child, dwelt with me. I must tell
  • Something of those days yet before the end.
  • I brought her from the city—one such day
  • When she was still a merry loving child,—
  • The earliest gift I mind my giving her;
  • A little image of a flying Love
  • Made of our coloured glass-ware, in his hands
  • A dart of gilded metal and a torch.
  • And him she kissed and me, and fain would know
  • Why were his poor eyes blindfold, why the wings
  • 150 And why the arrow. What I knew I told
  • Of Venus and of Cupid,—strange old tales.
  • And when she heard that he could rule the loves
  • Of men and women, still she shook her head
  • And wondered; and, “Nay, nay,” she murmured still,
  • “So strong, and he a younger child than I!”
  • And then she'd have me fix him on the wall
  • Fronting her little bed; and then again
  • She needs must fix him there herself, because
  • I gave him to her and she loved him so,
  • 160 And he should make her love me better yet,
  • If women loved the more, the more they grew.
  • But the fit place upon the wall was high
  • For her, and so I held her in my arms:
  • And each time that the heavy pruning-hook
  • I gave her for a hammer slipped away
  • As it would often, still she laughed and laughed
  • And kissed and kissed me. But amid her mirth,
  • Just as she hung the image on the nail,
  • Image of page 23 page: 23
  • It slipped and all its fragments strewed the ground:
  • 170 And as it fell she screamed, for in her hand
  • The dart had entered deeply and drawn blood.
  • And so her laughter turned to tears: and “Oh!”
  • I said, the while I bandaged the small hand,—
  • “That I should be the first to make you bleed,
  • Who love and love and love you!”—kissing still
  • The fingers till I got her safe to bed.
  • And still she sobbed,—“not for the pain at all,”
  • She said, “but for the Love, the poor good Love
  • You gave me.” So she cried herself to sleep.
  • 180 Another later thing comes back to me.
  • 'Twas in those hardest foulest days of all,
  • When still from his shut palace, sitting clean
  • Above the splash of blood, old Metternich
  • (May his soul die, and never-dying worms
  • Feast on its pain for ever!) used to thin
  • His year's doomed hundreds daintily, each month
  • Thirties and fifties. This time, as I think,
  • Was when his thrift forbad the poor to take
  • That evil brackish salt which the dry rocks
  • 190 Keep all through winter when the sea draws in.
  • The first I heard of it was a chance shot
  • In the street here and there, and on the stones
  • A stumbling clatter as of horse hemmed round.
  • Then, when she saw me hurry out of doors,
  • My gun slung at my shoulder and my knife
  • Stuck in my girdle, she smoothed down my hair
  • And laughed to see me look so brave, and leaped
  • Up to my neck and kissed me. She was still
  • A child; and yet that kiss was on my lips
  • 200 So hot all day where the smoke shut us in.
  • For now, being always with her, the first love
  • I had—the father's, brother's love—was changed,
  • I think, in somewise; like a holy thought
  • Which is a prayer before one knows of it.
  • Image of page 24 page: 24
  • The first time I perceived this, I remember,
  • Was once when after hunting I came home
  • Weary, and she brought food and fruit for me,
  • And sat down at my feet upon the floor
  • Leaning against my side. But when I felt
  • 210 Her sweet head reach from that low seat of hers
  • So high as to be laid upon my heart,
  • I turned and looked upon my darling there
  • And marked for the first time how tall she was;
  • And my heart beat with so much violence
  • Under her cheek, I thought she could not choose
  • But wonder at it soon and ask me why;
  • And so I bade her rise and eat with me.
  • And when, remembering all and counting back
  • The time, I made out fourteen years for her
  • 220 And told her so, she gazed at me with eyes
  • As of the sky and sea on a grey day,
  • And drew her long hands through her hair, and
  • asked me
  • If she was not a woman; and then laughed:
  • And as she stooped in laughing, I could see
  • Beneath the growing throat the breasts half-globed
  • Like folded lilies deepset in the stream.
  • Yes, let me think of her as then; for so
  • Her image, Father, is not like the sights
  • Which come when you are gone. She had a mouth
  • 230 Made to bring death to life,—the underlip
  • Sucked in, as if it strove to kiss itself.
  • Her face was pearly pale, as when one stoops
  • Over wan water; and the dark crisped hair
  • And the hair's shadow made it paler still:—
  • Deep-serried locks, the dimness of the cloud
  • Where the moon's gaze is set in eddying gloom.
  • Her body bore her neck as the tree's stem
  • Bears the top branch; and as the branch sustains
  • The flower of the year's pride, her high neck bore
  • 240 That face made wonderful with night and day.
  • Image of page 25 page: 25
  • Her voice was swift, yet ever the last words
  • Fell lingeringly; and rounded finger-tips
  • She had, that clung a little where they touched
  • And then were gone o' the instant. Her great eyes,
  • That sometimes turned half dizzily beneath
  • The passionate lids, as faint, when she would speak,
  • Had also in them hidden springs of mirth,
  • Which under the dark lashes evermore
  • Shook to her laugh, as when a bird flies low
  • 250 Between the water and the willow-leaves,
  • And the shade quivers till he wins the light.
  • I was a moody comrade to her then,
  • For all the love I bore her. Italy,
  • The weeping desolate mother, long has claimed
  • Her sons' strong arms to lean on, and their hands
  • To lop the poisonous thicket from her path,
  • Cleaving her way to light. And from her need
  • Had grown the fashion of my whole poor life
  • Which I was proud to yield her, as my father
  • 260 Had yielded his. And this had come to be
  • A game to play, a love to clasp, a hate
  • To wreak, all things together that a man
  • Needs for his blood to ripen; till at times
  • All else seemed shadows, and I wondered still
  • To see such life pass muster and be deemed
  • Time's bodily substance. In those hours, no doubt,
  • To the young girl my eyes were like my soul,—
  • Dark wells of death-in-life that yearned for day.
  • And though she ruled me always, I remember
  • 270 That once when I was thus and she still kept
  • Leaping about the place and laughing, I
  • Did almost chide her; whereupon she knelt
  • And putting her two hands into my breast
  • Sang me a song. Are these tears in my eyes?
  • 'Tis long since I have wept for anything.
  • I thought that song forgotten out of mind;
  • And now, just as I spoke of it, it came
  • Image of page 26 page: 26
  • All back. It is but a rude thing, ill rhymed,
  • Such as a blind man chaunts and his dog hears
  • 280 Holding the platter, when the children run
  • To merrier sport and leave him. Thus it goes:—
  • La bella donna*
  • Piangendo disse:
  • “Come son fisse
  • Le stelle in cielo!
  • Quel fiato anelo
  • Dello stanco sole,
  • Quanto m' assonna!

Transcribed Footnote (page 26):
Note: The English poem is printed in two columns, divided by a vertical line.
  • *She wept, sweet lady,
  • And said in weeping:
  • “What spell is keeping
  • The stars so steady?
  • Why does the power
  • Of the sun's noon-hour
  • To sleep so move me?
  • And the moon in heaven,
  • Stained where she passes
  • 10 As a worn-out glass is,—
  • Wearily driven,
  • Why walks she above me?
  • “Stars, moon, and sun too,
  • I'm tired of either
  • And all together!
  • Whom speak they unto
  • That I should listen?
  • For very surely,
  • Though my arms and shoulders
  • 20 Dazzle beholders,
  • And my eyes glisten,
  • All's nothing purely!
  • What are words said for
  • At all about them,
  • If he they are made for
  • Can do without them?”
  • She laughed, sweet lady,
  • And said in laughing:
  • “His hand clings half in
  • 30 My own already!
  • Oh! do you love me?
  • Oh! speak of passion
  • In no new fashion,
  • No loud inveighings,
  • But the old sayings
  • You once said of me.
  • “You said: ‘As summer,
  • Through boughs grown brittle,
  • Comes back a little
  • 40 Ere frosts benumb her,—
  • So bring'st thou to me
  • All leaves and flowers,
  • Though autumn's gloomy
  • To-day in the bowers.’
  • “Oh! does he love me,
  • When my voice teaches
  • The very speeches
  • He then spoke of me?
  • Alas! what flavour
  • 50 Still with me lingers?”
  • (But she laughed as my kisses
  • Glowed in her fingers
  • With love's old blisses.)
  • “Oh! what one favour
  • Remains to woo him,
  • Whose whole poor savour
  • Belongs not to him?”
Image of page 27 page: 27
  • E la luna, macchiata
  • 290Come uno specchio
  • Logoro e vecchio,—
  • Faccia affannata,
  • Che cosa vuole?
  • “Chè stelle, luna, e sole,
  • Ciascun m' annoja
  • E m' annojano insieme;
  • Non me ne preme
  • Nè ci prendo gioja.
  • E veramente,
  • 300 Che le spalle sien franche
  • E le braccia bianche
  • E il seno caldo e tondo,
  • Non mi fa niente.
  • Che cosa al mondo
  • Posso più far di questi
  • Se non piacciono a te, come dicesti?”
  • La donna rise
  • E riprese ridendo:—
  • “Questa mano che prendo
  • 310 È dunque mia?
  • Tu m' ami dunque?
  • Dimmelo ancora,
  • Non in modo qualunque,
  • Ma le parole
  • Belle e precise
  • Che dicesti pria.
  • Siccome suole
  • La state talora
  • (Dicesti) un qualche istante
  • 320 Tornare innanzi inverno,
  • Così tu fai ch' io scerno
  • Le foglie tutte quante,
  • Ben ch' io certo tenessi
  • Per passato l' autunno .’
  • “Eccolo il mio alunno!
  • Io debbo insegnargli
  • Quei cari detti istessi
  • Ch' ei mi disse una volta!
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  • Oimè! Che cosa dargli,”
  • 330(Ma ridea piano piano
  • Dei baci in sulla mano,)
  • “Ch' ei non m'abbia da lungo tempo tolta?”
  • That I should sing upon this bed!—with you
  • To listen, and such words still left to say!
  • Yet was it I that sang? The voice seemed hers,
  • As on the very day she sang to me;
  • When, having done, she took out of my hand
  • Something that I had played with all the while
  • And laid it down beyond my reach; and so
  • 340 Turning my face round till it fronted hers,—
  • “Weeping or laughing, which was best?” she said.
  • But these are foolish tales. How should I show
  • The heart that glowed then with love's heat, each day
  • More and more brightly?—when for long years now
  • The very flame that flew about the heart,
  • And gave it fiery wings, has come to be
  • The lapping blaze of hell's environment
  • Whose tongues all bid the molten heart despair.
  • Yet one more thing comes back on me to-night
  • 350 Which I may tell you: for it bore my soul
  • Dread firstlings of the brood that rend it now.
  • It chanced that in our last year's wanderings
  • We dwelt at Monza, far away from home,
  • If home we had: and in the Duomo there
  • I sometimes entered with her when she prayed.
  • An image of Our Lady stands there, wrought
  • In marble by some great Italian hand
  • In the great days when she and Italy
  • Sat on one throne together: and to her
  • 360 And to none else my loved one told her heart.
  • She was a woman then; and as she knelt,—
  • Her sweet brow in the sweet brow's shadow there,—
  • They seemed two kindred forms whereby our land
  • Image of page 29 page: 29
  • (Whose work still serves the world for miracle)
  • Made manifest herself in womanhood.
  • Father, the day I speak of was the first
  • For weeks that I had borne her company
  • Into the Duomo; and those weeks had been
  • Much troubled, for then first the glimpses came
  • 370 Of some impenetrable restlessness
  • Growing in her to make her changed and cold.
  • And as we entered there that day, I bent
  • My eyes on the fair Image, and I said
  • Within my heart, “Oh turn her heart to me!”
  • And so I left her to her prayers, and went
  • To gaze upon the pride of Monza's shrine,
  • Where in the sacristy the light still falls
  • Upon the Iron Crown of Italy,
  • On whose crowned heads the day has closed, nor yet
  • 380 The daybreak gilds another head to crown.
  • But coming back, I wondered when I saw
  • That the sweet Lady of her prayers now stood
  • Alone without her; until further off,
  • Before some new Madonna gaily decked,
  • Tinselled and gewgawed, a slight German toy,
  • I saw her kneel, still praying. At my step
  • She rose, and side by side we left the church.
  • I was much moved, and sharply questioned her
  • Of her transferred devotion; but she seemed
  • 390 Stubborn and heedless; till she lightly laughed
  • And said: “The old Madonna? Aye indeed,
  • She had my old thoughts,—this one has my new.”
  • Then silent to the soul I held my way:
  • And from the fountains of the public place
  • Unto the pigeon-haunted pinnacles,
  • Bright wings and water winnowed the bright air;
  • And stately with her laugh's subsiding smile
  • She went, with clear-swayed waist and towering neck
  • And hands held light before her; and the face
  • 400 Which long had made a day in my life's night
  • Was night in day to me; as all men's eyes
  • Image of page 30 page: 30
  • Turned on her beauty, and she seemed to tread
  • Beyond my heart to the world made for her.
  • Ah, there! my wounds will snatch my sense again:
  • The pain comes billowing on like a full cloud
  • Of thunder, and the flash that breaks from it
  • Leaves my brain burning. That's the wound he gave,
  • The Austrian whose white coat I still made match
  • With his white face, only the two grew red
  • 410 As suits his trade. The devil makes them wear
  • White for a livery, that the blood may show
  • Braver that brings them to him. So he looks
  • Sheer o'er the field and knows his own at once.
  • Give me a draught of water in that cup;
  • My voice feels thick; perhaps you do not hear;
  • But you must hear. If you mistake my words
  • And so absolve me, I am sure the blessing
  • Will burn my soul. If you mistake my words
  • And so absolve me, Father, the great sin
  • 420 Is yours, not mine: mark this: your soul shall burn
  • With mine for it. I have seen pictures where
  • Souls burned with Latin shriekings in their mouths:
  • Shall my end be as theirs? Nay, but I know
  • 'Tis you shall shriek in Latin. Some bell rings,
  • Rings through my brain: it strikes the hour in hell.
  • You see I cannot, Father; I have tried,
  • But cannot, as you see. These twenty times
  • Beginning, I have come to the same point
  • And stopped. Beyond, there are but broken words
  • 430 Which will not let you understand my tale.
  • It is that then we have her with us here,
  • As when she wrung her hair out in my dream
  • To-night, till all the darkness reeked of it.
  • Her hair is always wet, for she has kept
  • Its tresses wrapped about her side for years;
  • And when she wrung them round over the floor,
  • Image of page 31 page: 31
    Note: There is a printing error on the third word in the first line of this page.
  • I heard he blood between her fingers hiss;
  • So that I sat up in my bed and screamed
  • Once and again; and once to once, she laughed.
  • 440 Look that you turn not now,—she's at your back:
  • Gather your robe up, Father, and keep close,
  • Or she'll sit down on it and send you mad.
  • At Iglio in the first thin shade o' the hills
  • The sand is black and red. The black was black
  • When what was spilt that day sank into it,
  • And the red scarcely darkened. There I stood
  • This night with her, and saw the sand the same.

  • What would you have me tell you? Father, father,
  • How shall I make you know? You have not known
  • 450 The dreadful soul of woman, who one day
  • Forgets the old and takes the new to heart,
  • Forgets what man remembers, and therewith
  • Forgets the man. Nor can I clearly tell
  • How the change happened between her and me.
  • Her eyes looked on me from an emptied heart
  • When most my heart was full of her; and still
  • In every corner of myself I sought
  • To find what service failed her; and no less
  • Than in the good time past, there all was hers.
  • 460 What do you love? Your Heaven? Conceive it spread
  • For one first year of all eternity
  • All round you with all joys and gifts of God;
  • And then when most your soul is blent with it
  • And all yields song together,—then it stands
  • O' the sudden like a pool that once gave back
  • Your image, but now drowns it and is clear
  • Again,—or like a sun bewitched, that burns
  • Your shadow from you, and still shines in sight.
  • How could you bear it? Would you not cry out,
  • 470 Among those eyes grown blind to you, those ears
  • That hear no more your voice you hear the same,—
  • Image of page 32 page: 32
  • “God! what is left but hell for company,
  • But hell, hell, hell?”—until the name so breathed
  • Whirled with hot wind and sucked you down in fire?
  • Even so I stood the day her empty heart
  • Left her place empty in our home, while yet
  • I knew not why she went nor where she went
  • Nor how to reach her: so I stood the day
  • When to my prayers at last one sight of her
  • 480 Was granted, and I looked on heaven made pale
  • With scorn, and heard heaven mock me in that laugh.
  • O sweet, long sweet! Was that some ghost of you,
  • Even as your ghost that haunts me now,—twin shapes
  • Of fear and hatred? May I find you yet
  • Mine when death wakes? Ah! be it even in flame,
  • We may have sweetness yet, if you but say
  • As once in childish sorrow: “Not my pain,
  • My pain was nothing: oh your poor poor love,
  • Your broken love!”
  • My Father, have I not
  • 490 Yet told you the last things of that last day
  • On which I went to meet her by the sea?
  • O God, O God! but I must tell you all.
  • Midway upon my journey, when I stopped
  • To buy the dagger at the village fair,
  • I saw two cursed rats about the place
  • I knew for spies—blood-sellers both. That day
  • Was not yet over; for three hours to come
  • I prized my life: and so I looked around
  • For safety. A poor painted mountebank
  • 500 Was playing tricks and shouting in a crowd.
  • I knew he must have heard my name, so I
  • Pushed past and whispered to him who I was,
  • And of my danger. Straight he hustled me
  • Into his booth, as it were in the trick,
  • And brought me out next minute with my face
  • All smeared in patches and a zany's gown;
  • Image of page 33 page: 33
  • And there I handed him his cups and balls
  • And swung the sand-bags round to clear the ring
  • For half an hour. The spies came once and looked;
  • 510 And while they stopped, and made all sights and
  • sounds
  • Sharp to my startled senses, I remember
  • A woman laughed above me. I looked up
  • And saw where a brown-shouldered harlot leaned
  • Half through a tavern window thick with vine.
  • Some man had come behind her in the room
  • And caught her by her arms, and she had turned
  • With that coarse empty laugh on him, as now
  • He munched her neck with kisses, while the vine
  • Crawled in her back.
  • And three hours afterwards,
  • 520 When she that I had run all risks to meet
  • Laughed as I told you, my life burned to death
  • Within me, for I thought it like the laugh
  • Heard at the fair. She had not left me long;
  • But all she might have changed to, or might change to,
  • (I know nought since—she never speaks a word—)
  • Seemed in that laugh. Have I not told you yet,
  • Not told you all this time what happened, Father,
  • When I had offered her the little knife,
  • And bade her keep it for my sake that loved her,
  • 530 And she had laughed? Have I not told you yet?
  • “Take it,” I said to her the second time,
  • “Take it and keep it.” And then came a fire
  • That burnt my hand; and then the fire was blood,
  • And sea and sky were blood and fire, and all
  • The day was one red blindness; till it seemed,
  • Within the whirling brain's eclipse, that she
  • Or I or all things bled or burned to death.
  • And then I found her laid against my feet
  • And knew that I had stabbed her, and saw still
  • 540 Her look in falling. For she took the knife
  • Deep in her heart, even as I bade her then,
  • Sig. 3
    Image of page 34 page: 34
  • And fell; and her stiff bodice scooped the sand
  • Into her bosom.
  • And she keeps it, see,
  • Do you not see she keeps it?—there, beneath
  • Wet fingers and wet tresses, in her heart.
  • For look you, when she stirs her hand, it shows
  • The little hilt of horn and pearl,—even such
  • A dagger as our women of the coast
  • Twist in their garters.
  • Father, I have done:
  • 550 And from her side now she unwinds the thick
  • Dark hair; all round her side it is wet through,
  • But, like the sand at Iglio, does not change.
  • Now you may see the dagger clearly. Father,
  • I have told all: tell me at once what hope
  • Can reach me still. For now she draws it out
  • Slowly, and only smiles as yet: look, Father,
  • She scarcely smiles: but I shall hear her laugh
  • Soon, when she shows the crimson steel to God.
Image of page 35 page: 35
  • “Sister,” said busy Amelotte
  • To listless Aloÿse;
  • “Along your wedding-road the wheat
  • Bends as to hear your horse's feet,
  • And the noonday stands still for heat.”
  • Amelotte laughed into the air
  • With eyes that sought the sun:
  • But where the walls in long brocade
  • Were screened, as one who is afraid
  • 10 Sat Aloÿse within the shade.
  • And even in shade was gleam enough
  • To shut out full repose
  • From the bride's 'tiring-chamber, which
  • Was like the inner altar-niche
  • Whose dimness worship has made rich.
  • Within the window's heaped recess
  • The light was counterchanged
  • In blent reflexes manifold
  • From perfume-caskets of wrought gold
  • 20 And gems the bride's hair could not hold
  • All thrust together: and with these
  • A slim-curved lute, which now,
  • At Amelotte's sudden passing there,
  • Was swept in somewise unaware,
  • And shook to music the close air.
Image of page 36 page: 36
  • Against the haloed lattice-panes
  • The bridesmaid sunned her breast;
  • Then to the glass turned tall and free,
  • And braced and shifted daintily
  • 30 Her loin-belt through her cote-hardie.
  • The belt was silver, and the clasp
  • Of lozenged arm-bearings;
  • A world of mirrored tints minute
  • The rippling sunshine wrought into 't,
  • That flushed her hand and warmed her foot.
  • At least an hour had Aloÿse,—
  • Her jewels in her hair,—
  • Her white gown, as became a bride,
  • Quartered in silver at each side,—
  • 40 Sat thus aloof, as if to hide.
  • Over her bosom, that lay still,
  • The vest was rich in grain,
  • With close pearls wholly overset:
  • Around her throat the fastenings met
  • Of chevesayle and mantelet.
  • Her arms were laid along her lap
  • With the hands open: life
  • Itself did seem at fault in her:
  • Beneath the drooping brows, the stir
  • 50 Of thought made noonday heavier.
  • Long sat she silent; and then raised
  • Her head, with such a gasp
  • As while she summoned breath to speak
  • Fanned high that furnace in the cheek
  • But sucked the heart-pulse cold and weak.
Image of page 37 page: 37
  • (Oh gather round her now, all ye
  • Past seasons of her fear,—
  • Sick springs, and summers deadly cold!
  • To flight your hovering wings unfold,
  • 60 For now your secret shall be told.
  • Ye many sunlights, barbed with darts
  • Of dread detecting flame,—
  • Gaunt moonlights that like sentinels
  • Went past with iron clank of bells,—
  • Draw round and render up your spells!)
  • “Sister,” said Aloÿse, “I had
  • A thing to tell thee of
  • Long since, and could not. But do thou
  • Kneel first in prayer awhile, and bow
  • 70 Thine heart, and I will tell thee now.”
  • Amelotte wondered with her eyes;
  • But her heart said in her:
  • “Dear Aloÿse would have me pray
  • Because the awe she feels to-day
  • Must need more prayers than she can say.”
  • So Amelotte put by the folds
  • That covered up her feet,
  • And knelt,—beyond the arras'd gloom
  • And the hot window's dull perfume,—
  • 80 Where day was stillest in the room.
  • “Queen Mary, hear,” she said, “and say
  • To Jesus the Lord Christ,
  • This bride's new joy, which He confers,
  • New joy to many ministers,
  • And many griefs are bound in hers.”
Image of page 38 page: 38
  • The bride turned in her chair, and hid
  • Her face against the back,
  • And took her pearl-girt elbows in
  • Her hands, and could not yet begin,
  • 90 But shuddering, uttered, “Urscelyn!”
  • Most weak she was; for as she pressed
  • Her hand against her throat,
  • Along the arras she let trail
  • Her face, as if all heart did fail,
  • And sat with shut eyes, dumb and pale.
  • 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.
Image of page 39 page: 39
  • “In divers places many an while
  • 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.”
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • “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.
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  • “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.
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  • 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 pleasaunce
  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • “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.
  • “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.’
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  • “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.
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  • “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
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  • 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.
Sig. 4
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • “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'Honvaulx
  • 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.
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  • “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.
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  • “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.
Note: There is printer's inking after the word “sight” in line 621
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  • “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 ye not frenzy's lightning-stroke?’
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  • “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.
Note: The period at the end of line 685 is not fully inked.
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  • “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.
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  • “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!’
  • “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.
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  • “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.
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  • 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.
Image of page 62 page: 62
  • “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.
Image of page 63 page: 63
  • 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
  • 850 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
Image of page 64 page: 64
  • “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.
Image of page 65 page: 65
  • “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.
Sig. 5
Image of page 66 page: 66
  • “Why did you melt your waxen man,
  • Sister Helen?
  • To-day is the third since you began.”
  • “The time was long, yet the time ran,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Three days to-day, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “But if you have done your work aright,
  • Sister Helen,
  • 10You'll let me play, for you said I might.”
  • “Be very still in your play to-night,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Third night, to-night, between Hell and Heaven! )
  • “You said it must melt ere vesper-bell,
  • Sister Helen;
  • If now it be molten, all is well.”
  • “Even so,—nay, peace! you cannot tell,
  • Little brother.”
  • 20 ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • O what is this, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “Oh the waxen knave was plump to-day,
  • Sister Helen;
  • How like dead folk he has dropped away!”
  • “Nay now, of the dead what can you say,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What of the dead, between Hell and Heaven?)
Image of page [67] page: [67]
Note: This page is numbered incorrectly as 79
  • “See, see, the sunken pile of wood,
  • 30 Sister Helen,
  • Shines through the thinned wax red as blood!”
  • “Nay now, when looked you yet on blood,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • How pale she is, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Now close your eyes, for they're sick and sore,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And I'll play without the gallery door.”
  • “Aye, let me rest,—I'll lie on the floor,
  • 40 Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What rest to-night, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “Here high up in the balcony,
  • Sister Helen,
  • The moon flies face to face with me.”
  • “Aye, look and say whatever you see,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What sight to-night, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • 50“Outside it's merry in the wind's wake,
  • Sister Helen;
  • In the shaken trees the chill stars shake.”
  • “Hush, heard you a horse-tread as you spake,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What sound to-night, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “I hear a horse-tread, and I see,
  • Sister Helen,
  • Three horsemen that ride terribly.”
  • 60“Little brother, whence come the three,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Whence should they come, between Hell and Heaven? )
Image of page 68 page: 68
  • “They come by the hill-verge from Boyne Bar,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And one draws nigh, but two are afar.”
  • “Look, look, do you know them who they are,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • 70 Who should they be, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “Oh, it's Keith of Eastholm rides so fast,
  • Sister Helen,
  • For I know the white mane on the blast.”
  • “The hour has come, has come at last,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Her hour at last, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “He has made a sign and called Halloo!
  • Sister Helen,
  • 80And he says that he would speak with you.”
  • “Oh tell him I fear the frozen dew,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Why laughs she thus, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “The wind is loud, but I hear him cry,
  • Sister Helen,
  • That Keith of Ewern's like to die.”
  • “And he and thou, and thou and I,
  • Little brother.”
  • 90 ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • And they and we, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Three days ago, on his marriage-morn,
  • Sister Helen,
  • He sickened, and lies since then forlorn.”
  • “For bridegroom's side is the bride a thorn,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Cold bridal cheer, between Hell and Heaven!)
Image of page 69 page: 69
  • “Three days and nights he has lain abed,
  • 100 Sister Helen,
  • And he prays in torment to be dead.”
  • “The thing may chance, if he have prayed,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • If he have prayed, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “But he has not ceased to cry to-day,
  • Sister Helen,
  • That you should take your curse away.”
  • My prayer was heard,—he need but pray,
  • 110 Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Shall God not hear, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “But he says, till you take back your ban,
  • Sister Helen,
  • His soul would pass, yet never can.”
  • “Nay then, shall I slay a living man,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • A living soul, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • 120“But he calls for ever on your name,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And says that he melts before a flame.”
  • “My heart for his pleasure fared the same,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Fire at the heart, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Here's Keith of Westholm riding fast,
  • Sister Helen,
  • For I know the white plume on the blast.”
  • 130“The hour, the sweet hour I forecast,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Is the hour sweet, between Hell and Heaven?)
Image of page 70 page: 70
  • “He stops to speak, and he stills his horse,
  • Sister Helen;
  • But his words are drowned in the wind's course.”
  • “Nay hear, nay hear, you must hear perforce,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • 140 What word now heard, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “Oh he says that Keith of Ewern's cry,
  • Sister Helen,
  • Is ever to see you ere he die.”
  • “In all that his soul sees, there am I,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • The soul's one sight, between Hell and Heaven! )
  • “He sends a ring and a broken coin,
  • Sister Helen,
  • 150And bids you mind the banks of Boyne.”
  • “What else he broke will he ever join,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • No, never joined, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “He yields you these and craves full fain,
  • Sister Helen,
  • You pardon him in his mortal pain.”
  • “What else he took will he give again,
  • Little brother?”
  • 160 ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Not twice to give, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “He calls your name in an agony,
  • Sister Helen,
  • That even dead Love must weep to see.”
  • “Hate, born of Love, is blind as he,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Love turned to hate, between Hell and Heaven!)
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  • “Oh it's Keith of Keith now that rides fast,
  • 170 Sister Helen,
  • For I know the white hair on the blast.”
  • “The short short hour will soon be past,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Will soon be past, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “He looks at me and he tries to speak,
  • Sister Helen,
  • But oh! his voice is sad and weak!”
  • “What here should the mighty Baron seek,
  • 180 Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Is this the end, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “Oh his son still cries, if you forgive,
  • Sister Helen,
  • The body dies but the soul shall live.”
  • “Fire shall forgive me as I forgive,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • As she forgives, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • 190“Oh he prays you, as his heart would rive,
  • Sister Helen,
  • To save his dear son's soul alive.”
  • “Fire cannot slay it, it shall thrive,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Alas, alas, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “He cries to you, kneeling in the road,
  • Sister Helen,
  • To go with him for the love of God!”
  • 200“The way is long to his son's abode,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • The way is long, between Hell and Heaven!)
Image of page 72 page: 72
  • “A lady's here, by a dark steed brought,
  • Sister Helen,
  • So darkly clad, I saw her not.”
  • “See her now or never see aught,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • 210 What more to see, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “Her hood falls back, and the moon shines fair,
  • Sister Helen,
  • On the Lady of Ewern's golden hair.”
  • “Blest hour of my power and her despair,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Hour blest and bann'd, between Hell and Heaven! )
  • “Pale, pale her cheeks, that in pride did glow,
  • Sister Helen,
  • 220'Neath the bridal-wreath three days ago.”
  • “One morn for pride and three days for woe,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Three days, three nights, between Hell and Heaven! )
  • “Her clasped hands stretch from her bending head,
  • Sister Helen;
  • With the loud wind's wail her sobs are wed.”
  • “What wedding-strains hath her bridal-bed,
  • Little brother?”
  • 230 ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What strain but death's, between Hell and Heaven! )
  • “She may not speak, she sinks in a swoon,
  • Sister Helen,—
  • She lifts her lips and gasps on the moon.”
  • “Oh! might I but hear her soul's blithe tune,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Her woe's dumb cry, between Hell and Heaven!)
Image of page 73 page: 73
  • “They've caught her to Westholm's saddle-bow,
  • 240 Sister Helen,
  • And her moonlit hair gleams white in its flow.”
  • “Let it turn whiter than winter snow,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Woe-withered gold, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “O Sister Helen, you heard the bell,
  • Sister Helen!
  • More loud than the vesper-chime it fell.”
  • “No vesper-chime, but a dying knell,
  • 250 Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • His dying knell, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Alas! but I fear the heavy sound,
  • Sister Helen;
  • Is it in the sky or in the ground?”
  • “Say, have they turned their horses round,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What would she more, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • 260 “They have raised the old man from his knee,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And they ride in silence hastily.”
  • “More fast the naked soul doth flee,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • The naked soul, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Flank to flank are the three steeds gone,
  • Sister Helen,
  • But the lady's dark steed goes alone.”
  • 270 “And lonely her bridegroom's soul hath flown,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • The lonely ghost, between Hell and Heaven!)
Image of page 74 page: 74
  • “Oh the wind is sad in the iron chill,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And weary sad they look by the hill.”
  • “But he and I are sadder still,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • 280 Most sad of all, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “See, see, the wax has dropped from its place,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And the flames are winning up apace!”
  • “Yet here they burn but for a space,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Here for a space, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Ah! what white thing at the door has cross'd,
  • Sister Helen,
  • 290 Ah! what is this that sighs in the frost?”
  • “A soul that's lost as mine is lost,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Lost, lost, all lost, between Hell and Heaven! )
Image of page 75 page: 75
  • “Who rules these lands?” the Pilgrim said.
  • “Stranger, Queen Blanchelys.”
  • “And who has thus harried them?” he said.
  • “It was Duke Luke did this:
  • God's ban be his!”
  • The Pilgrim said: “Where is your house?
  • I'll rest there, with your will.”
  • “You've but to climb these blackened boughs
  • And you'll see it over the hill,
  • 10 For it burns still.”
  • “Which road, to seek your Queen?” said he.
  • “Nay, nay, but with some wound
  • You'll fly back hither, it may be,
  • And by your blood i' the ground
  • My place be found.”
  • “Friend, stay in peace. God keep your head,
  • And mine, where I will go;
  • For He is here and there,” he said.
  • He passed the hill-side, slow,
  • 20 And stood below.
  • The Queen sat idle by her loom:
  • She heard the arras stir,
  • And looked up sadly: through the room
  • The sweetness sickened her
  • Of musk and myrrh.
Image of page 76 page: 76
  • Her women, standing two and two,
  • In silence combed the fleece.
  • The Pilgrim said, “Peace be with you,
  • Lady;” and bent his knees.
  • 30 She answered, “Peace.”
  • Her eyes were like the wave within;
  • Like water-reeds the poise
  • Of her soft body, dainty thin;
  • And like the water's noise
  • Her plaintive voice.
  • For him, the stream had never well'd
  • In desert tracks malign
  • So sweet; nor had he ever felt
  • So faint in the sunshine
  • 40 Of Palestine.
  • Right so, he knew that he saw weep
  • Each night through every dream
  • The Queen's own face, confused in sleep
  • With visages supreme
  • Not known to him.
  • “Lady,” he said, “your lands lie burnt
  • And waste: to meet your foe
  • All fear: this I have seen and learnt.
  • Say that it shall be so,
  • 50 And I will go.”
  • She gazed at him. “Your cause is just,
  • For I have heard the same,”
  • He said: “God's strength shall be my trust.
  • Fall it to good or grame,
  • 'Tis in His name.”
Image of page 77 page: 77
  • “Sir, you are thanked. My cause is dead.
  • Why should you toil to break
  • A grave, and fall therein?” she said.
  • He did not pause but spake:
  • 60 “For my vow's sake.”
  • “Can such vows be, Sir—to God's ear,
  • Not to God's will?” “My vow
  • Remains: God heard me there as here,”
  • He said with reverent brow,
  • “Both then and now.”
  • They gazed together, he and she,
  • The minute while he spoke;
  • And when he ceased, she suddenly
  • Looked round upon her folk
  • 70 As though she woke.
  • “Fight, Sir,” she said; “my prayers in pain
  • Shall be your fellowship.”
  • He whispered one among her train,—
  • “To-morrow bid her keep
  • This staff and scrip.”
  • She sent him a sharp sword, whose belt
  • About his body there
  • As sweet as her own arms he felt.
  • He kissed its blade, all bare,
  • 80 Instead of her.
  • She sent him a green banner wrought
  • With one white lily stem,
  • To bind his lance with when he fought.
  • He writ upon the same
  • And kissed her name.
Image of page 78 page: 78
  • She sent him a white shield, whereon
  • She bade that he should trace
  • His will. He blent fair hues that shone,
  • And in a golden space
  • 90 He kissed her face.
  • Born of the day that died, that eve
  • Now dying sank to rest;
  • As he, in likewise taking leave,
  • Once with a heaving breast
  • Looked to the west.
  • And there the sunset skies unseal'd,
  • Like lands he never knew,
  • Beyond to-morrow's battle-field
  • Lay open out of view
  • 100 To ride into.
  • Next day till dark the women pray'd:
  • Nor any might know there
  • How the fight went: the Queen has bade
  • That there do come to her
  • No messenger.
  • The Queen is pale, her maidens ail;
  • And to the organ-tones
  • They sing but faintly, who sang well
  • The matin-orisons,
  • 110 The lauds and nones.
  • Lo, Father, is thine ear inclin'd,
  • And hath thine angel pass'd?
  • For these thy watchers now are blind
  • With vigil, and at last
  • Dizzy with fast.
Image of page 79 page: 79
  • Weak now to them the voice o' the priest
  • As any trance affords;
  • And when each anthem failed and ceas'd,
  • It seemed that the last chords
  • 120 Still sang the words.
  • “Oh what is the light that shines so red?
  • 'Tis long since the sun set;”
  • Quoth the youngest to the eldest maid:
  • “'Twas dim but now, and yet
  • The light is great.”
  • Quoth the other: “'Tis our sight is dazed
  • That we see flame i' the air.”
  • But the Queen held her brows and gazed,
  • And said, “It is the glare
  • 130 Of torches there.”
  • “Oh what are the sounds that rise and spread?
  • All day it was so still;”
  • Quoth the youngest to the eldest maid:
  • “Unto the furthest hill
  • The air they fill.”
  • Quoth the other: “'Tis our sense is blurr'd
  • With all the chants gone by.”
  • But the Queen held her breath and heard,
  • And said, “It is the cry
  • 140 Of Victory.”
  • The first of all the rout was sound,
  • The next were dust and flame,
  • And then the horses shook the ground:
  • And in the thick of them
  • A still band came.
Image of page 80 page: 80
  • “Oh what do ye bring out of the fight,
  • Thus hid beneath these boughs?”
  • “Thy conquering guest returns to-night,
  • And yet shall not carouse,
  • 150 Queen, in thy house.”
  • “Uncover ye his face,” she said.
  • “O changed in little space!”
  • She cried, “O pale that was so red!
  • O God, O God of grace!
  • Cover his face.”
  • His sword was broken in his hand
  • Where he had kissed the blade.
  • “O soft steel that could not withstand!
  • O my hard heart unstayed,
  • 160 That prayed and prayed!”
  • His bloodied banner crossed his mouth
  • Where he had kissed her name.
  • “O east, and west, and north, and south,
  • Fair flew my web, for shame,
  • To guide Death's aim!”
  • The tints were shredded from his shield
  • Where he had kissed her face.
  • “Oh, of all gifts that I could yield,
  • Death only keeps its place,
  • 170 My gift and grace!”
  • Then stepped a damsel to her side,
  • And spoke, and needs must weep:
  • “For his sake, lady, if he died,
  • He prayed of thee to keep
  • This staff and scrip.”
Image of page 81 page: 81
  • That night they hung above her bed,
  • Till morning wet with tears.
  • Year after year above her head
  • Her bed his token wears,
  • 180 Five years, ten years.
  • That night the passion of her grief
  • Shook them as there they hung.
  • Each year the wind that shed the leaf
  • Shook them and in its tongue
  • A message flung.
  • And once she woke with a clear mind
  • That letters writ to calm
  • Her soul lay in the scrip; to find
  • Only a torpid balm
  • 190 And dust of palm.
  • They shook far off with palace sport
  • When joust and dance were rife;
  • And the hunt shook them from the court;
  • For hers, in peace or strife,
  • Was a Queen's life.
  • A Queen's death now: as now they shake
  • To gusts in chapel dim,—
  • Hung where she sleeps, not seen to wake,
  • (Carved lovely white and slim),
  • 200 With them by him.
  • Stand up to-day, still armed, with her,
  • Good knight, before His brow
  • Who then as now was here and there,
  • Who had in mind thy vow
  • Then even as now.
Sig. 6
Image of page 82 page: 82
  • The lists are set in Heaven to-day,
  • The bright pavilions shine;
  • Fair hangs thy shield, and none gainsay;
  • The trumpets sound in sign
  • 210 That she is thine.
  • Not tithed with days' and years' decease
  • He pays thy wage He owed,
  • But with imperishable peace
  • Here in His own abode
  • Thy jealous God.
Image of page 83 page: 83

Vengeance of Jenny's case! Fie on her! Never name

her, child!—(Mrs. Quickly.)

  • Lazy laughing languid Jenny,
  • Fond of a kiss and fond of a guinea,
  • Whose head upon my knee to-night
  • Rests for a while, as if grown light
  • With all our dances and the sound
  • To which the wild tunes spun you round:
  • Fair Jenny mine, the thoughtless queen
  • Of kisses which the blush between
  • Could hardly make much daintier;
  • 10 Whose eyes are as blue skies, whose hair
  • Is countless gold incomparable:
  • Fresh flower, scarce touched with signs that tell
  • Of Love's exuberant hotbed:—Nay,
  • Poor flower left torn since yesterday
  • Until to-morrow leave you bare;
  • Poor handful of bright spring-water
  • Flung in the whirlpool's shrieking face;
  • Poor shameful Jenny, full of grace
  • Thus with your head upon my knee;—
  • 20 Whose person or whose purse may be
  • The lodestar of your reverie?
  • This room of yours, my Jenny, looks
  • A change from mine so full of books,
  • Whose serried ranks hold fast, forsooth,
  • So many captive hours of youth,—
  • Image of page 84 page: 84
  • The hours they thieve from day and night
  • To make one's cherished work come right,
  • And leave it wrong for all their theft,
  • Even as to-night my work was left:
  • 30 Until I vowed that since my brain
  • And eyes of dancing seemed so fain,
  • My feet should have some dancing too:—
  • And thus it was I met with you.
  • Well, I suppose 'twas hard to part,
  • For here I am. And now, sweetheart,
  • You seem too tired to get to bed.
  • It was a careless life I led
  • When rooms like this were scarce so strange
  • Not long ago. What breeds the change,—
  • 40 The many aims or the few years?
  • Because to-night it all appears
  • Something I do not know again.
  • The cloud's not danced out of my brain,—
  • The cloud that made it turn and swim
  • While hour by hour the books grew dim.
  • Why, Jenny, as I watch you there,—
  • For all your wealth of loosened hair,
  • Your silk ungirdled and unlac'd
  • And warm sweets open to the waist,
  • 50 All golden in the lamplight's gleam,—
  • You know not what a book you seem,
  • Half-read by lightning in a dream!
  • How should you know, my Jenny? Nay,
  • And I should be ashamed to say:—
  • Poor beauty, so well worth a kiss!
  • But while my thought runs on like this
  • With wasteful whims more than enough,
  • I wonder what you're thinking of.
  • If of myself you think at all,
  • 60 What is the thought?—conjectural
  • Image of page 85 page: 85
  • On sorry matters best unsolved?—
  • Or inly is each grace revolved
  • To fit me with a lure?—or (sad
  • To think!) perhaps you're merely glad
  • That I'm not drunk or ruffianly
  • And let you rest upon my knee.
  • For sometimes, were the truth confess'd,
  • You're thankful for a little rest,—
  • Glad from the crush to rest within,
  • 70 From the heart-sickness and the din
  • Where envy's voice at virtue's pitch
  • Mocks you because your gown is rich;
  • And from the pale girl's dumb rebuke,
  • Whose ill-clad grace and toil-worn look
  • Proclaim the strength that keeps her weak,
  • And other nights than yours bespeak;
  • And from the wise unchildish elf,
  • To schoolmate lesser than himself
  • Pointing you out, what thing you are:—
  • 80 Yes, from the daily jeer and jar,
  • From shame and shame's outbraving too,
  • Is rest not sometimes sweet to you?—
  • But most from the hatefulness of man,
  • Who spares not to end what he began,
  • Whose acts are ill and his speech ill,
  • Who, having used you at his will,
  • Thrusts you aside, as when I dine
  • I serve the dishes and the wine.
  • Well, handsome Jenny mine, sit up:
  • 90 I've filled our glasses, let us sup,
  • And do not let me think of you,
  • Lest shame of yours suffice for two.
  • What, still so tired? Well, well then, keep
  • Your head there, so you do not sleep;
  • But that the weariness may pass
  • And leave you merry, take this glass.
  • Image of page 86 page: 86
  • Ah! lazy lily hand, more bless'd
  • If ne'er in rings it had been dress'd
  • Nor ever by a glove conceal'd!
  • 100 Behold the lilies of the field,
  • They toil not neither do they spin;
  • (So doth the ancient text begin,—
  • Not of such rest as one of these
  • Can share.) Another rest and ease
  • Along each summer-sated path
  • From its new lord the garden hath,
  • Than that whose spring in blessings ran
  • Which praised the bounteous husbandman,
  • Ere yet, in days of hankering breath,
  • 110 The lilies sickened unto death.
  • What, Jenny, are your lilies dead?
  • Aye, and the snow-white leaves are spread
  • Like winter on the garden-bed.
  • But you had roses left in May,—
  • They were not gone too. Jenny, nay,
  • But must your roses die, and those
  • Their purfled buds that should unclose?
  • Even so; the leaves are curled apart,
  • Still red as from the broken heart,
  • 120 And here's the naked stem of thorns.
  • Nay, nay, mere words. Here nothing warns
  • As yet of winter. Sickness here
  • Or want alone could waken fear,—
  • Nothing but passion wrings a tear.
  • Except when there may rise unsought
  • Haply at times a passing thought
  • Of the old days which seem to be
  • Much older than any history
  • That is written in any book;
  • 130 When she would lie in fields and look
  • Along the ground through the blown grass
  • And wonder where the city was,
  • Image of page 87 page: 87
  • Far out of sight, whose broil and bale
  • They told her then for a child's tale.
  • Jenny, you know the city now.
  • A child can tell the tale there, how
  • Some things which are not yet enroll'd
  • In market-lists are bought and sold
  • Even till the early Sunday light,
  • 140 When Saturday night is market-night
  • Everywhere, be it dry or wet,
  • And market-night in the Haymarket.
  • Our learned London children know,
  • Poor Jenny, all your pride and woe;
  • Have seen your lifted silken skirt
  • Advertise dainties through the dirt;
  • Have seen your coach-wheels splash rebuke
  • On virtue; and have learned your look
  • When, wealth and health slipped past, you stare
  • 150 Along the streets alone, and there,
  • Round the long park, across the bridge,
  • The cold lamps at the pavement's edge
  • Wind on together and apart,
  • A fiery serpent for your heart.
  • Let the thoughts pass, an empty cloud!
  • Suppose I were to think aloud,—
  • What if to her all this were said?
  • Why, as a volume seldom read
  • Being opened halfway shuts again,
  • 160 So might the pages of her brain
  • Be parted at such words, and thence
  • Close back upon the dusty sense.
  • For is there hue or shape defin'd
  • In Jenny's desecrated mind,
  • Where all contagious currents meet,
  • A Lethe of the middle street?
  • Nay, it reflects not any face,
  • Nor sound is in its sluggish pace,
  • Image of page 88 page: 88
  • But as they coil those eddies clot,
  • 170 And night and day remember not.
  • Why, Jenny, you're asleep at last!—
  • Asleep, poor Jenny, hard and fast,—
  • So young and soft and tired; so fair,
  • With chin thus nestled in your hair,
  • Mouth quiet, eyelids almost blue
  • As if some sky of dreams shone through!
  • Just as another woman sleeps!
  • Enough to throw one's thoughts in heaps
  • Of doubt and horror,—what to say
  • 180 Or think,—this awful secret sway,
  • The potter's power over the clay!
  • Of the same lump (it has been said)
  • For honour and dishonour made,
  • Two sister vessels. Here is one.
  • My cousin Nell is fond of fun,
  • And fond of dress, and change, and praise,
  • So mere a woman in her ways:
  • And if her sweet eyes rich in youth
  • Are like her lips that tell the truth,
  • 190 My cousin Nell is fond of love.
  • And she's the girl I'm proudest of.
  • Who does not prize her, guard her well?
  • The love of change, in cousin Nell,
  • Shall find the best and hold it dear:
  • The unconquered mirth turn quieter
  • Not through her own, through others' woe:
  • The conscious pride of beauty glow
  • Beside another's pride in her,
  • One little part of all they share.
  • 200 For Love himself shall ripen these
  • In a kind soil to just increase
  • Through years of fertilizing peace.
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  • Of the same lump (as it is said)
  • For honour and dishonour made,
  • Two sister vessels. Here is one.
  • It makes a goblin of the sun.
  • So pure,—so fall'n! How dare to think
  • Of the first common kindred link?
  • Yet, Jenny, till the world shall burn
  • 210 It seems that all things take their turn;
  • And who shall say but this fair tree
  • May need, in changes that may be,
  • Your children's children's charity?
  • Scorned then, no doubt, as you are scorn'd!
  • Shall no man hold his pride forewarn'd
  • Till in the end, the Day of Days,
  • At Judgment, one of his own race,
  • As frail and lost as you, shall rise,—
  • His daughter, with his mother's eyes?
  • 220 How Jenny's clock ticks on the shelf!
  • Might not the dial scorn itself
  • That has such hours to register?
  • Yet as to me, even so to her
  • Are golden sun and silver moon,
  • In daily largesse of earth's boon,
  • Counted for life-coins to one tune.
  • And if, as blindfold fates are toss'd,
  • Through some one man this life be lost,
  • Shall soul not somehow pay for soul?
  • 230 Fair shines the gilded aureole
  • In which our highest painters place
  • Some living woman's simple face.
  • And the stilled features thus descried
  • As Jenny's long throat droops aside,—
  • The shadows where the cheeks are thin,
  • And pure wide curve from ear to chin,—
  • Image of page 90 page: 90
  • With Raffael's, Leonardo's hand
  • To show them to men's souls, might stand,
  • Whole ages long, the whole world through,
  • 240 For preachings of what God can do.
  • What has man done here? How atone,
  • Great God, for this which man has done?
  • And for the body and soul which by
  • Man's pitiless doom must now comply
  • With lifelong hell, what lullaby
  • Of sweet forgetful second birth
  • Remains? All dark. No sign on earth
  • What measure of God's rest endows
  • The many mansions of his house.
  • 250 If but a woman's heart might see
  • Such erring heart unerringly
  • For once! But that can never be.
  • Like a rose shut in a book
  • In which pure women may not look,
  • For its base pages claim control
  • To crush the flower within the soul;
  • Where through each dead rose-leaf that clings,
  • Pale as transparent Psyche-wings,
  • To the vile text, are traced such things
  • 260 As might make lady's cheek indeed
  • More than a living rose to read;
  • So nought save foolish foulness may
  • Watch with hard eyes the sure decay;
  • And so the life-blood of this rose,
  • Puddled with shameful knowledge, flows
  • Through leaves no chaste hand may unclose:
  • Yet still it keeps such faded show
  • Of when 'twas gathered long ago,
  • That the crushed petals' lovely grain,
  • 270 The sweetness of the sanguine stain,
  • Seen of a woman's eyes, must make
  • Her pitiful heart, so prone to ache,
  • Image of page 91 page: 91
  • Love roses better for its sake:—
  • Only that this can never be:—
  • Even so unto her sex is she.
  • Yet, Jenny, looking long at you,
  • The woman almost fades from view.
  • A cipher of man's changeless sum
  • Of lust, past, present, and to come,
  • 280 Is left. A riddle that one shrinks
  • To challenge from the scornful sphinx.
  • Like a toad within a stone
  • Seated while Time crumbles on;
  • Which sits there since the earth was curs'd
  • For Man's transgression at the first;
  • Which, living through all centuries,
  • Not once has seen the sun arise;
  • Whose life, to its cold circle charmed,
  • The earth's whole summers have not warmed;
  • 290 Which always—whitherso the stone
  • Be flung—sits there, deaf, blind, alone;—
  • Aye, and shall not be driven out
  • Till that which shuts him round about
  • Break at the very Master's stroke,
  • And the dust thereof vanish as smoke,
  • And the seed of Man vanish as dust:—
  • Even so within this world is Lust.
  • Come, come, what use in thoughts like this?
  • Poor little Jenny, good to kiss,—
  • 300 You'd not believe by what strange roads
  • Thought travels, when your beauty goads
  • A man to-night to think of toads!
  • Jenny, wake up . . . . Why, there's the dawn!
  • And there's an early waggon drawn
  • To market, and some sheep that jog
  • Bleating before a barking dog;
  • And the old streets come peering through
  • Image of page 92 page: 92
  • Another night that London knew;
  • And all as ghostlike as the lamps.
  • 310 So on the wings of day decamps
  • My last night's frolic. Glooms begin
  • To shiver off as lights creep in
  • Past the gauze curtains half drawn-to,
  • And the lamp's doubled shade grows blue,—
  • Your lamp, my Jenny, kept alight,
  • Like a wise virgin's, all one night!
  • And in the alcove coolly spread
  • Glimmers with dawn your empty bed;
  • And yonder your fair face I see
  • 320 Reflected lying on my knee,
  • Where teems with first foreshadowings
  • Your pier-glass scrawled with diamond rings:
  • And on your bosom all night worn
  • Yesterday's rose now droops forlorn,
  • But dies not yet this summer morn.
  • And now without, as if some word
  • Had called upon them that they heard,
  • The London sparrows far and nigh
  • Clamour together suddenly;
  • 330 And Jenny's cage-bird grown awake
  • Here in their song his part must take,
  • Because here too the day doth break.
  • And somehow in myself the dawn
  • Among stirred clouds and veils withdrawn
  • Strikes greyly on her. Let her sleep.
  • But will it wake her if I heap
  • These cushions thus beneath her head
  • Where my knee was? No,—there's your bed,
  • My Jenny, while you dream. And there
  • 340 I lay among your golden hair
  • Perhaps the subject of your dreams,
  • These golden coins.
  • For still one deems
  • Image of page 93 page: 93
  • That Jenny's flattering sleep confers
  • New magic on the magic purse,—
  • Grim web, how clogged with shrivelled flies!
  • Between the threads fine fumes arise
  • And shape their pictures in the brain.
  • There roll no streets in glare and rain,
  • Nor flagrant man-swine whets his tusk;
  • 350 But delicately sighs in musk
  • The homage of the dim boudoir;
  • Or like a palpitating star
  • Thrilled into song, the opera-night
  • Breathes faint in the quick pulse of light;
  • Or at the carriage-window shine
  • Rich wares for choice; or, free to dine,
  • Whirls through its hour of health (divine
  • For her) the concourse of the Park.
  • And though in the discounted dark
  • 360 Her functions there and here are one,
  • Beneath the lamps and in the sun
  • There reigns at least the acknowledged belle
  • Apparelled beyond parallel.
  • Ah Jenny, yes, we know your dreams.
  • For even the Paphian Venus seems
  • A goddess o'er the realms of love,
  • When silver-shrined in shadowy grove:
  • Aye, or let offerings nicely plac'd
  • But hide Priapus to the waist,
  • 370 And whoso looks on him shall see
  • An eligible deity.
  • Why, Jenny, waking here alone
  • May help you to remember one,
  • Though all the memory's long outworn
  • Of many a double-pillowed morn.
  • I think I see you when you wake,
  • And rub your eyes for me, and shake
  • Image of page 94 page: 94
  • My gold, in rising, from your hair,
  • A Danaë for a moment there.
  • 380 Jenny, my love rang true! for still
  • Love at first sight is vague, until
  • That tinkling makes him audible.
  • And must I mock you to the last,
  • Ashamed of my own shame,—aghast
  • Because some thoughts not born amiss
  • Rose at a poor fair face like this?
  • Well, of such thoughts so much I know:
  • In my life, as in hers, they show,
  • By a far gleam which I may near,
  • 390 A dark path I can strive to clear.
  • Only one kiss. Good-bye, my dear.
Image of page 95 page: 95
  • What thing unto mine ear
  • Wouldst thou convey,—what secret thing,
  • O wandering water ever whispering?
  • Surely thy speech shall be of her.
  • Thou water, O thou whispering wanderer,
  • What message dost thou bring?
  • Say, hath not Love leaned low
  • This hour beside thy far well-head,
  • And there through jealous hollowed fingers said
  • 10 The thing that most I long to know,—
  • Murmuring with curls all dabbled in thy flow
  • And washed lips rosy red?
  • He told it to thee there
  • Where thy voice hath a louder tone;
  • But where it welters to this little moan
  • His will decrees that I should hear.
  • Now speak: for with the silence is no fear,
  • And I am all alone.
  • Shall Time not still endow
  • 20 One hour with life, and I and she
  • Slake in one kiss the thirst of memory?
  • Say, stream; lest Love should disavow
  • Thy service, and the bird upon the bough
  • Sing first to tell it me.
Image of page 96 page: 96
  • What whisperest thou? Nay, why
  • Name the dead hours? I mind them well:
  • Their ghosts in many darkened doorways dwell
  • With desolate eyes to know them by.
  • The hour that must be born ere it can die,—
  • 30 Of that I'd have thee tell.
  • But hear, before thou speak!
  • Withhold, I pray, the vain behest
  • That while the maze hath still its bower for quest
  • My burning heart should cease to seek.
  • Be sure that Love ordained for souls more meek
  • His roadside dells of rest.
  • Stream, when this silver thread
  • In flood-time is a torrent brown
  • May any bulwark bind thy foaming crown?
  • 40 Shall not the waters surge and spread
  • And to the crannied boulders of their bed
  • Still shoot the dead drift down?
  • Let no rebuke find place
  • In speech of thine: or it shall prove
  • That thou dost ill expound the words of Love,
  • Even as thine eddy's rippling race
  • Would blur the perfect image of his face.
  • I will have none thereof.
  • O learn and understand
  • 50 That 'gainst the wrongs himself did wreak
  • Love sought her aid; until her shadowy cheek
  • And eyes beseeching gave command;
  • And compassed in her close compassionate hand
  • My heart must burn and speak.
Image of page 97 page: 97
  • For then at last we spoke
  • What eyes so oft had told to eyes
  • Through that long-lingering silence whose half-sighs
  • Alone the buried secret broke,
  • Which with snatched hands and lips' reverberate stroke
  • 60 Then from the heart did rise.
  • But she is far away
  • Now; nor the hours of night grown hoar
  • Bring yet to me, long gazing from the door,
  • The wind-stirred robe of roseate grey
  • And rose-crown of the hour that leads the day
  • When we shall meet once more.
  • Dark as thy blinded wave
  • When brimming midnight floods the glen,—
  • Bright as the laughter of thy runnels when
  • 70 The dawn yields all the light they crave;
  • Even so these hours to wound and that to save
  • Are sisters in Love's ken.
  • Oh sweet her bending grace
  • Then when I kneel beside her feet;
  • And sweet her eyes' o'erhanging heaven; and sweet
  • The gathering folds of her embrace;
  • And her fall'n hair at last shed round my face
  • When breaths and tears shall meet.
  • Beneath her sheltering hair,
  • 80 In the warm silence near her breast,
  • Our kisses and our sobs shall sink to rest;
  • As in some still trance made aware
  • That day and night have wrought to fulness there
  • And Love has built our nest.
Sig. 7
Image of page 98 page: 98
  • And as in the dim grove,
  • When the rains cease that hushed them long,
  • 'Mid glistening boughs the song-birds wake to song,—
  • So from our hearts deep-shrined in love,
  • While the leaves throb beneath, around, above,
  • 90 The quivering notes shall throng.
  • Till tenderest words found vain
  • Draw back to wonder mute and deep,
  • And closed lips in closed arms a silence keep,
  • Subdued by memory's circling strain,—
  • The wind-rapt sound that the wind brings again
  • While all the willows weep.
  • Then by her summoning art
  • Shall memory conjure back the sere
  • Autumnal Springs, from many a dying year
  • 100 Born dead; and, bitter to the heart,
  • The very ways where now we walk apart
  • Who then shall cling so near.
  • And with each thought new-grown,
  • Some sweet caress or some sweet name
  • Low-breathed shall let me know her thought the same;
  • Making me rich with every tone
  • And touch of the dear heaven so long unknown
  • That filled my dreams with flame.
  • Pity and love shall burn
  • 110 In her pressed cheek and cherishing hands;
  • And from the living spirit of love that stands
  • Between her lips to soothe and yearn,
  • Each separate breath shall clasp me round in turn
  • And loose my spirit's bands.
Image of page 99 page: 99
  • Oh passing sweet and dear,
  • Then when the worshiped form and face
  • Are felt at length in darkling close embrace;
  • Round which so oft the sun shone clear,
  • With mocking light and pitiless atmosphere,
  • 120 In many an hour and place.
  • Ah me! with what proud growth
  • Shall that hour's thirsting race be run;
  • While, for each several sweetness still begun
  • Afresh, endures love's endless drouth:
  • Sweet hands, sweet hair, sweet cheeks, sweet eyes,
  • [sweet mouth,
  • Each singly wooed and won.
Note: The words “sweet mouth” in line 125 have been dropped to the next line.
  • Yet most with the sweet soul
  • Shall love's espousals then be knit;
  • For very passion of peace shall breathe from it
  • 130 O'er tremulous wings that touch the goal,
  • As on the unmeasured height of Love's control
  • The lustral fires are lit.
  • Therefore, when breast and cheek
  • Now part, from long embraces free,—
  • Each on the other gazing shall but see
  • A self that has no heed to speak:
  • All things unsought, yet nothing more to seek,—
  • One love in unity.
  • O water wandering past,—
  • 140 Albeit to thee I speak this thing,
  • O water, thou that wanderest whispering,
  • Thou keep'st thy counsel to the last.
  • What spell upon thy bosom should Love cast,
  • His message thence to wring?
Note: There is incomplete inking of the dash at the end of line 137.
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  • Nay, must thou hear the tale
  • Of the past days,—the heavy debt
  • Of life that obdurate time withholds,—ere yet
  • To win thine ear these prayers prevail,
  • And by thy voice Love's self with high All-hail
  • 150 Yield up the love-secret?
  • How should all this be told?—
  • All the sad sum of wayworn days;—
  • Heart's anguish in the impenetrable maze;
  • And on the waste uncoloured wold
  • The visible burthen of the sun grown cold
  • And the moon's labouring gaze?
  • Alas! shall hope be nurs'd
  • On life's all-succouring breast in vain,
  • And made so perfect only to be slain?
  • 160 Or shall not rather the sweet thirst
  • Even yet rejoice the heart with warmth dispers'd
  • And strength grown fair again?
  • Stands it not by the door—
  • Love's Hour—till she and I shall meet;
  • With bodiless form and unapparent feet
  • That cast no shadow yet before,
  • Though round its head the dawn begins to pour
  • The breath that makes day sweet?
  • Its eyes invisible
  • 170 Watch till the dial's thin-thrown shade
  • Be born,—yea, till the journeying line be laid
  • Upon the point that wakes the spell,
  • And there in lovelier light than tongue can tell
  • Its presence stand array'd.
Image of page 101 page: 101
  • Its soul remembers yet
  • Those sunless hours that passed it by;
  • And still it hears the night's disconsolate cry,
  • And feels the branches wringing wet
  • Cast on its brow, that may not once forget,
  • 180 Dumb tears from the blind sky.
  • But oh! when now her foot
  • Draws near, for whose sake night and day
  • Were long in weary longing sighed away,—
  • The Hour of Love, 'mid airs grown mute,
  • Shall sing beside the door, and Love's own lute
  • Thrill to the passionate lay.
  • Thou know'st, for Love has told
  • Within thine ear, O stream, how soon
  • That song shall lift its sweet appointed tune.
  • 190 O tell me, for my lips are cold,
  • And in my veins the blood is waxing old
  • Even while I beg the boon.
  • So, in that hour of sighs
  • Assuaged, shall we beside this stone
  • Yield thanks for grace; while in thy mirror shown
  • The twofold image softly lies,
  • Until we kiss, and each in other's eyes
  • Is imaged all alone.
  • Still silent? Can no art
  • 200 Of Love's then move thy pity? Nay,
  • To thee let nothing come that owns his sway:
  • Let happy lovers have no part
  • With thee; nor even so sad and poor a heart
  • As thou hast spurned to-day.
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  • To-day? Lo! night is here.
  • The glen grows heavy with some veil
  • Risen from the earth or fall'n to make earth pale;
  • And all stands hushed to eye and ear,
  • Until the night-wind shake the shade like fear
  • 210 And every covert quail.
  • Ah! by a colder wave
  • On deathlier airs the hour must come
  • Which to thy heart, my love, shall call me home.
  • Between the lips of the low cave
  • Against that night the lapping waters lave,
  • And the dark lips are dumb.
  • But there Love's self doth stand,
  • And with Life's weary wings far-flown,
  • And with Death's eyes that make the water moan,
  • 220 Gathers the water in his hand:
  • And they that drink know nought of sky or land
  • But only love alone.
  • O soul-sequestered face
  • Far off,—O were that night but now!
  • So even beside that stream even I and thou
  • Through thirsting lips should draw Love's grace,
  • And in the zone of that supreme embrace
  • Bind aching breast and brow.
  • O water whispering
  • 230 Still through the dark into mine ears,—
  • As with mine eyes, is it not now with hers?—
  • Mine eyes that add to thy cold spring,
  • Wan water, wandering water weltering,
  • This hidden tide of tears.
Image of page 10[3] page: 10[3]
Note: This page is misnumbered as 10 in the top center.

Of her two fights with the Beryl-stone:

Lost the first, but the second won.

  • “Mary mine that art Mary's Rose,
  • Come in to me from the garden-close.
  • The sun sinks fast with the rising dew,
  • And we marked not how the faint moon grew;
  • But the hidden stars are calling you.
  • “Tall Rose Mary, come to my side,
  • And read the stars if you'd be a bride.
  • In hours whose need was not your own,
  • While you were a young maid yet ungrown
  • 10You've read the stars in the Beryl-stone.
  • “Daughter, once more I bid you read;
  • But now let it be for your own need:
  • Because to-morrow, at break of day,
  • To Holy Cross he rides on his way,
  • Your knight Sir James of Heronhaye.
  • “Ere he wed you, flower of mine,
  • For a heavy shrift he seeks the shrine.
  • Now hark to my words and do not fear;
  • Ill news next I have for your ear;
  • 20But be you strong, and our help is here.
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  • “On his road, as the rumour's rife,
  • An ambush waits to take his life.
  • He needs will go, and will go alone;
  • Where the peril lurks may not be known;
  • But in this glass all things are shown.”
  • Pale Rose Mary sank to the floor:—
  • “The night will come if the day is o'er!”
  • “Nay, heaven takes counsel, star with star,
  • And help shall reach your heart from afar:
  • 30A bride you'll be, as a maid you are.”
  • The lady unbound her jewelled zone
  • And drew from her robe the Beryl-stone.
  • Shaped it was to a shadowy sphere,—
  • World of our world, the sun's compeer,
  • That bears and buries the toiling year.
  • With shuddering light 'twas stirred and strewn
  • Like the cloud-nest of the wading moon:
  • Freaked it was as the bubble's ball,
  • Rainbow-hued through a misty pall
  • 40Like the middle light of the waterfall.
  • Shadows dwelt in its teeming girth
  • Of the known and unknown things of earth;
  • The cloud above and the wave around,—
  • The central fire at the sphere's heart bound,
  • Like doomsday prisoned underground.
  • A thousand years it lay in the sea
  • With a treasure wrecked from Thessaly;
  • Deep it lay 'mid the coiled sea-wrack,
  • But the ocean-spirits found the track:
  • 50A soul was lost to win it back.
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  • The lady upheld the wondrous thing:—
  • “Ill fare” (she said) “with a fiend's-fairing:
  • But Moslem blood poured forth like wine
  • Can hallow Hell, 'neath the Sacred Sign;
  • And my lord brought this from Palestine.
  • “Spirits who fear the Blessed Rood
  • Drove forth the accursed multitude
  • That heathen worship housed herein,—
  • Never again such home to win,
  • 60Save only by a Christian's sin.
  • “All last night at an altar fair
  • I burnt strange fires and strove with prayer;
  • Till the flame paled to the red sunrise,
  • All rites I then did solemnize;
  • And the spell lacks nothing but your eyes.”
  • Low spake maiden Rose Mary:—
  • “O mother mine, if I should not see!”
  • “Nay, daughter, cover your face no more,
  • But bend love's heart to the hidden lore,
  • 70And you shall see now as heretofore.”
  • Paler yet were the pale cheeks grown
  • As the grey eyes sought the Beryl-stone:
  • Then over her mother's lap leaned she,
  • And stretched her thrilled throat passionately,
  • And sighed from her soul, and said, “I see.”
  • Even as she spoke, they two were 'ware
  • Of music-notes that fell through the air;
  • A chiming shower of strange device,
  • Drop echoing drop, once twice and thrice,
  • 80As rain may fall in Paradise.
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  • An instant come, in an instant gone,
  • No time there was to think thereon.
  • The mother held the sphere on her knee:—
  • “Lean this way and speak low to me,
  • And take no note but of what you see.”
  • “I see a man with a besom grey
  • That sweeps the flying dust away.”
  • “Ay, that comes first in the mystic sphere;
  • But now that the way is swept and clear,
  • 90Heed well what next you look on there.”
  • “Stretched aloft and adown I see
  • Two roads that part in waste-country:
  • The glen lies deep and the ridge stands tall;
  • What's great below is above seen small,
  • And the hill-side is the valley-wall.”
  • “Stream-bank, daughter, or moor and moss,
  • Both roads will take to Holy Cross.
  • The hills are a weary waste to wage;
  • But what of the valley-road's presage?
  • 100That way must tend his pilgrimage.”
  • “As 'twere the turning leaves of a book,
  • The road runs past me as I look;
  • Or it is even as though mine eye
  • Should watch calm waters filled with sky
  • While lights and clouds and wings went by.”
  • “In every covert seek a spear;
  • They'll scarce lie close till he draws near.”
  • “The stream has spread to a river now;
  • The stiff blue sedge is deep in the slough,
  • 110But the banks are bare of shrub or bough.”
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  • “Is there any roof that near at hand
  • Might shelter yield to a hidden band?”
  • “On the further bank I see but one,
  • And a herdsman now in the sinking sun
  • Unyokes his team at the threshold-stone.”
  • “Keep heedful watch by the water's edge,—
  • Some boat might lurk 'neath the shadowed sedge.’
  • “One slid but now 'twixt the winding shores,
  • But a peasant woman bent to the oars
  • 120And only a young child steered its course.
  • “Mother, something flashed to my sight!—
  • Nay, it is but the lapwing's flight.—
  • What glints there like a lance that flees?—
  • Nay, the flags are stirred in the breeze,
  • And the water's bright through the dart-rushes.
  • “Ah! vainly I search from side to side:—
  • Woe's me! and where do the foemen hide?
  • Woe's me! and perchance I pass them by,
  • And under the new dawn's blood-red sky
  • 130Even where I gaze the dead shall lie.”
  • Said the mother: “For dear love's sake,
  • Speak more low, lest the spell should break.”
  • Said the daughter: “By love's control,
  • My eyes, my words, are strained to the goal;
  • But oh! the voice that cries in my soul!”
  • “Hush, sweet, hush! be calm and behold.”
  • “I see two floodgates broken and old:
  • The grasses wave o'er the ruined weir,
  • But the bridge still leads to the breakwater;
  • 140And—mother, mother, O mother dear!”
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  • The damsel clung to her mother's knee,
  • And dared not let the shriek go free;
  • Low she crouched by the lady's chair,
  • And shrank blindfold in her fallen hair,
  • And whispering said, “The spears are there!”
  • The lady stooped aghast from her place,
  • And cleared the locks from her daughter's face.
  • “More's to see, and she swoons, alas!
  • Look, look again, ere the moment pass!
  • 150One shadow comes but once to the glass.
  • “See you there what you saw but now?”
  • “I see eight men 'neath the willow bough.
  • All over the weir a wild growth's spread:
  • Ah me! it will hide a living head
  • As well as the water hides the dead.
  • “They lie by the broken water-gate
  • As men who have a while to wait.
  • The chief's high lance has a blazoned scroll,—
  • He seems some lord of tithe and toll
  • 160With seven squires to his bannerole.
  • “The little pennon quakes in the air,
  • I cannot trace the blazon there:—
  • Ah! now I can see the field of blue,
  • The spurs and the merlins two and two;—
  • It is the Warden of Holycleugh!”
  • “God be thanked for the thing we know!
  • You have named your good knight's mortal foe.
  • Last Shrovetide in the tourney-game
  • He sought his life by treasonous shame;
  • 170And this way now doth he seek the same.
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  • “So, fair lord, such a thing you are!
  • But we too watch till the morning star.
  • Well, June is kind and the moon is clear:
  • Saint Judas send you a merry cheer
  • For the night you lie at Warisweir!
  • “Now, sweet daughter, but one more sight,
  • And you may lie soft and sleep to-night.
  • We know in the vale what perils be:
  • Now look once more in the glass, and see
  • 180If over the hills the road lies free.”
  • Rose Mary pressed to her mother's cheek,
  • And almost smiled but did not speak;
  • Then turned again to the saving spell,
  • With eyes to search and with lips to tell
  • The heart of things invisible.
  • “Again the shape with the besom grey
  • Comes back to sweep the clouds away.
  • Again I stand where the roads divide;
  • But now all's near on the steep hillside,
  • 190And a thread far down is the rivertide.”
  • “Ay, child, your road is o'er moor and moss,
  • Past Holycleugh to Holy Cross.
  • Our hunters lurk in the valley's wake,
  • As they knew which way the chase would take:
  • Yet search the hills for your true love's sake.”
  • “Swift and swifter the waste runs by,
  • And nought I see but the heath and the sky;
  • No brake is there that could hide a spear,
  • And the gaps to a horseman's sight lie clear;
  • 200Still past it goes, and there's nought to fear.”
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  • “Fear no trap that you cannot see,—
  • They'd not lurk yet too warily.
  • Below by the weir they lie in sight,
  • And take no heed how they pass the night
  • Till close they crouch with the morning light.”
  • “The road shifts ever and brings in view
  • Now first the heights of Holycleugh:
  • Dark they stand o'er the vale below,
  • And hide that heaven which yet shall show
  • 210The thing their master's heart doth know.
  • “Where the road looks to the castle steep,
  • There are seven hill-clefts wide and deep:
  • Six mine eyes can search as they list,
  • But the seventh hollow is brimmed with mist:
  • If aught were there, it might not be wist.”
  • “Small hope, my girl, for a helm to hide
  • In mists that cling to a wild moorside:
  • Soon they melt with the wind and sun,
  • And scarce would wait such deeds to be done:
  • 220God send their snares be the worst to shun.”
  • “Still the road winds ever anew
  • As it hastens on towards Holycleugh;
  • And ever the great walls loom more near,
  • Till the castle-shadow, steep and sheer,
  • Drifts like a cloud, and the sky is clear.”
  • “Enough, my daughter,” the mother said,
  • And took to her breast the bending head;
  • “Rest, poor head, with my heart below,
  • While love still lulls you as long ago:
  • 230For all is learnt that we need to know.
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  • “Long the miles and many the hours
  • From the castle-height to the abbey-towers;
  • But here the journey has no more dread;
  • Too thick with life is the whole road spread
  • For murder's trembling foot to tread.”
  • She gazed on the Beryl-stone full fain
  • Ere she wrapped it close in her robe again:
  • The flickering shades were dusk and dun
  • And the lights throbbed faint in unison,
  • 240Like a high heart when a race is run.
  • As the globe slid to its silken gloom,
  • Once more a music rained through the room;
  • Low it splashed like a sweet star-spray,
  • And sobbed like tears at the heart of May,
  • And died as laughter dies away.
  • The lady held her breath for a space,
  • And then she looked in her daughter's face:
  • But wan Rose Mary had never heard;
  • Deep asleep like a sheltered bird
  • 250She lay with the long spell minister'd.
  • “Ah! and yet I must leave you, dear,
  • For what you have seen your knight must hear.
  • Within four days, by the help of God,
  • He comes back safe to his heart's abode:
  • Be sure he shall shun the valley-road.”
  • Rose Mary sank with a broken moan,
  • And lay in the chair and slept alone,
  • Weary, lifeless, heavy as lead:
  • Long it was ere she raised her head
  • 260And rose up all discomforted.
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  • She searched her brain for a vanished thing,
  • And clasped her brows, remembering;
  • Then knelt and lifted her eyes in awe,
  • And sighed with a long sigh sweet to draw:—
  • “Thank God, thank God, thank God I saw!”
  • The lady had left her as she lay,
  • To seek the Knight of Heronhaye.
  • But first she clomb by a secret stair,
  • And knelt at a carven altar fair,
  • 270And laid the precious Beryl there.
  • Its girth was graved with a mystic rune
  • In a tongue long dead 'neath sun and moon:
  • A priest of the Holy Sepulchre
  • Read that writing and did not err;
  • And her lord had told its sense to her.
  • She breathed the words in an undertone:—
  • None sees here but the pure alone .”
  • “And oh!” she said, “what rose may be
  • In Mary's bower more pure to see
  • 280Than my own sweet maiden Rose Mary?”
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  • We whose home is the Beryl,
  • Fire-spirits of dread desire,
  • Who entered in
  • By a secret sin,
  • 'Gainst whom all powers that strive with ours are sterile,—
  • We cry, Woe to thee, mother!
  • What hast thou taught her, the girl thy daughter,
  • That she and none other
  • Should this dark morrow to her deadly sorrow imperil?
  • 10 What were her eyes
  • But the fiend's own spies,
  • O mother,
  • And shall We not fee her, our proper prophet and seër?
  • Go to her, mother,
  • Even thou, yea thou and none other,
  • Thou, from the Beryl:
  • Her fee must thou take her,
  • Her fee that We send, and make her,
  • Even in this hour, her sin's unsheltered avower.
  • 20 Whose steed did neigh,
  • Riderless, bridleless,
  • At her gate before it was day?
  • Lo! where doth hover
  • The soul of her lover?
  • She sealed his doom, she, she was the sworn approver,—
  • Whose eyes were so wondrous wise,
  • Yet blind, ah! blind to his peril!
  • For stole not We in
  • Through a love-linked sin,
  • 30 'Gainst whom all powers at war with ours are sterile,—
  • Fire-spirits of dread desire,
  • We whose home is the Beryl?
Sig. 8
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  • “Pale Rose Mary, what shall be done
  • With a rose that Mary weeps upon?”
  • “Mother, let it fall from the tree,
  • And never walk where the strewn leaves be
  • Till winds have passed and the path is free.”
  • “Sad Rose Mary, what shall be done
  • With a cankered flower beneath the sun?”
  • “Mother, let it wait for the night;
  • Be sure its shame shall be out of sight
  • 10Ere the moon pale or the east grow light.”
  • “Lost Rose Mary, what shall be done
  • With a heart that is but a broken one?”
  • “Mother, let it lie where it must;
  • The blood was drained with the bitter thrust,
  • And dust is all that sinks in the dust.”
  • “Poor Rose Mary, what shall I do,—
  • I, your mother, that lovèd you?”
  • “O my mother, and is love gone?
  • Then seek you another love anon:
  • 20Who cares what shame shall lean upon?”
  • Low drooped trembling Rose Mary,
  • Then up as though in a dream stood she.
  • “Come, my heart, it is time to go;
  • This is the hour that has whispered low
  • When thy pulse quailed in the nights we know.
  • “Yet O my heart, thy shame has a mate
  • Who will not leave thee desolate.
  • Shame for shame, yea and sin for sin:
  • Yet peace at length may our poor souls win
  • 30If love for love be found therein.
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  • “O thou who seek'st our shrift to-day,”
  • She cried, “O James of Heronhaye—
  • Thy sin and mine was for love alone;
  • And oh! in the sight of God 'tis known
  • How the heart has since made heavy moan.
  • “Three days yet!” she said to her heart;
  • “But then he comes, and we will not part.
  • God, God be thanked that I still could see!
  • Oh! he shall come back assuredly,
  • 40But where, alas! must he seek for me?
  • “O my heart, what road shall we roam
  • Till my wedding-music fetch me home?
  • For love's shut from us and bides afar,
  • And scorn leans over the bitter bar
  • And knows us now for the thing we are.”
  • Tall she stood with a cheek flushed high
  • And a gaze to burn the heart-strings by.
  • 'Twas the lightning-flash o'er sky and plain
  • Ere labouring thunders heave the chain
  • 50From the floodgates of the drowning rain.
  • The mother looked on the daughter still
  • As on a hurt thing that's yet to kill.
  • Then wildly at length the pent tears came;
  • The love swelled high with the swollen shame,
  • And their hearts' tempest burst on them.
  • Closely locked, they clung without speech,
  • And the mirrored souls shook each to each,
  • As the cloud-moon and the water-moon
  • Shake face to face when the dim stars swoon
  • 60In stormy bowers of the night's mid-noon.
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  • They swayed together, shuddering sore,
  • Till the mother's heart could bear no more.
  • 'Twas death to feel her own breast shake
  • Even to the very throb and ache
  • Of the burdened heart she still must break.
  • All her sobs ceased suddenly,
  • And she sat straight up but scarce could see.
  • “O daughter, where should my speech begin?
  • Your heart held fast its secret sin:
  • 70How think you, child, that I read therein?”
  • “Ah me! but I thought not how it came
  • When your words showed that you knew my shame:
  • And now that you call me still your own,
  • I half forget you have ever known.
  • Did you read my heart in the Beryl-stone?”
  • The lady answered her mournfully:—
  • “The Beryl-stone has no voice for me:
  • But when you charged its power to show
  • The truth which none but the pure may know,
  • 80Did naught speak once of a coming woe?”
  • Her hand was close to her daughter's heart,
  • And it felt the life-blood's sudden start:
  • A quick deep breath did the damsel draw,
  • Like the struck fawn in the oakenshaw:
  • “O mother,” she cried, “but still I saw!”
  • “O child, my child, why held you apart
  • From my great love your hidden heart?
  • Said I not that all sin must chase
  • From the spell's sphere the spirits of grace,
  • 90And yield their rule to the evil race?
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  • “Ah! would to God I had clearly told
  • How strong those powers, accurst of old:
  • Their heart is the ruined house of lies;
  • O girl, they can seal the sinful eyes,
  • Or show the truth by contraries!”
  • The daughter sat as cold as a stone,
  • And spoke no word but gazed alone,
  • Nor moved, though her mother strove a space
  • To clasp her round in a close embrace,
  • 100Because she dared not see her face.
  • “Oh!” at last did the mother cry,
  • “Be sure, as he loved you, so will I!
  • Ah! still and dumb is the bride, I trow;
  • But cold and stark as the winter snow
  • Is the bridegroom's heart, laid dead below!
  • “Daughter, daughter, remember you
  • That cloud in the hills by Holycleugh?
  • 'Twas a Hell-screen hiding truth away:
  • There, not i' the vale, the ambush lay,
  • 110And thence was the dead borne home to-day.”
  • Deep the flood and heavy the shock
  • When sea meets sea in the riven rock:
  • But calm is the pulse that shakes the sea
  • To the prisoned tide of doom set free
  • In the breaking heart of Rose Mary.
  • Once she sprang as the heifer springs
  • With the wolf's teeth at its red heart-strings.
  • First 'twas fire in her breast and brain,
  • And then scarce hers but the whole world's pain,
  • 120As she gave one shriek and sank again.
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  • In the hair dark-waved the face lay white
  • As the moon lies in the lap of night;
  • And as night through which no moon may dart
  • Lies on a pool in the woods apart,
  • So lay the swoon on the weary heart.
  • The lady felt for the bosom's stir,
  • And wildly kissed and called on her;
  • Then turned away with a quick footfall,
  • And slid the secret door in the wall,
  • 130And clomb the strait stair's interval.
  • There above in the altar-cell
  • A little fountain rose and fell:
  • She set a flask to the water's flow,
  • And, backward hurrying, sprinkled now
  • The still cold breast and the pallid brow.
  • Scarce cheek that warmed or breath on the air,
  • Yet something told that life was there.
  • “Ah! not with the heart the body dies!”
  • The lady moaned in a bitter wise;
  • 140Then wrung her hands and hid her eyes.
  • “Alas! and how may I meet again
  • In the same poor eyes the selfsame pain?
  • What help can I seek, such grief to guide?
  • Ah! one alone might avail,” she cried,—
  • “The priest who prays at the dead man's side.”
  • The lady arose, and sped down all
  • The winding stairs to the castle-hall.
  • Long-known valley and wood and stream,
  • As the loopholes passed, naught else did seem
  • 150Than the torn threads of a broken dream.
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  • The hall was full of the castle-folk;
  • The women wept, but the men scarce spoke.
  • As the lady crossed the rush-strewn floor,
  • The throng fell backward, murmuring sore,
  • And pressed outside round the open door.
  • A stranger shadow hung on the hall
  • Than the dark pomp of a funeral.
  • 'Mid common sights that were there alway,
  • As 'twere a chance of the passing day,
  • 160On the ingle-bench the dead man lay.
  • A priest who passed by Holycleugh
  • The tidings brought when the day was new.
  • He guided them who had fetched the dead;
  • And since that hour, unwearièd,
  • He knelt in prayer at the low bier's head.
  • Word had gone to his own domain
  • That in evil wise the knight was slain:
  • Soon the spears must gather apace
  • And the hunt be hard on the hunters' trace;
  • 170But all things yet lay still for a space.
  • As the lady's hurried step drew near,
  • The kneeling priest looked up to her.
  • “Father, death is a grievous thing;
  • But oh! the woe has a sharper sting
  • That craves by me your ministering.
  • “Alas for the child that should have wed
  • This noble knight here lying dead!
  • Dead in hope, with all blessed boon
  • Of love thus rent from her heart ere noon,
  • 180I left her laid in a heavy swoon.
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  • “O haste to the open bower-chamber
  • That's topmost as you mount the stair:
  • Seek her, father, ere yet she wake;
  • Your words, not mine, be the first to slake
  • This poor heart's fire, for Christ's sweet sake!
  • “God speed!” she said as the priest passed through,
  • “And I ere long will be with you.”
  • Then low on the hearth her knees sank prone;
  • She signed all folk from the threshold-stone,
  • 190And gazed in the dead man's face alone.
  • The fight for life found record yet
  • In the clenched lips and the teeth hard-set;
  • The wrath from the bent brow was not gone,
  • And stark in the eyes the hate still shone
  • Of that they last had looked upon.
  • The blazoned coat was rent on his breast
  • Where the golden field was goodliest;
  • But the shivered sword, close-gripped, could tell
  • That the blood shed round him where he fell
  • 200Was not all his in the distant dell.
  • The lady recked of the corpse no whit,
  • But saw the soul and spoke to it:
  • A light there was in her steadfast eyes,—
  • The fire of mortal tears and sighs
  • That pity and love immortalize.
  • “By thy death have I learnt to-day
  • Thy deed, O James of Heronhaye!
  • Great wrong thou hast done to me and mine;
  • And haply God hath wrought for a sign
  • 210By our blind deed this doom of thine.
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  • “Thy shrift, alas! thou wast not to win;
  • But may death shrive thy soul herein!
  • Full well do I know thy love should be
  • Even yet—had life but stayed with thee—
  • Our honour's strong security.”
  • She stooped, and said with a sob's low stir,—
  • “Peace be thine,—but what peace for her?”
  • But ere to the brow her lips were press'd,
  • She marked, half-hid in the riven vest,
  • 220A packet close to the dead man's breast.
  • 'Neath surcoat pierced and broken mail
  • It lay on the blood-stained bosom pale.
  • The clot clung round it, dull and dense,
  • And a faintness seized her mortal sense
  • As she reached her hand and drew it thence.
  • 'Twas steeped in the heart's flood welling high
  • From the heart it there had rested by:
  • 'Twas glued to a broidered fragment gay,—
  • A shred by spear-thrust rent away
  • 230From the heron-wings of Heronhaye.
  • She gazed on the thing with piteous eyne:—
  • “Alas, poor child, some pledge of thine!
  • Ah me! in this troth the hearts were twain,
  • And one hath ebbed to this crimson stain,
  • And when shall the other throb again?”
  • She opened the packet heedfully;
  • The blood was stiff, and it scarce might be.
  • She found but a folded paper there,
  • And round it, twined with tenderest care,
  • 240A long bright tress of golden hair.
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  • Even as she looked, she saw again
  • That dark-haired face in its swoon of pain:
  • It seemed a snake with a golden sheath
  • Crept near, as a slow flame flickereth,
  • And stung her daughter's heart to death.
  • She loosed the tress, but her hand did shake
  • As though indeed she had touched a snake;
  • And next she undid the paper's fold,
  • But that too trembled in her hold,
  • 250And the sense scarce grasped the tale it told.
  • “My heart's sweet lord,” ('twas thus she read,)
  • “At length our love is garlanded.
  • At Holy Cross, within eight days' space,
  • I seek my shrift; and the time and place
  • Shall fit thee too for thy soul's good grace.
  • “From Holycleugh on the seventh day
  • My brother rides, and bides away:
  • And long or e'er he is back, mine own,
  • Afar where the face of fear's unknown
  • 260We shall be safe with our love alone.
  • “Ere yet at the shrine my knees I bow,
  • I shear one tress for our holy vow.
  • As round these words these threads I wind,
  • So, eight days hence, shall our loves be twined,
  • Says my lord's poor lady, Jocelind.”
  • She read it twice, with a brain in thrall,
  • And then its echo told her all.
  • O'er brows low-fall'n her hands she drew:—
  • “O God!” she said, as her hands fell too,—
  • 270“The Warden's sister of Holycleugh!”
Image of page 123 page: 123
  • She rose upright with a long low moan,
  • And stared in the dead man's face new-known.
  • Had it lived indeed? She scarce could tell:
  • 'Twas a cloud where fiends had come to dwell,—
  • A mask that hung on the gate of Hell.
  • She lifted the lock of gleaming hair
  • And smote the lips and left it there.
  • “Here's gold that Hell shall take for thy toll!
  • Full well hath thy treason found its goal,
  • 280O thou dead body and damnèd soul!”
  • She turned, sore dazed, for a voice was near,
  • And she knew that some one called to her.
  • On many a column fair and tall
  • A high court ran round the castle-hall;
  • And thence it was that the priest did call.
  • “I sought your child where you bade me go,
  • And in rooms around and rooms below;
  • But where, alas! may the maiden be?
  • Fear nought,—we shall find her speedily,—
  • 290But come, come hither, and seek with me.”
  • She reached the stair like a lifelorn thing,
  • But hastened upward murmuring:—
  • “Yea, Death's is a face that's fell to see;
  • But bitterer pang Life hoards for thee,
  • Thou broken heart of Rose Mary!”
Image of page 124 page: 124
  • We whose throne is the Beryl,
  • Dire-gifted spirits of fire,
  • Who for a twin
  • Leash Sorrow to Sin,
  • Who on no flower refrain to lour with peril,—
  • We cry,—O desolate daughter!
  • Thou and thy mother share newer shame with each other
  • Than last night's slaughter.
  • Awake and tremble, for our curses assemble!
  • 10 What more, that thou know'st not yet,—
  • That life nor death shall forget?
  • No help from Heaven,—thy woes heart-riven are sterile!
  • O once a maiden,
  • With yet worse sorrow can any morrow be laden?
  • It waits for thee,
  • It looms, it must be,
  • O lost among women,—
  • It comes and thou canst not flee.
  • Amen to the omen,
  • 20 Says the voice of the Beryl.
  • Thou sleep'st? Awake,—
  • What dar'st thou yet for his sake,
  • Who each for other did God's own Future imperil?
  • Dost dare to live
  • 'Mid the pangs each hour must give?
  • Nay, rather die,—
  • With him thy lover 'neath Hell's cloud-cover to fly,—
  • Hopeless, yet not apart,
  • Cling heart to heart,
  • 30 And beat through the nether storm-eddying winds together?
  • Shall this be so?
  • There thou shalt meet him, but mayst thou greet him?
  • ah no!
  • He loves, but thee he hoped nevermore to see,—
  • He sighed as he died,
  • Image of page 125 page: 125
  • But with never a thought for thee.
  • Alone!
  • Alone, for ever alone,—
  • Whose eyes were such wondrous spies for the fate foreshown!
  • Lo! have not We leashed the twin
  • 40 Of endless Sorrow to Sin,—
  • Who on no flower refrain to lour with peril,—
  • Dire-gifted spirits of fire,
  • We whose throne is the Beryl?
Image of page 126 page: 126
  • A swoon that breaks is the whelming wave
  • When help comes late but still can save.
  • With all blind throes is the instant rife,—
  • Hurtling clangour and clouds at strife,—
  • The breath of death, but the kiss of life.
  • The night lay deep on Rose Mary's heart,
  • For her swoon was death's kind counterpart:
  • The dawn broke dim on Rose Mary's soul,—
  • No hill-crown's heavenly aureole,
  • 10But a wild gleam on a shaken shoal.
  • Her senses gasped in the sudden air,
  • And she looked around, but none was there.
  • She felt the slackening frost distil
  • Through her blood the last ooze dull and chill:
  • Her lids were dry and her lips were still.
  • Her tears had flooded her heart again;
  • As after a long day's bitter rain,
  • At dusk when the wet flower-cups shrink,
  • The drops run in from the beaded brink,
  • 20And all the close-shut petals drink.
  • Again her sighs on her heart were rolled;
  • As the wind that long has swept the wold,—
  • Whose moan was made with the moaning sea,—
  • Beats out its breath in the last torn tree,
  • And sinks at length in lethargy.
Image of page 127 page: 127
  • She knew she had waded bosom-deep
  • Along death's bank in the sedge of sleep:
  • All else was lost to her clouded mind;
  • Nor, looking back, could she see defin'd
  • 30O'er the dim dumb waste what lay behind.
  • Slowly fades the sun from the wall
  • Till day lies dead on the sun-dial:
  • And now in Rose Mary's lifted eye
  • 'Twas shadow alone that made reply
  • To the set face of the soul's dark sky.
  • Yet still through her soul there wandered past
  • Dread phantoms borne on a wailing blast,—
  • Death and sorrow and sin and shame;
  • And, murmured still, to her lips there came
  • 40Her mother's and her lover's name.
  • How to ask, and what thing to know?
  • She might not stay and she dared not go.
  • From fires unseen these smoke-clouds curled;
  • But where did the hidden curse lie furled?
  • And how to seek through the weary world?
  • With toiling breath she rose from the floor
  • And dragged her steps to an open door:
  • 'Twas the secret panel standing wide,
  • As the lady's hand had let it bide
  • 50In hastening back to her daughter's side.
  • She passed, but reeled with a dizzy brain
  • And smote the door which closed again.
  • She stood within by the darkling stair,
  • But her feet might mount more freely there,—
  • 'Twas the open light most blinded her.
Image of page 128 page: 128
  • Within her mind no wonder grew
  • At the secret path she never knew:
  • All ways alike were strange to her now,—
  • One field bare-ridged from the spirit's plough,
  • 60One thicket black with the cypress-bough.
  • Once she thought that she heard her name;
  • And she paused, but knew not whence it came.
  • Down the shadowed stair a faint ray fell
  • That guided the weary footsteps well
  • Till it led her up to the altar-cell.
  • No change there was on Rose Mary's face
  • As she leaned in the portal's narrow space:
  • Still she stood by the pillar's stem,
  • Hand and bosom and garment's hem,
  • 70As the soul stands by at the requiem.
  • The altar-cell was a dome low-lit,
  • And a veil hung in the midst of it:
  • At the pole-points of its circling girth
  • Four symbols stood of the world's first birth,—
  • Air and water and fire and earth.
  • To the north, a fountain glittered free;
  • To the south, there glowed a red fruit-tree;
  • To the east, a lamp flamed high and fair;
  • To the west, a crystal casket rare
  • 80Held fast a cloud of the fields of air.
  • The painted walls were a mystic show
  • Of time's ebb-tide and overflow;
  • His hoards long-locked and conquering key,
  • His service-fires that in heaven be,
  • And earth-wheels whirled perpetually.
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Note: There is what appears to be an accent acute over the “e” in “Beryl” in line 100, which is likely a typesetting error.
  • Rose Mary gazed from the open door
  • As on idle things she cared not for,—
  • The fleeting shapes of an empty tale;
  • Then stepped with a heedless visage pale,
  • 90And lifted aside the altar-veil.
  • The altar stood from its curved recess
  • In a coiling serpent's life-likeness:
  • Even such a serpent evermore
  • Lies deep asleep at the world's dark core
  • Till the last Voice shake the sea and shore.
  • From the altar-cloth a book rose spread
  • And tapers burned at the altar-head;
  • And there in the altar-midst alone,
  • 'Twixt wings of a sculptured beast unknown,
  • 100Rose Mary saw the Béryl-stone.
  • Firm it sat 'twixt the hollowed wings,
  • As an orb sits in the hand of kings:
  • And lo! for that Foe whose curse far-flown
  • Had bound her life with a burning zone,
  • Rose Mary knew the Beryl-stone.
  • Dread is the meteor's blazing sphere
  • When the poles throb to its blind career;
  • But not with a light more grim and ghast
  • Thereby is the future doom forecast,
  • 110Than now this sight brought back the past.
  • The hours and minutes seemed to whirr
  • In a clanging swarm that deafened her;
  • They stung her heart to a writhing flame,
  • And marshalled past in its glare they came,—
  • Death and sorrow and sin and shame.
Sig. 9
Image of page 130 page: 130
  • Round the Beryl's sphere she saw them pass
  • And mock her eyes from the fated glass:
  • One by one in a fiery train
  • The dead hours seemed to wax and wane,
  • 120And burned till all was known again.
  • From the drained heart's fount there rose no cry,
  • There sprang no tears, for the source was dry.
  • Held in the hand of some heavy law,
  • Her eyes she might not once withdraw,
  • Nor shrink away from the thing she saw.
  • Even as she gazed, through all her blood
  • The flame was quenched in a coming flood:
  • Out of the depth of the hollow gloom
  • On her soul's bare sands she felt it boom,—
  • 130The measured tide of a sea of doom.
  • Three steps she took through the altar-gate,
  • And her neck reared and her arms grew straight:
  • The sinews clenched like a serpent's throe,
  • And the face was white in the dark hair's flow,
  • As her hate beheld what lay below.
  • Dumb she stood in her malisons,—
  • A silver statue tressed with bronze:
  • As the fabled head by Perseus mown,
  • It seemed in sooth that her gaze alone
  • 140Had turned the carven shapes to stone.
  • O'er the altar-sides on either hand
  • There hung a dinted helm and brand:
  • By strength thereof, 'neath the Sacred Sign,
  • That bitter gift o'er the salt sea-brine
  • Her father brought from Palestine.
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  • Rose Mary moved with a stern accord
  • And reached her hand to her father's sword;
  • Nor did she stir her gaze one whit
  • From the thing whereon her brows were knit;
  • 150But gazing still, she spoke to it.
  • “O ye, three times accurst,” she said,
  • “By whom this stone is tenanted!
  • Lo! here ye came by a strong sin's might;
  • Yet a sinner's hand that's weak to smite
  • Shall send you hence ere the day be night.
  • “This hour a clear voice bade me know
  • My hand shall work your overthrow:
  • Another thing in mine ear it spake,—
  • With the broken spell my life shall break.
  • 160I thank Thee, God, for the dear death's sake!
  • “And he Thy heavenly minister
  • Who swayed erewhile this spell-bound sphere,—
  • My parting soul let him haste to greet,
  • And none but he be guide for my feet
  • To where Thy rest is made complete.”
  • Then deep she breathed, with a tender moan:—
  • “My love, my lord, my only one!
  • Even as I held the cursed clue,
  • When thou, through me, these foul ones slew,—
  • 170By mine own deed shall they slay me too!
  • “Even while they speed to Hell, my love,
  • Two hearts shall meet in Heaven above.
  • Our shrift thou sought'st, but might'st not bring:
  • And oh! for me 'tis a blessed thing
  • To work hereby our ransoming.
Image of page 132 page: 132
  • “One were our hearts in joy and pain,
  • And our souls e'en now grow one again.
  • And O my love, if our souls are three,
  • O thine and mine shall the third soul be,—
  • 180One threefold love eternally.”
  • Her eyes were soft as she spoke apart,
  • And the lips smiled to the broken heart:
  • But the glance was dark and the forehead scored
  • With the bitter frown of hate restored,
  • As her two hands swung the heavy sword.
  • Three steps back from her Foe she trod:—
  • “Love, for thy sake! In Thy Name, O God!”
  • In the fair white hands small strength was shown;
  • Yet the blade flashed high and the edge fell prone,
  • 190And she cleft the heart of the Beryl-stone.
  • What living flesh in the thunder-cloud
  • Hath sat and felt heaven cry aloud?
  • Or known how the levin's pulse may beat?
  • Or wrapped the hour when the whirlwinds meet
  • About its breast for a winding-sheet?
  • Who hath crouched at the world's deep heart
  • While the earthquake rends its loins apart?
  • Or walked far under the seething main
  • While overhead the heavens ordain
  • 200The tempest-towers of the hurricane?
  • Who hath seen or what ear hath heard
  • The secret things unregister'd
  • Of the place where all is past and done,
  • And tears and laughter sound as one
  • In Hell's unhallowed unison?
Image of page 133 page: 133
  • Nay, is it writ how the fiends despair
  • In earth and water and fire and air?
  • Even so no mortal tongue may tell
  • How to the clang of the sword that fell
  • 210The echoes shook the altar-cell.
  • When all was still on the air again
  • The Beryl-stone lay cleft in twain;
  • The veil was rent from the riven dome;
  • And every wind that's winged to roam
  • Might have the ruined place for home.
  • The fountain no more glittered free;
  • The fruit hung dead on the leafless tree;
  • The flame of the lamp had ceased to flare;
  • And the crystal casket shattered there
  • 220Was emptied now of its cloud of air.
  • And lo! on the ground Rose Mary lay,
  • With a cold brow like the snows ere May,
  • With a cold breast like the earth till Spring,
  • With such a smile as the June days bring
  • When the year grows warm for harvesting.
  • The death she had won might leave no trace
  • On the soft sweet form and gentle face:
  • In a gracious sleep she seemed to lie;
  • And over her head her hand on high
  • 230Held fast the sword she triumphed by.
  • 'Twas then a clear voice said in the room:—
  • “Behold the end of the heavy doom.
  • O come,—for thy bitter love's sake blest;
  • By a sweet path now thou journeyest,
  • And I will lead thee to thy rest.
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  • “Me thy sin by Heaven's sore ban
  • Did chase erewhile from the talisman:
  • But to my heart, as a conquered home,
  • In glory of strength thy footsteps come
  • 240Who hast thus cast forth my foes therefrom.
  • “Already thy heart remembereth
  • No more his name thou sought'st in death:
  • For under all deeps, all heights above,—
  • So wide the gulf in the midst thereof,—
  • Are Hell of Treason and Heaven of Love.
  • “Thee, true soul, shall thy truth prefer
  • To blessed Mary's rose-bower:
  • Warmed and lit is thy place afar
  • With guerdon-fires of the sweet Love-star
  • 250Where hearts of steadfast lovers are:—
  • “Though naught for the poor corpse lying here
  • Remain to-day but the cold white bier,
  • But burial-chaunt and bended knee,
  • But sighs and tears that heaviest be,
  • But rent rose-flower and rosemary.”
Image of page 135 page: 135
  • We, cast forth from the Beryl,
  • Gyre-circling spirits of fire,
  • Whose pangs begin
  • With God's grace to sin,
  • For whose spent powers the immortal hours are sterile,—
  • Woe! must We behold this mother
  • Find grace in her dead child's face, and doubt of none other
  • But that perfect pardon, alas! hath assured her guerdon?
  • Woe! must We behold this daughter,
  • 10 Made clean from the soil of sin wherewith We had fraught
  • her,
  • Shake off a man's blood like water?
  • Write up her story
  • On the Gate of Heaven's glory,
  • Whom there We behold so fair in shining apparel,
  • And beneath her the ruin
  • Of our own undoing!
  • Alas, the Beryl!
  • We had for a foeman
  • But one weak woman;
  • 20 In one day's strife,
  • Her hope fell dead from her life;
  • And yet no iron,
  • Her soul to environ,
  • Could this manslayer, this false soothsayer imperil!
  • Lo, where she bows
  • In the Holy House!
  • Who now shall dissever her soul from its joy for ever
  • While every ditty
  • Of love and plentiful pity
  • 30 Fills the White City,
  • And the floor of Heaven to her feet for ever is given?
  • Hark, a voice cries “Flee!”
  • Image of page 136 page: 136
  • Woe! woe! what shelter have We,
  • Whose pangs begin
  • With God's grace to sin,
  • For whose spent powers the immortal hours are sterile,
  • Gyre-circling spirits of fire,
  • We, cast forth from the Beryl?
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Henry I. of England.—25th November 1120.
  • By none but me can the tale be told,
  • The butcher of Rouen, poor Berold.
  • ( Lands are swayed by a King on a throne. )
  • 'Twas a royal train put forth to sea,
  • Yet the tale can be told by none but me.
  • ( The sea hath no King but God alone. )
  • King Henry held it as life's whole gain
  • That after his death his son should reign.
  • 'Twas so in my youth I heard men say,
  • 10And my old age calls it back to-day.
  • King Henry of England's realm was he,
  • And Henry Duke of Normandy.
  • The times had changed when on either coast
  • “Clerkly Harry” was all his boast.
  • Of ruthless strokes full many an one
  • He had struck to crown himself and his son;
  • And his elder brother's eyes were gone.
  • And when to the chase his court would crowd,
  • The poor flung ploughshares on his road,
  • 20And shrieked: “Our cry is from King to God!”
Image of page 138 page: 138
  • But all the chiefs of the English land
  • Had knelt and kissed the Prince's hand.
  • And next with his son he sailed to France
  • To claim the Norman allegiance:
  • And every baron in Normandy
  • Had taken the oath of fealty.
  • 'Twas sworn and sealed, and the day had come
  • When the King and the Prince might journey home:
  • For Christmas cheer is to home hearts dear,
  • 30And Christmas now was drawing near.
  • Stout Fitz-Stephen came to the King,—
  • A pilot famous in seafaring;
  • And he held to the King, in all men's sight,
  • A mark of gold for his tribute's right.
  • “Liege Lord! my father guided the ship
  • From whose boat your father's foot did slip
  • When he caught the English soil in his grip,
  • “And cried: ‘By this clasp I claim command
  • O'er every rood of English land!’
  • 40“He was borne to the realm you rule o'er now
  • In that ship with the archer carved at her prow:
  • “And thither I'll bear, an it be my due,
  • Your father's son and his grandson too.
  • “The famed White Ship is mine in the bay,
  • From Harfleur's harbour she sails to-day,
Image of page 139 page: 139
  • “With masts fair-pennoned as Norman spears
  • And with fifty well-tried mariners.”
  • Quoth the King: “My ships are chosen each one,
  • But I'll not say nay to Stephen's son.
  • 50“My son and daughter and fellowship
  • Shall cross the water in the White Ship.”
  • The King set sail with the eve's south wind,
  • And soon he left that coast behind.
  • The Prince and all his, a princely show,
  • Remained in the good White Ship to go.
  • With noble knights and with ladies fair,
  • With courtiers and sailors gathered there,
  • Three hundred living souls we were:
  • And I Berold was the meanest hind
  • 60In all that train to the Prince assign'd.
  • The Prince was a lawless shameless youth;
  • From his father's loins he sprang without ruth:
  • Eighteen years till then he had seen,
  • And the devil's dues in him were eighteen.
  • And now he cried: “Bring wine from below;
  • Let the sailors revel ere yet they row:
  • “Our speed shall o'ertake my father's flight
  • Though we sail from the harbour at midnight.”
  • The rowers made good cheer without check;
  • 70The lords and ladies obeyed his beck;
  • The night was light, and they danced on the deck.
Image of page 140 page: 140
  • But at midnight's stroke they cleared the bay,
  • And the White Ship furrowed the water-way.
  • The sails were set, and the oars kept tune
  • To the double flight of the ship and the moon:
  • Swifter and swifter the White Ship sped
  • Till she flew as the spirit flies from the dead:
  • As white as a lily glimmered she
  • Like a ship's fair ghost upon the sea.
  • 80And the Prince cried, “Friends, 'tis the hour to
  • sing!
  • Is a songbird's course so swift on the wing?”
  • And under the winter stars' still throng,
  • From brown throats, white throats, merry and
  • strong,
  • The knights and the ladies raised a song.
  • A song,—nay, a shriek that rent the sky,
  • That leaped o'er the deep!—the grievous cry
  • Of three hundred living that now must die.
  • An instant shriek that sprang to the shock
  • As the ship's keel felt the sunken rock.
  • 90'Tis said that afar—a shrill strange sigh—
  • The King's ships heard it and knew not why.
  • Pale Fitz-Stephen stood by the helm
  • 'Mid all those folk that the waves must whelm.
  • A great King's heir for the waves to whelm,
  • And the helpless pilot pale at the helm!
Image of page 141 page: 141
  • The ship was eager and sucked athirst,
  • By the stealthy stab of the sharp reef pierc'd:
  • And like the moil round a sinking cup
  • The waters against her crowded up.
  • 100A moment the pilot's senses spin,—
  • The next he snatched the Prince 'mid the din,
  • Cut the boat loose, and the youth leaped in.
  • A few friends leaped with him, standing near.
  • “Row! the sea's smooth and the night is clear!”
  • “What! none to be saved but these and I?”
  • “Row, row as you'd live! All here must die!”
  • Out of the churn of the choking ship,
  • Which the gulf grapples and the waves strip,
  • They struck with the strained oars' flash and dip.
  • 110'Twas then o'er the splitting bulwarks' brim
  • The Prince's sister screamed to him.
  • He gazed aloft, still rowing apace,
  • And through the whirled surf he knew her face.
  • To the toppling decks clave one and all
  • As a fly cleaves to a chamber-wall.
  • I Berold was clinging anear;
  • I prayed for myself and quaked with fear,
  • But I saw his eyes as he looked at her.
  • He knew her face and he heard her cry,
  • 120And he said, “Put back! she must not die!”
  • And back with the current's force they reel
  • Like a leaf that's drawn to a water-wheel.
Image of page 142 page: 142
  • 'Neath the ship's travail they scarce might float,
  • But he rose and stood in the rocking boat.
  • Low the poor ship leaned on the tide:
  • O'er the naked keel as she best might slide,
  • The sister toiled to the brother's side.
  • He reached an oar to her from below,
  • And stiffened his arms to clutch her so.
  • 130But now from the ship some spied the boat,
  • And “Saved!” was the cry from many a throat.
  • And down to the boat they leaped and fell:
  • It turned as a bucket turns in a well,
  • And nothing was there but the surge and swell.
  • The Prince that was and the King to come,
  • There in an instant gone to his doom,
  • Despite of all England's bended knee
  • And maugre the Norman fealty!
  • He was a Prince of lust and pride;
  • 140He showed no grace till the hour he died.
  • When he should be King, he oft would vow,
  • He'd yoke the peasant to his own plough.
  • O'er him the ships score their furrows now.
  • God only knows where his soul did wake,
  • But I saw him die for his sister's sake.
  • By none but me can the tale be told,
  • The butcher of Rouen, poor Berold.
  • ( Lands are swayed by a King on a throne. )
  • 'Twas a royal train put forth to sea,
  • 150Yet the tale can be told by none but me.
  • ( The sea hath no King but God alone. )
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Note: The typeface of the “m” in “seem” at the end of line 169 is either damaged or improperly inked.
  • And now the end came o'er the waters' womb
  • Like the last great Day that's yet to come.
  • With prayers in vain and curses in vain,
  • The White Ship sundered on the mid-main:
  • And what were men and what was a ship
  • Were toys and splinters in the sea's grip.
  • I Berold was down in the sea;
  • And passing strange though the thing may be,
  • 160Of dreams then known I remember me.
  • Blithe is the shout on Harfleur's strand
  • When morning lights the sails to land:
  • And blithe is Honfleur's echoing gloam
  • When mothers call the children home:
  • And high do the bells of Rouen beat
  • When the Body of Christ goes down the street.
  • These things and the like were heard and shown
  • In a moment's trance 'neath the sea alone;
  • And when I rose, 'twas the sea did seem,
  • 170And not these things, to be all a dream.
  • The ship was gone and the crowd was gone,
  • And the deep shuddered and the moon shone,
  • And in a strait grasp my arms did span
  • The mainyard rent from the mast where it ran;
  • And on it with me was another man.
  • Where lands were none 'neath the dim sea-sky,
  • We told our names, that man and I.
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  • “O I am Godefroy de l'Aigle hight,
  • And son I am to a belted knight.”
  • 180“And I am Berold the butcher's son
  • Who slays the beasts in Rouen town.”
  • Then cried we upon God's name, as we
  • Did drift on the bitter winter sea.
  • But lo! a third man rose o'er the wave,
  • And we said, “Thank God! us three may He
  • save!”
  • He clutched to the yard with panting stare,
  • And we looked and knew Fitz-Stephen there.
  • He clung, and “What of the Prince?” quoth he.
  • “Lost, lost!” we cried. He cried, “Woe on me!”
  • 190And loosed his hold and sank through the sea.
  • And soul with soul again in that space
  • We two were together face to face:
  • And each knew each, as the moments sped,
  • Less for one living than for one dead:
  • And every still star overhead
  • Seemed an eye that knew we were but dead.
  • And the hours passed; till the noble's son
  • Sighed, “God be thy help! my strength's foredone!
  • “O farewell, friend, for I can no more!”
  • 200“Christ take thee!” I moaned; and his life was o'er.
  • Three hundred souls were all lost but one,
  • And I drifted over the sea alone.
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  • At last the morning rose on the sea
  • Like an angel's wing that beat tow'rds me.
  • Sore numbed I was in my sheepskin coat;
  • Half dead I hung, and might nothing note,
  • Till I woke sun-warmed in a fisher-boat.
  • The sun was high o'er the eastern brim
  • As I praised God and gave thanks to Him.
  • 210That day I told my tale to a priest,
  • Who charged me, till the shrift were releas'd,
  • That I should keep it in mine own breast.
  • And with the priest I thence did fare
  • To King Henry's court at Winchester.
  • We spoke with the King's high chamberlain,
  • And he wept and mourned again and again,
  • As if his own son had been slain:
  • And round us ever there crowded fast
  • Great men with faces all aghast:
  • 220And who so bold that might tell the thing
  • Which now they knew to their lord the King?
  • Much woe I learnt in their communing.
  • The King had watched with a heart sore stirred
  • For two whole days, and this was the third:
  • And still to all his court would he say,
  • “What keeps my son so long away?”
  • And they said: “The ports lie far and wide
  • That skirt the swell of the English tide;
Sig. 10
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  • “And England's cliffs are not more white
  • 230Than her women are, and scarce so light
  • Her skies as their eyes are blue and bright;
  • “And in some port that he reached from France
  • The Prince has lingered for his pleasaùnce.”
  • But once the King asked: “What distant cry
  • Was that we heard 'twixt the sea and sky?”
  • And one said: “With suchlike shouts, pardie!
  • Do the fishers fling their nets at sea.”
  • And one: “Who knows not the shrieking quest
  • When the sea-mew misses its young from the nest?”
  • 240'Twas thus till now they had soothed his dread,
  • Albeit they knew not what they said:
  • But who should speak to-day of the thing
  • That all knew there except the King?
  • Then pondering much they found a way,
  • And met round the King's high seat that day:
  • And the King sat with a heart sore stirred,
  • And seldom he spoke and seldom heard.
  • 'Twas then through the hall the King was 'ware
  • Of a little boy with golden hair,
  • 250As bright as the golden poppy is
  • That the beach breeds for the surf to kiss:
  • Yet pale his cheek as the thorn in Spring,
  • And his garb black like the raven's wing.
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  • Nothing heard but his foot through the hall,
  • For now the lords were silent all.
  • And the King wondered, and said, “Alack!
  • Who sends me a fair boy dressed in black?
  • “Why, sweet heart, do you pace through the hall
  • As though my court were a funeral?”
  • 260Then lowly knelt the child at the dais,
  • And looked up weeping in the King's face.
  • “O wherefore black, O King, ye may say,
  • For white is the hue of death to-day.
  • “Your son and all his fellowship
  • Lie low in the sea with the White Ship.”
  • King Henry fell as a man struck dead;
  • And speechless still he stared from his bed
  • When to him next day my rede I read.
  • There's many an hour must needs beguile
  • 270A King's high heart that he should smile,—
  • Full many a lordly hour, full fain
  • Of his realm's rule and pride of his reign:—
  • But this King never smiled again.
  • By none but me can the tale be told,
  • The butcher of Rouen, poor Berold.
  • ( Lands are swayed by a King on a throne. )
  • 'Twas a royal train put forth to sea,
  • Yet the tale can be told by none but me.
  • ( The sea hath no King but God alone. )
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James I. of Scots.—20th February 1437.
Transcribed Note (page 148):


Tradition says that Catherine Douglas, in honour of her heroic

act when she barred the door with her arm against the murderers

of James the First of Scots, received popularly the name of “Bar-

lass.” This name remains to her descendants, the Barlas family,

in Scotland, who bear for their crest a broken arm. She married

Alexander Lovell of Bolunnie.

A few stanzas from King James's lovely poem, known as The

King's Quair
, are quoted in the course of this ballad. The writer

must express regret for the necessity which has compelled him to

shorten the ten-syllabled lines to eight syllables, in order that

they might harmonize with the ballad metre.

  • I Catherine am a Douglas born,
  • A name to all Scots dear;
  • And Kate Barlass they've called me now
  • Through many a waning year.
  • This old arm's withered now. 'Twas once
  • Most deft 'mong maidens all
  • To rein the steed, to wing the shaft,
  • To smite the palm-play ball.
  • In hall adown the close-linked dance
  • 10It has shone most white and fair;
  • It has been the rest for a true lord's head,
  • And many a sweet babe's nursing-bed,
  • And the bar to a King's chambère.
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  • Aye, lasses, draw round Kate Barlass,
  • And hark with bated breath
  • How good King James, King Robert's son,
  • Was foully done to death.
  • Through all the days of his gallant youth
  • The princely James was pent,
  • 20By his friends at first and then by his foes,
  • In long imprisonment.
  • For the elder Prince, the kingdom's heir,
  • By treason's murderous brood
  • Was slain; and the father quaked for the child
  • With the royal mortal blood.
  • I' the Bass Rock fort, by his father's care,
  • Was his childhood's life assured;
  • And Henry the subtle Bolingbroke,
  • Proud England's King, 'neath the southron yoke
  • 30His youth for long years immured.
  • Yet in all things meet for a kingly man
  • Himself did he approve;
  • And the nightingale through his prison-wall
  • Taught him both lore and love.
  • For once, when the bird's song drew him close
  • To the opened window-pane,
  • In her bower beneath a lady stood,
  • A light of life to his sorrowful mood,
  • Like a lily amid the rain.
  • 40And for her sake, to the sweet bird's note,
  • He framed a sweeter Song,
  • More sweet than ever a poet's heart
  • Gave yet to the English tongue.
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  • She was a lady of royal blood;
  • And when, past sorrow and teen,
  • He stood where still through his crownless years
  • His Scotish realm had been,
  • At Scone were the happy lovers crowned,
  • A heart-wed King and Queen.
  • 50But the bird may fall from the bough of youth,
  • And song be turned to moan,
  • And Love's storm-cloud be the shadow of Hate,
  • When the tempest-waves of a troubled State
  • Are beating against a throne.
  • Yet well they loved; and the god of Love,
  • Whom well the King had sung,
  • Might find on the earth no truer hearts
  • His lowliest swains among.
  • From the days when first she rode abroad
  • 60With Scotish maids in her train,
  • I Catherine Douglas won the trust
  • Of my mistress sweet Queen Jane.
  • And oft she sighed, “To be born a King!”
  • And oft along the way
  • When she saw the homely lovers pass
  • She has said, “Alack the day!”
  • Years waned,—the loving and toiling years:
  • Till England's wrong renewed
  • Drove James, by outrage cast on his crown,
  • 70To the open field of feud.
  • 'Twas when the King and his host were met
  • At the leaguer of Roxbro' hold,
  • The Queen o' the sudden sought his camp
  • With a tale of dread to be told.
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  • And she showed him a secret letter writ
  • That spoke of treasonous strife,
  • And how a band of his noblest lords
  • Were sworn to take his life.
  • “And it may be here or it may be there,
  • 80In the camp or the court,” she said:
  • “But for my sake come to your people's arms
  • And guard your royal head.”
  • Quoth he, “'Tis the fifteenth day of the siege,
  • And the castle's nigh to yield.”
  • “O face your foes on your throne,” she cried,
  • “And show the power you wield;
  • And under your Scotish people's love
  • You shall sit as under your shield.”
  • At the fair Queen's side I stood that day
  • 90When he bade them raise the siege,
  • And back to his Court he sped to know
  • How the lords would meet their Liege.
  • But when he summoned his Parliament,
  • The louring brows hung round,
  • Like clouds that circle the mountain-head
  • Ere the first low thunders sound.
  • For he had tamed the nobles' lust
  • And curbed their power and pride,
  • And reached out an arm to right the poor
  • 100Through Scotland far and wide;
  • And many a lordly wrong-doer
  • By the headsman's axe had died.
  • 'Twas then upspoke Sir Robert Græme,
  • The bold o'ermastering man:—
  • “O King, in the name of your Three Estates
  • I set you under their ban!
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  • “For, as your lords made oath to you
  • Of service and fealty,
  • Even in like wise you pledged your oath
  • 110Their faithful sire to be:—
  • “Yet all we here that are nobly sprung
  • Have mourned dear kith and kin
  • Since first for the Scotish Barons' curse
  • Did your bloody rule begin.”
  • With that he laid his hands on his King:—
  • “Is this not so, my lords?”
  • But of all who had sworn to league with him
  • Not one spake back to his words.
  • Quoth the King:—“Thou speak'st but for one
  • Estate,
  • 120Nor doth it avow thy gage.
  • Let my liege lords hale this traitor hence!”
  • The Græme fired dark with rage:—
  • “Who works for lesser men than himself,
  • He earns but a witless wage!”
  • But soon from the dungeon where he lay
  • He won by privy plots,
  • And forth he fled with a price on his head
  • To the country of the Wild Scots.
  • And word there came from Sir Robert Græme
  • 130To the King at Edinbro':—
  • “No Liege of mine thou art; but I see
  • From this day forth alone in thee
  • God's creature, my mortal foe.
  • “Through thee are my wife and children lost,
  • My heritage and lands;
  • And when my God shall show me a way,
  • Thyself my mortal foe will I slay
  • With these my proper hands.”
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  • Against the coming of Christmastide
  • 140That year the King bade call
  • I' the Black Friars' Charterhouse of Perth
  • A solemn festival.
  • And we of his household rode with him
  • In a close-ranked company;
  • But not till the sun had sunk from his throne
  • Did we reach the Scotish Sea.
  • That eve was clenched for a boding storm,
  • 'Neath a toilsome moon half seen;
  • The cloud stooped low and the surf rose high;
  • 150And where there was a line of the sky,
  • Wild wings loomed dark between.
  • And on a rock of the black beach-side,
  • By the veiled moon dimly lit,
  • There was something seemed to heave with life
  • As the King drew nigh to it.
  • And was it only the tossing furze
  • Or brake of the waste sea-wold?
  • Or was it an eagle bent to the blast?
  • When near we came, we knew it at last
  • 160For a woman tattered and old.
  • But it seemed as though by a fire within
  • Her writhen limbs were wrung;
  • And as soon as the King was close to her,
  • She stood up gaunt and strong.
  • 'Twas then the moon sailed clear of the rack
  • On high in her hollow dome;
  • And still as aloft with hoary crest
  • Each clamorous wave rang home,
  • Like fire in snow the moonlight blazed
  • 170Amid the champing foam.
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  • And the woman held his eyes with her eyes:—
  • “O King, thou art come at last;
  • But thy wraith has haunted the Scotish Sea
  • To my sight for four years past.
  • “Four years it is since first I met,
  • 'Twixt the Duchray and the Dhu,
  • A shape whose feet clung close in a shroud,
  • And that shape for thine I knew.
  • “A year again, and on Inchkeith Isle
  • 180I saw thee pass in the breeze,
  • With the cerecloth risen above thy feet
  • And wound about thy knees.
  • “And yet a year, in the Links of Forth,
  • As a wanderer without rest,
  • Thou cam'st with both thine arms i' the shroud
  • That clung high up thy breast.
  • “And in this hour I find thee here,
  • And well mine eyes may note
  • That the winding-sheet hath passed thy breast
  • 190And risen around thy throat.
  • “And when I meet thee again, O King,
  • That of death hast such sore drouth,—
  • Except thou turn again on this shore,—
  • The winding-sheet shall have moved once more
  • And covered thine eyes and mouth.
  • “O King, whom poor men bless for their King,
  • Of thy fate be not so fain;
  • But these my words for God's message take,
  • And turn thy steed, O King, for her sake
  • 200Who rides beside thy rein!”
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  • While the woman spoke, the King's horse reared
  • As if it would breast the sea,
  • And the Queen turned pale as she heard on the gale
  • The voice die dolorously.
  • When the woman ceased, the steed was still,
  • But the King gazed on her yet,
  • And in silence save for the wail of the sea
  • His eyes and her eyes met.
  • At last he said:—“God's ways are His own;
  • 210Man is but shadow and dust.
  • Last night I prayed by His altar-stone;
  • To-night I wend to the Feast of His Son;
  • And in Him I set my trust.
  • “I have held my people in sacred charge,
  • And have not feared the sting
  • Of proud men's hate,—to His will resign'd
  • Who has but one same death for a hind
  • And one same death for a King.
  • “And if God in His wisdom have brought close
  • 220The day when I must die,
  • That day by water or fire or air
  • My feet shall fall in the destined snare
  • Wherever my road may lie.
  • “What man can say but the Fiend hath set
  • Thy sorcery on my path,
  • My heart with the fear of death to fill,
  • And turn me against God's very will
  • To sink in His burning wrath?”
  • The woman stood as the train rode past,
  • 230And moved nor limb nor eye;
  • And when we were shipped, we saw her there
  • Still standing against the sky.
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  • As the ship made way, the moon once more
  • Sank slow in her rising pall;
  • And I thought of the shrouded wraith of the King,
  • And I said, “The Heavens know all.”
  • And now, ye lasses, must ye hear
  • How my name is Kate Barlass:—
  • But a little thing, when all the tale
  • 240Is told of the weary mass
  • Of crime and woe which in Scotland's realm
  • God's will let come to pass.
  • 'Twas in the Charterhouse of Perth
  • That the King and all his Court
  • Were met, the Christmas Feast being done,
  • For solace and disport.
  • 'Twas a wind-wild eve in February,
  • And against the casement-pane
  • The branches smote like summoning hands
  • 250And muttered the driving rain.
  • And when the wind swooped over the lift
  • And made the whole heaven frown,
  • It seemed a grip was laid on the walls
  • To tug the housetop down.
  • And the Queen was there, more stately fair
  • Than a lily in garden set;
  • And the King was loth to stir from her side;
  • For as on the day when she was his bride,
  • Even so he loved her yet.
  • 260And the Earl of Athole, the King's false friend,
  • Sat with him at the board;
  • And Robert Stuart the chamberlain
  • Who had sold his sovereign Lord.
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  • Yet the traitor Christopher Chaumber there
  • Would fain have told him all,
  • And vainly four times that night he strove
  • To reach the King through the hall.
  • But the wine is bright at the goblet's brim
  • Though the poison lurk beneath;
  • 270And the apples still are red on the tree
  • Within whose shade may the adder be
  • That shall turn thy life to death.
  • There was a knight of the King's fast friends
  • Whom he called the King of Love;
  • And to such bright cheer and courtesy
  • That name might best behove.
  • And the King and Queen both loved him well
  • For his gentle knightliness;
  • And with him the King, as that eve wore on,
  • 280Was playing at the chess.
  • And the King said, (for he thought to jest
  • And soothe the Queen thereby;)—
  • “In a book 'tis writ that this same year
  • A King shall in Scotland die.
  • “And I have pondered the matter o'er,
  • And this have I found, Sir Hugh,—
  • There are but two Kings on Scotish ground,
  • And those Kings are I and you.
  • “And I have a wife and a newborn heir,
  • 290And you are yourself alone;
  • So stand you stark at my side with me
  • To guard our double throne.
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  • “For here sit I and my wife and child,
  • As well your heart shall approve,
  • In full surrender and soothfastness,
  • Beneath your Kingdom of Love.”
  • And the Knight laughed, and the Queen too smiled;
  • But I knew her heavy thought,
  • And I strove to find in the good King's jest
  • 300What cheer might thence be wrought.
  • And I said, “My Liege, for the Queen's dear love
  • Now sing the song that of old
  • You made, when a captive Prince you lay,
  • And the nightingale sang sweet on the spray,
  • In Windsor's castle-hold.”
  • Then he smiled the smile I knew so well
  • When he thought to please the Queen;
  • The smile which under all bitter frowns
  • Of fate that rose between
  • 310For ever dwelt at the poet's heart
  • Like the bird of love unseen.
  • And he kissed her hand and took his harp,
  • And the music sweetly rang;
  • And when the song burst forth, it seemed
  • 'Twas the nightingale that sang.
  • “Worship, ye lovers, on this May:
  • Of bliss your kalends are begun:
  • Sing with us, Away, Winter, away!
  • Come, Summer, the sweet season and sun!
  • 320 Awake for shame,—your heaven is won,—
  • And amorously your heads lift all:
  • Thank Love, that you to his grace doth call!”
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  • But when he bent to the Queen, and sang
  • The speech whose praise was hers,
  • It seemed his voice was the voice of the Spring
  • And the voice of the bygone years.
  • “The fairest and the freshest flower
  • That ever I saw before that hour,
  • The which o' the sudden made to start
  • 330 The blood of my body to my heart.

  • Ah sweet, are ye a worldly creature
  • Or heavenly thing in form of nature?”
  • And the song was long, and richly stored
  • With wonder and beauteous things;
  • And the harp was tuned to every change
  • Of minstrel ministerings;
  • But when he spoke of the Queen at the last,
  • Its strings were his own heart-strings.
  • “Unworthy but only of her grace,
  • 340 Upon Love's rock that's easy and sure,
  • In guerdon of all my lovè's space
  • She took me her humble creäture.
  • Thus fell my blissful aventure
  • In youth of love that from day to day
  • Flowereth aye new, and further I say.
  • “To reckon all the circumstance
  • As it happed when lessen gan my sore,
  • Of my rancour and woful chance,
  • It were too long,—I have done therefor.
  • 350 And of this flower I say no more,
  • But unto my help her heart hath tended
  • And even from death her man defended.”
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  • “Aye, even from death,” to myself I said;
  • For I thought of the day when she
  • Had borne him the news, at Roxbro' siege,
  • Of the fell confederacy.
  • But Death even then took aim as he sang
  • With an arrow deadly bright;
  • And the grinning skull lurked grimly aloof,
  • 360And the wings were spread far over the roof
  • More dark than the winter night.
  • Yet truly along the amorous song
  • Of Love's high pomp and state,
  • There were words of Fortune's trackless doom
  • And the dreadful face of Fate.
  • And oft have I heard again in dreams
  • The voice of dire appeal
  • In which the King then sang of the pit
  • That is under Fortune's wheel.
  • 370 “And under the wheel beheld I there
  • An ugly Pit as deep as hell,
  • That to behold I quaked for fear:
  • And this I heard, that who therein fell
  • Came no more up, tidings to tell:
  • Whereat, astound of the fearful sight,
  • I wist not what to do for fright.”
  • And oft has my thought called up again
  • These words of the changeful song:—
  • “Wist thou thy pain and thy travàil
  • 380 To come, well might'st thou weep and wail!”
  • And our wail, O God! is long.
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  • But the song's end was all of his love;
  • And well his heart was grac'd
  • With her smiling lips and her tear-bright eyes
  • As his arm went round her waist.
  • And on the swell of her long fair throat
  • Close clung the necklet-chain
  • As he bent her pearl-tir'd head aside,
  • And in the warmth of his love and pride
  • 390He kissed her lips full fain.
  • And her true face was a rosy red,
  • The very red of the rose
  • That, couched on the happy garden-bed,
  • In the summer sunlight glows.
  • And all the wondrous things of love
  • That sang so sweet through the song
  • Were in the look that met in their eyes,
  • And the look was deep and long.
  • 'Twas then a knock came at the outer gate,
  • 400And the usher sought the King.
  • “The woman you met by the Scotish Sea,
  • My Liege, would tell you a thing;
  • And she says that her present need for speech
  • Will bear no gainsaying.”
  • And the King said: “The hour is late;
  • To-morrow will serve, I ween.”
  • Then he charged the usher strictly, and said:
  • “No word of this to the Queen.”
  • But the usher came again to the King.
  • 410“Shall I call her back?” quoth he:
  • “For as she went on her way, she cried,
  • ‘Woe! Woe! then the thing must be!‘”
Sig. 11
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  • And the King paused, but he did not speak.
  • Then he called for the Voidee-cup:
  • And as we heard the twelfth hour strike,
  • There by true lips and false lips alike
  • Was the draught of trust drained up.
  • So with reverence meet to King and Queen,
  • To bed went all from the board;
  • 420And the last to leave of the courtly train
  • Was Robert Stuart the chamberlain
  • Who had sold his sovereign lord.
  • And all the locks of the chamber-door
  • Had the traitor riven and brast;
  • And that Fate might win sure way from afar,
  • He had drawn out every bolt and bar
  • That made the entrance fast.
  • And now at midnight he stole his way
  • To the moat of the outer wall,
  • 430And laid strong hurdles closely across
  • Where the traitors' tread should fall.
  • But we that were the Queen's bower-maids
  • Alone were left behind;
  • And with heed we drew the curtains close
  • Against the winter wind.
  • And now that all was still through the hall,
  • More clearly we heard the rain
  • That clamoured ever against the glass
  • And the boughs that beat on the pane.
  • 440But the fire was bright in the ingle-nook,
  • And through empty space around
  • The shadows cast on the arras'd wall
  • 'Mid the pictured kings stood sudden and tall
  • Like spectres sprung from the ground.
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  • And the bed was dight in a deep alcove;
  • And as he stood by the fire
  • The King was still in talk with the Queen
  • While he doffed his goodly attire.
  • And the song had brought the image back
  • 450Of many a bygone year;
  • And many a loving word they said
  • With hand in hand and head laid to head;
  • And none of us went anear.
  • But Love was weeping outside the house,
  • A child in the piteous rain;
  • And as he watched the arrow of Death,
  • He wailed for his own shafts close in the sheath
  • That never should fly again.
  • And now beneath the window arose
  • 460A wild voice suddenly:
  • And the King reared straight, but the Queen fell back
  • As for bitter dule to dree;
  • And all of us knew the woman's voice
  • Who spoke by the Scotish Sea.
  • “O King,” she cried, “in an evil hour
  • They drove me from thy gate;
  • And yet my voice must rise to thine ears;
  • But alas! it comes too late!
  • “Last night at mid-watch, by Aberdour,
  • 470When the moon was dead in the skies,
  • O King, in a death-light of thine own
  • I saw thy shape arise.
  • “And in full season, as erst I said,
  • The doom had gained its growth;
  • And the shroud had risen above thy neck
  • And covered thine eyes and mouth.
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  • “And no moon woke, but the pale dawn broke,
  • And still thy soul stood there;
  • And I thought its silence cried to my soul
  • 480As the first rays crowned its hair.
  • “Since then have I journeyed fast and fain
  • In very despite of Fate,
  • Lest Hope might still be found in God's will:
  • But they drove me from thy gate.
  • “For every man on God's ground, O King,
  • His death grows up from his birth
  • In a shadow-plant perpetually;
  • And thine towers high, a black yew-tree,
  • O'er the Charterhouse of Perth!”
  • 490That room was built far out from the house;
  • And none but we in the room
  • Might hear the voice that rose beneath,
  • Nor the tread of the coming doom.
  • For now there came a torchlight-glare,
  • And a clang of arms there came;
  • And not a soul in that space but thought
  • Of the foe Sir Robert Græme.
  • Yea, from the country of the Wild Scots,
  • O'er mountain, valley, and glen,
  • 500He had brought with him in murderous league
  • Three hundred armèd men.
  • The King knew all in an instant's flash;
  • And like a King did he stand;
  • But there was no armour in all the room,
  • Nor weapon lay to his hand.
  • And all we women flew to the door
  • And thought to have made it fast;
  • But the bolts were gone and the bars were gone
  • And the locks were riven and brast.
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  • 510And he caught the pale pale Queen in his arms
  • As the iron footsteps fell,—
  • Then loosed her, standing alone, and said,
  • “Our bliss was our farewell!”
  • And 'twixt his lips he murmured a prayer,
  • And he crossed his brow and breast;
  • And proudly in royal hardihood
  • Even so with folded arms he stood,—
  • The prize of the bloody quest.
  • Then on me leaped the Queen like a deer:—
  • 520“O Catherine, help!” she cried.
  • And low at his feet we clasped his knees
  • Together side by side.
  • “Oh! even a King, for his people's sake,
  • From treasonous death must hide!”
  • “For her sake most!” I cried, and I marked
  • The pang that my words could wring.
  • And the iron tongs from the chimney-nook
  • I snatched and held to the King:—
  • “Wrench up the plank! and the vault beneath
  • 530Shall yield safe harbouring.”
  • With brows low-bent, from my eager hand
  • The heavy heft did he take;
  • And the plank at his feet he wrenched and tore;
  • And as he frowned through the open floor,
  • Again I said, “For her sake!”
  • Then he cried to the Queen, “God's will be done!”
  • For her hands were clasped in prayer.
  • And down he sprang to the inner crypt;
  • And straight we closed the plank he had ripp'd
  • 540And toiled to smooth it fair.
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  • (Alas! in that vault a gap once was
  • Wherethro' the King might have fled:
  • But three days since close-walled had it been
  • By his will; for the ball would roll therein
  • When without at the palm he play'd.)
  • Then the Queen cried, “Catherine, keep the door,
  • And I to this will suffice!”
  • At her word I rose all dazed to my feet,
  • And my heart was fire and ice.
  • 550And louder ever the voices grew,
  • And the tramp of men in mail;
  • Until to my brain it seemed to be
  • As though I tossed on a ship at sea
  • In the teeth of a crashing gale.
  • Then back I flew to the rest; and hard
  • We strove with sinews knit
  • To force the table against the door;
  • But we might not compass it.
  • Then my wild gaze sped far down the hall
  • 560To the place of the hearthstone-sill;
  • And the Queen bent ever above the floor,
  • For the plank was rising still.
  • And now the rush was heard on the stair,
  • And “God, what help?” was our cry.
  • And was I frenzied or was I bold?
  • I looked at each empty stanchion-hold,
  • And no bar but my arm had I!
  • Like iron felt my arm, as through
  • The staple I made it pass:—
  • 570Alack! it was flesh and bone—no more!
  • 'Twas Catherine Douglas sprang to the door,
  • But I fell back Kate Barlass.
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  • With that they all thronged into the hall,
  • Half dim to my failing ken;
  • And the space that was but a void before
  • Was a crowd of wrathful men.
  • Behind the door I had fall'n and lay,
  • Yet my sense was wildly aware,
  • And for all the pain of my shattered arm
  • 580I never fainted there.
  • Even as I fell, my eyes were cast
  • Where the King leaped down to the pit;
  • And lo! the plank was smooth in its place,
  • And the Queen stood far from it.
  • And under the litters and through the bed
  • And within the presses all
  • The traitors sought for the King, and pierced
  • The arras around the wall.
  • And through the chamber they ramped and stormed
  • 590Like lions loose in the lair,
  • And scarce could trust to their very eyes,—
  • For behold! no King was there.
  • Then one of them seized the Queen, and cried,—
  • “Now tell us, where is thy lord?”
  • And he held the sharp point over her heart:
  • She drooped not her eyes nor did she start,
  • But she answered never a word.
  • Then the sword half pierced the true true breast:
  • But it was the Græme's own son
  • 600Cried, “This is a woman,—we seek a man!”
  • And away from her girdle zone
  • He struck the point of the murderous steel;
  • And that foul deed was not done.
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  • And forth flowed all the throng like a sea,
  • And 'twas empty space once more;
  • And my eyes sought out the wounded Queen
  • As I lay behind the door.
  • And I said: “Dear Lady, leave me here,
  • For I cannot help you now;
  • 610But fly while you may, and none shall reck
  • Of my place here lying low.”
  • And she said, “My Catherine, God help thee!”
  • Then she looked to the distant floor,
  • And clasping her hands, “O God help him,”
  • She sobbed, “for we can no more!”
  • But God He knows what help may mean,
  • If it mean to live or to die;
  • And what sore sorrow and mighty moan
  • On earth it may cost ere yet a throne
  • 620Be filled in His house on high.
  • And now the ladies fled with the Queen;
  • And thorough the open door
  • The night-wind wailed round the empty room
  • And the rushes shook on the floor.
  • And the bed drooped low in the dark recess
  • Whence the arras was rent away;
  • And the firelight still shone over the space
  • Where our hidden secret lay.
  • And the rain had ceased, and the moonbeams lit
  • 630The window high in the wall,—
  • Bright beams that on the plank that I knew
  • Through the painted pane did fall,
  • And gleamed with the splendour of Scotland's crown
  • And shield armorial.
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  • But then a great wind swept up the skies
  • And the climbing moon fell back;
  • And the royal blazon fled from the floor,
  • And nought remained on its track;
  • And high in the darkened window-pane
  • 640The shield and the crown were black.
  • And what I say next I partly saw
  • And partly I heard in sooth,
  • And partly since from the murderers' lips
  • The torture wrung the truth.
  • For now again came the armèd tread,
  • And fast through the hall it fell;
  • But the throng was less; and ere I saw,
  • By the voice without I could tell
  • That Robert Stuart had come with them
  • 650Who knew that chamber well.
  • And over the space the Græme strode dark
  • With his mantle round him flung;
  • And in his eye was a flaming light
  • But not a word on his tongue.
  • And Stuart held a torch to the floor,
  • And he found the thing he sought;
  • And they slashed the plank away with their swords;
  • And O God! I fainted not!
  • And the traitor held his torch in the gap,
  • 660All smoking and smouldering;
  • And through the vapour and fire, beneath
  • In the dark crypt's narrow ring,
  • With a shout that pealed to the room's high roof
  • They saw their naked King.
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  • Half naked he stood, but stood as one
  • Who yet could do and dare:
  • With the crown, the King was stript away,—
  • The Knight was 'reft of his battle-array,—
  • But still the Man was there.
  • 670From the rout then stepped a villain forth,—
  • Sir John Hall was his name;
  • With a knife unsheathed he leapt to the vault
  • Beneath the torchlight-flame.
  • Of his person and stature was the King
  • A man right manly strong,
  • And mightily by the shoulder-blades
  • His foe to his feet he flung.
  • Then the traitor's brother, Sir Thomas Hall,
  • Sprang down to work his worst;
  • 680And the King caught the second man by the neck
  • And flung him above the first.
  • And he smote and trampled them under him;
  • And a long month thence they bare
  • All black their throats with the grip of his hands
  • When the hangman's hand came there.
  • And sore he strove to have had their knives,
  • But the sharp blades gashed his hands.
  • Oh James! so armed, thou hadst battled there
  • Till help had come of thy bands;
  • 690And oh! once more thou hadst held our throne
  • And ruled thy Scotish lands!
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  • But while the King o'er his foes still raged
  • With a heart that nought could tame,
  • Another man sprang down to the crypt;
  • And with his sword in his hand hard-gripp'd,
  • There stood Sir Robert Græme.
  • (Now shame on the recreant traitor's heart
  • Who durst not face his King
  • Till the body unarmed was wearied out
  • 700With two-fold combating!
  • Ah! well might the people sing and say,
  • As oft ye have heard aright:—
  • O Robert Græme, O Robert Græme,
  • Who slew our King, God give thee shame!
  • For he slew him not as a knight.)
  • And the naked King turned round at bay,
  • But his strength had passed the goal,
  • And he could but gasp:—“Mine hour is come;
  • But oh! to succour thine own soul's doom,
  • 710Let a priest now shrive my soul!”
  • And the traitor looked on the King's spent strength,
  • And said:—“Have I kept my word?—
  • Yea, King, the mortal pledge that I gave?
  • No black friar's shrift thy soul shall have,
  • But the shrift of this red sword!”
  • With that he smote his King through the breast;
  • And all they three in that pen
  • Fell on him and stabbed and stabbed him there
  • Like merciless murderous men.
  • 720Yet seemed it now that Sir Robert Græme,
  • Ere the King's last breath was o'er,
  • Turned sick at heart with the deadly sight
  • And would have done no more.
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  • But a cry came from the troop above:—
  • “If him thou do not slay,
  • The price of his life that thou dost spare
  • Thy forfeit life shall pay!”
  • O God! what more did I hear or see,
  • Or how should I tell the rest?
  • 730But there at length our King lay slain
  • With sixteen wounds in his breast.
  • O God! and now did a bell boom forth,
  • And the murderers turned and fled;—
  • Too late, too late, O God, did it sound!—
  • And I heard the true men mustering round,
  • And the cries and the coming tread.
  • But ere they came, to the black death-gap
  • Somewise did I creep and steal;
  • And lo! or ever I swooned away,
  • 740Through the dusk I saw where the white face lay
  • In the Pit of Fortune's Wheel.

  • And now, ye Scotish maids who have heard
  • Dread things of the days grown old,—
  • Even at the last, of true Queen Jane
  • May somewhat yet be told,
  • And how she dealt for her dear lord's sake
  • Dire vengeance manifold.
  • 'Twas in the Charterhouse of Perth,
  • In the fair-lit Death-chapelle,
  • 750That the slain King's corpse on bier was laid
  • With chaunt and requiem-knell.
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  • And all with royal wealth of balm
  • Was the body purified;
  • And none could trace on the brow and lips
  • The death that he had died.
  • In his robes of state he lay asleep
  • With orb and sceptre in hand;
  • And by the crown he wore on his throne
  • Was his kingly forehead spann'd.
  • 760And, girls, 'twas a sweet sad thing to see
  • How the curling golden hair,
  • As in the day of the poet's youth,
  • From the King's crown clustered there.
  • And if all had come to pass in the brain
  • That throbbed beneath those curls,
  • Then Scots had said in the days to come
  • That this their soil was a different home
  • And a different Scotland, girls!
  • And the Queen sat by him night and day,
  • 770And oft she knelt in prayer,
  • All wan and pale in the widow's veil
  • That shrouded her shining hair.
  • And I had got good help of my hurt:
  • And only to me some sign
  • She made; and save the priests that were there,
  • No face would she see but mine.
  • And the month of March wore on apace;
  • And now fresh couriers fared
  • Still from the country of the Wild Scots
  • 780With news of the traitors snared.
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  • And still as I told her day by day,
  • Her pallor changed to sight,
  • And the frost grew to a furnace-flame
  • That burnt her visage white.
  • And evermore as I brought her word,
  • She bent to her dead King James,
  • And in the cold ear with fire-drawn breath
  • She spoke the traitors' names.
  • But when the name of Sir Robert Græme
  • 790Was the one she had to give,
  • I ran to hold her up from the floor;
  • For the froth was on her lips, and sore
  • I feared that she could not live.
  • And the month of March wore nigh to its end,
  • And still was the death-pall spread;
  • For she would not bury her slaughtered lord
  • Till his slayers all were dead.
  • And now of their dooms dread tidings came,
  • And of torments fierce and dire;
  • 800And nought she spake,—she had ceased to speak,—
  • But her eyes were a soul on fire.
  • But when I told her the bitter end
  • Of the stern and just award,
  • She leaned o'er the bier, and thrice three times
  • She kissed the lips of her lord.
  • And then she said,—“My King, they are dead!”
  • And she knelt on the chapel-floor,
  • And whispered low with a strange proud smile,—
  • “James, James, they suffered more!”
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  • 810Last she stood up to her queenly height,
  • But she shook like an autumn leaf,
  • As though the fire wherein she burned
  • Then left her body, and all were turned
  • To winter of life-long grief.
  • And “O James!” she said,—“My James!” she
  • said,—
  • “Alas for the woful thing,
  • That a poet true and a friend of man,
  • In desperate days of bale and ban,
  • Should needs be born a King!”
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Part I.


Part II.

Transcribed Note (page 176):

(The present full series of The House of Life consists of sonnets

only. It will be evident that many among those now first added

are still the work of earlier years.—1881.)

  • A Sonnet is a moment's monument,—
  • Memorial from the Soul's eternity
  • To one dead deathless hour. Look that it be,
  • Whether for lustral rite or dire portent,
  • Of its own arduous fulness reverent:
  • Carve it in ivory or in ebony,
  • As Day or Night may rule; and let Time see
  • Its flowering crest impearled and orient.
  • A Sonnet is a coin: its face reveals
  • 10 The soul,—its converse, to what Power 'tis due:
  • Whether for tribute to the august appeals
  • Of Life, or dower in Love's high retinue,
  • It serve; or, 'mid the dark wharf's cavernous breath,
  • In Charon's palm it pay the toll to Death.
Image of page 177 page: 177

  • I marked all kindred Powers the heart finds fair:—
  • Truth, with awed lips; and Hope, with eyes upcast;
  • And Fame, whose loud wings fan the ashen Past
  • To signal-fires, Oblivion's flight to scare;
  • And Youth, with still some single golden hair
  • Unto his shoulder clinging, since the last
  • Embrace wherein two sweet arms held him fast;
  • And Life, still wreathing flowers for Death to wear.
  • Love's throne was not with these; but far above
  • 10 All passionate wind of welcome and farewell
  • He sat in breathless bowers they dream not of;
  • Though Truth foreknow Love's heart, and Hope foretell,
  • And Fame be for Love's sake desirable,
  • And Youth be dear, and Life be sweet to Love.

  • As when desire, long darkling, dawns, and first
  • The mother looks upon the newborn child,
  • Even so my Lady stood at gaze and smiled
  • When her soul knew at length the Love it nurs'd.
  • Born with her life, creature of poignant thirst
  • And exquisite hunger, at her heart Love lay
  • Quickening in darkness, till a voice that day
  • Cried on him, and the bonds of birth were burst.
  • Now, shadowed by his wings, our faces yearn
  • 10 Together, as his full–grown feet now range
  • The grove, and his warm hands our couch prepare:
  • Till to his song our bodiless souls in turn
  • Be born his children, when Death's nuptial change
  • Leaves us for light the halo of his hair.
Sig. 12
Image of page 178 page: 178

  • O thou who at Love's hour ecstatically
  • Unto my heart dost evermore present,
  • Clothed with his fire, thy heart his testament;
  • Whom I have neared and felt thy breath to be
  • The inmost incense of his sanctuary;
  • Who without speech hast owned him, and, intent
  • Upon his will, thy life with mine hast blent,
  • And murmured, “I am thine, thou'rt one with me!”
  • O what from thee the grace, to me the prize,
  • 10 And what to Love the glory,—when the whole
  • Of the deep stair thou tread'st to the dim shoal
  • And weary water of the place of sighs,
  • And there dost work deliverance, as thine eyes
  • Draw up my prisoned spirit to thy soul!

  • When do I see thee most, beloved one?
  • When in the light the spirits of mine eyes
  • Before thy face, their altar, solemnize
  • The worship of that Love through thee made known?
  • Or when in the dusk hours, (we two alone,)
  • Close-kissed and eloquent of still replies
  • Thy twilight-hidden glimmering visage lies,
  • And my soul only sees thy soul its own?
  • O love, my love! if I no more should see
  • 10Thyself, nor on the earth the shadow of thee,
  • Nor image of thine eyes in any spring,—
  • How then should sound upon Life's darkening slope
  • The ground-whirl of the perished leaves of Hope,
  • The wind of Death's imperishable wing?
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  • By what word's power, the key of paths untrod,
  • Shall I the difficult deeps of Love explore,
  • Till parted waves of Song yield up the shore
  • Even as that sea which Israel crossed dryshod?
  • For lo! in some poor rhythmic period,
  • Lady, I fain would tell how evermore
  • Thy soul I know not from thy body, nor
  • Thee from myself, neither our love from God.
  • Yea, in God's name, and Love's, and thine, would I
  • 10 Draw from one loving heart such evidence
  • As to all hearts all things shall signify;
  • Tender as dawn's first hill-fire, and intense
  • As instantaneous penetrating sense,
  • In Spring's birth-hour, of other Springs gone by.

  • What smouldering senses in death's sick delay
  • Or seizure of malign vicissitude
  • Can rob this body of honour, or denude
  • This soul of wedding-raiment worn to-day?
  • For lo! even now my lady's lips did play
  • With these my lips such consonant interlude
  • As laurelled Orpheus longed for when he wooed
  • The half-drawn hungering face with that last lay.
  • I was a child beneath her touch,—a man
  • 10 When breast to breast we clung, even I and she,—
  • A spirit when her spirit looked through me,—
  • A god when all our life-breath met to fan
  • Our life-blood, till love's emulous ardours ran,
  • Fire within fire, desire in deity.
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  • To all the spirits of Love that wander by
  • Along his love-sown harvest-field of sleep
  • My lady lies apparent; and the deep
  • Calls to the deep; and no man sees but I.
  • The bliss so long afar, at length so nigh,
  • Rests there attained. Methinks proud Love must weep
  • When Fate's control doth from his harvest reap
  • The sacred hour for which the years did sigh.
  • First touched, the hand now warm around my neck
  • 10 Taught memory long to mock desire: and lo!
  • Across my breast the abandoned hair doth flow,
  • Where one shorn tress long stirred the longing ache:
  • And next the heart that trembled for its sake
  • Lies the queen-heart in sovereign overthrow.

  • Some ladies love the jewels in Love's zone,
  • And gold-tipped darts he hath for painless play
  • In idle scornful hours he flings away;
  • And some that listen to his lute's soft tone
  • Do love to vaunt the silver praise their own;
  • Some prize his blindfold sight; and there be they
  • Who kissed his wings which brought him yesterday
  • And thank his wings to-day that he is flown.
  • My lady only loves the heart of Love:
  • 10 Therefore Love's heart, my lady, hath for thee
  • His bower of unimagined flower and tree:
  • There kneels he now, and all-anhungered of
  • Thine eyes grey-lit in shadowing hair above,
  • Seals with thy mouth his immortality.
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  • One flame-winged brought a white-winged harp-player
  • Even where my lady and I lay all alone;
  • Saying: “Behold, this minstrel is unknown;
  • Bid him depart, for I am minstrel here:
  • Only my strains are to Love's dear ones dear.”
  • Then said I: “Through thine hautboy's rapturous tone
  • Unto my lady still this harp makes moan,
  • And still she deems the cadence deep and clear.”
  • Then said my lady: “Thou art Passion of Love,
  • 10 And this Love's Worship: both he plights to me.
  • Thy mastering music walks the sunlit sea:
  • But where wan water trembles in the grove
  • And the wan moon is all the light thereof,
  • This harp still makes my name its voluntary.”

  • O Lord of all compassionate control,
  • O Love! let this my lady's picture glow
  • Under my hand to praise her name, and show
  • Even of her inner self the perfect whole:
  • That he who seeks her beauty's furthest goal,
  • Beyond the light that the sweet glances throw
  • And refluent wave of the sweet smile, may know
  • The very sky and sea-line of her soul.
  • Lo! it is done. Above the enthroning throat
  • 10 The mouth's mould testifies of voice and kiss,
  • The shadowed eyes remember and foresee.
  • Her face is made her shrine. Let all men note
  • That in all years (O Love, thy gift is this!)
  • They that would look on her must come to me.
Image of page 182 page: 182

  • Warmed by her hand and shadowed by her hair
  • As close she leaned and poured her heart through
  • thee,
  • Whereof the articulate throbs accompany
  • The smooth black stream that makes thy whiteness
  • fair,—
  • Sweet fluttering sheet, even of her breath aware,—
  • Oh let thy silent song disclose to me
  • That soul wherewith her lips and eyes agree
  • Like married music in Love's answering air.
  • Fain had I watched her when, at some fond thought,
  • 10 Her bosom to the writing closelier press'd,
  • And her breast's secrets peered into her breast;
  • When, through eyes raised an instant, her soul sought
  • My soul, and from the sudden confluence caught
  • The words that made her love the loveliest.

  • Sweet twining hedgeflowers wind-stirred in no wise
  • On this June day; and hand that clings in hand:—
  • Still glades; and meeting faces scarcely fann'd:—
  • An osier-odoured stream that draws the skies
  • Deep to its heart; and mirrored eyes in eyes:—
  • Fresh hourly wonder o'er the Summer land
  • Of light and cloud; and two souls softly spann'd
  • With one o'erarching heaven of smiles and sighs:—
  • Even such their path, whose bodies lean unto
  • 10 Each other's visible sweetness amorously,—
  • Whose passionate hearts lean by Love's high decree
  • Together on his heart for ever true,
  • As the cloud-foaming firmamental blue
  • Rests on the blue line of a foamless sea.
Note: The em dash at the end of line two of the second sonnet is incompletely inked.
Note: The colon at the end of line five of the second sonnet is also incompletely inked.
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  • “I love you, sweet: how can you ever learn
  • How much I love you?” “You I love even so,
  • And so I learn it.” “Sweet, you cannot know
  • How fair you are.” “If fair enough to earn
  • Your love, so much is all my love's concern.”
  • “My love grows hourly, sweet.” “Mine too doth
  • grow,
  • Yet love seemed full so many hours ago!”
  • Thus lovers speak, till kisses claim their turn.
  • Ah! happy they to whom such words as these
  • 10 In youth have served for speech the whole day long,
  • Hour after hour, remote from the world's throng,
  • Work, contest, fame, all life's confederate pleas,—
  • What while Love breathed in sighs and silences
  • Through two blent souls one rapturous undersong.

  • On this sweet bank your head thrice sweet and dear
  • I lay, and spread your hair on either side,
  • And see the newborn woodflowers bashful-eyed
  • Look through the golden tresses here and there.
  • On these debateable borders of the year
  • Spring's foot half falters; scarce she yet may know
  • The leafless blackthorn-blossom from the snow;
  • And through her bowers the wind's way still is clear.
  • But April's sun strikes down the glades to-day;
  • 10 So shut your eyes upturned, and feel my kiss
  • Creep, as the Spring now thrills through every spray,
  • Up your warm throat to your warm lips: for this
  • Is even the hour of Love's sworn suitservice,
  • With whom cold hearts are counted castaway.
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  • Have you not noted, in some family
  • Where two were born of a first marriage-bed,
  • How still they own their gracious bond, though fed
  • And nursed on the forgotten breast and knee?—
  • How to their father's children they shall be
  • In act and thought of one goodwill; but each
  • Shall for the other have, in silence speech,
  • And in a word complete community?
  • Even so, when first I saw you, seemed it, love,
  • 10 That among souls allied to mine was yet
  • One nearer kindred than life hinted of.
  • O born with me somewhere that men forget,
  • And though in years of sight and sound unmet,
  • Known for my soul's birth-partner well enough!

  • Those envied places which do know her well,
  • And are so scornful of this lonely place,
  • Even now for once are emptied of her grace:
  • Nowhere but here she is: and while Love's spell
  • From his predominant presence doth compel
  • All alien hours, an outworn populace,
  • The hours of Love fill full the echoing space
  • With sweet confederate music favourable.
  • Now many memories make solicitous
  • 10 The delicate love-lines of her mouth, till, lit
  • With quivering fire, the words take wing from it;
  • As here between our kisses we sit thus
  • Speaking of things remembered, and so sit
  • Speechless while things forgotten call to us.
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  • What dawn-pulse at the heart of heaven, or last
  • Incarnate flower of culminating day,—
  • What marshalled marvels on the skirts of May,
  • Or song full-quired, sweet June's encomiast;
  • What glory of change by Nature's hand amass'd
  • Can vie with all those moods of varying grace
  • Which o'er one loveliest woman's form and face
  • Within this hour, within this room, have pass'd?
  • Love's very vesture and elect disguise
  • 10 Was each fine movement,—wonder new-begot
  • Of lily or swan or swan-stemmed galiot;
  • Joy to his sight who now the sadlier sighs,
  • Parted again; and sorrow yet for eyes
  • Unborn, that read these words and saw her not.

  • Beauty like hers is genius. Not the call
  • Of Homer's or of Dante's heart sublime,—
  • Not Michael's hand furrowing the zones of time,—
  • Is more with compassed mysteries musical;
  • Nay, not in Spring's or Summer's sweet footfall
  • More gathered gifts exuberant Life bequeathes
  • Than doth this sovereign face, whose love-spell breathes
  • Even from its shadowed contour on the wall.
  • As many men are poets in their youth,
  • 10 But for one sweet-strung soul the wires prolong
  • Even through all change the indomitable song;
  • So in likewise the envenomed years, whose tooth
  • Rends shallower grace with ruin void of ruth,
  • Upon this beauty's power shall wreak no wrong.
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  • Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass,—
  • The finger-points look through like rosy blooms:
  • Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms
  • 'Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.
  • All round our nest, far as the eye can pass,
  • Are golden kingcup-fields with silver edge
  • Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn-hedge.
  • 'Tis visible silence, still as the hour-glass.
  • Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragon-fly
  • 10Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky:—
  • So this wing'd hour is dropt to us from above.
  • Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower,
  • This close-companioned inarticulate hour
  • When twofold silence was the song of love.

  • Even as the moon grows queenlier in mid-space
  • When the sky darkens, and her cloud-rapt car
  • Thrills with intenser radiance from afar,—
  • So lambent, lady, beams thy sovereign grace
  • When the drear soul desires thee. Of that face
  • What shall be said,—which, like a governing star,
  • Gathers and garners from all things that are
  • Their silent penetrative loveliness?
  • O'er water-daisies and wild waifs of Spring,
  • 10 There where the iris rears its gold-crowned sheaf
  • With flowering rush and sceptred arrow-leaf,
  • So have I marked Queen Dian, in bright ring
  • Of cloud above and wave below, take wing
  • And chase night's gloom, as thou the spirit's grief.
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  • Sweet dimness of her loosened hair's downfall
  • About thy face; her sweet hands round thy head
  • In gracious fostering union garlanded;
  • Her tremulous smiles; her glances' sweet recall
  • Of love; her murmuring sighs memorial;
  • Her mouth's culled sweetness by thy kisses shed
  • On cheeks and neck and eyelids, and so led
  • Back to her mouth which answers there for all:—
  • What sweeter than these things, except the thing
  • 10 In lacking which all these would lose their sweet:—
  • The confident heart's still fervour: the swift beat
  • And soft subsidence of the spirit's wing,
  • Then when it feels, in cloud-girt wayfaring,
  • The breath of kindred plumes against its feet?

  • Sometimes she is a child within mine arms,
  • Cowering beneath dark wings that love must chase,—
  • With still tears showering and averted face,
  • Inexplicably filled with faint alarms:
  • And oft from mine own spirit's hurtling harms
  • I crave the refuge of her deep embrace,—
  • Against all ills the fortified strong place
  • And sweet reserve of sovereign counter-charms.
  • And Love, our light at night and shade at noon,
  • 10 Lulls us to rest with songs, and turns away
  • All shafts of shelterless tumultuous day.
  • Like the moon's growth, his face gleams through his tune;
  • And as soft waters warble to the moon,
  • Our answering spirits chime one roundelay.
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  • I stood where Love in brimming armfuls bore
  • Slight wanton flowers and foolish toys of fruit:
  • And round him ladies thronged in warm pursuit,
  • Fingered and lipped and proffered the strange store.
  • And from one hand the petal and the core
  • Savoured of sleep; and cluster and curled shoot
  • Seemed from another hand like shame's salute,—
  • Gifts that I felt my cheek was blushing for.
  • At last Love bade my Lady give the same:
  • 10 And as I looked, the dew was light thereon;
  • And as I took them, at her touch they shone
  • With inmost heaven-hue of the heart of flame.
  • And then Love said: “Lo! when the hand is hers,
  • Follies of love are love's true ministers.”

  • Even as a child, of sorrow that we give
  • The dead, but little in his heart can find,
  • Since without need of thought to his clear mind
  • Their turn it is to die and his to live:—
  • Even so the winged New Love smiles to receive
  • Along his eddying plumes the auroral wind,
  • Nor, forward glorying, casts one look behind
  • Where night-rack shrouds the Old Love fugitive.
  • There is a change in every hour's recall,
  • 10 And the last cowslip in the fields we see
  • On the same day with the first corn-poppy.
  • Alas for hourly change! Alas for all
  • The loves that from his hand proud Youth lets fall,
  • Even as the beads of a told rosary!
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  • Each hour until we meet is as a bird
  • That wings from far his gradual way along
  • The rustling covert of my soul,—his song
  • Still loudlier trilled through leaves more deeply stirr'd:
  • But at the hour of meeting, a clear word
  • Is every note he sings, in Love's own tongue;
  • Yet, Love, thou know'st the sweet strain suffers wrong,
  • Full oft through our contending joys unheard.
  • What of that hour at last, when for her sake
  • 10 No wing may fly to me nor song may flow;
  • When, wandering round my life unleaved, I know
  • The bloodied feathers scattered in the brake,
  • And think how she, far from me, with like eyes
  • Sees through the untuneful bough the wingless skies?

  • Thou lovely and beloved, thou my love;
  • Whose kiss seems still the first; whose summoning
  • eyes,
  • Even now, as for our love-world's new sunrise,
  • Shed very dawn; whose voice, attuned above
  • All modulation of the deep-bowered dove,
  • Is like a hand laid softly on the soul;
  • Whose hand is like a sweet voice to control
  • Those worn tired brows it hath the keeping of:—
  • What word can answer to thy word,—what gaze
  • 10 To thine, which now absorbs within its sphere
  • My worshipping face, till I am mirrored there
  • Light-circled in a heaven of deep-drawn rays?
  • What clasp, what kiss mine inmost heart can prove,
  • O lovely and beloved, O my love?
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  • Sometimes thou seem'st not as thyself alone,
  • But as the meaning of all things that are;
  • A breathless wonder, shadowing forth afar
  • Some heavenly solstice hushed and halcyon;
  • Whose unstirred lips are music's visible tone;
  • Whose eyes the sun-gate of the soul unbar,
  • Being of its furthest fires oracular;—
  • The evident heart of all life sown and mown.
  • Even such Love is; and is not thy name Love?
  • 10 Yea, by thy hand the Love-god rends apart
  • All gathering clouds of Night's ambiguous art;
  • Flings them far down, and sets thine eyes above;
  • And simply, as some gage of flower or glove,
  • Stakes with a smile the world against thy heart.

  • What other woman could be loved like you,
  • Or how of you should love possess his fill?
  • After the fulness of all rapture, still,—
  • As at the end of some deep avenue
  • A tender glamour of day,—there comes to view
  • Far in your eyes a yet more hungering thrill,—
  • Such fire as Love's soul-winnowing hands distil
  • Even from his inmost ark of light and dew.
  • And as the traveller triumphs with the sun,
  • 10 Glorying in heat's mid-height, yet startide brings
  • Wonder new-born, and still fresh transport springs
  • From limpid lambent hours of day begun;—
  • Even so, through eyes and voice, your soul doth move
  • My soul with changeful light of infinite love.
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  • Lady, I thank thee for thy loveliness,
  • Because my lady is more lovely still.
  • Glorying I gaze, and yield with glad goodwill
  • To thee thy tribute; by whose sweet-spun dress
  • Of delicate life Love labours to assess
  • My lady's absolute queendom; saying, “Lo!
  • How high this beauty is, which yet doth show
  • But as that beauty's sovereign votaress.”
  • Lady, I saw thee with her, side by side;
  • 10 And as, when night's fair fires their queen surround,
  • An emulous star too near the moon will ride,—
  • Even so thy rays within her luminous bound
  • Were traced no more; and by the light so drown'd,
  • Lady, not thou but she was glorified.

  • Love, through your spirit and mine what summer eve
  • Now glows with glory of all things possess'd,
  • Since this day's sun of rapture filled the west
  • And the light sweetened as the fire took leave?
  • Awhile now softlier let your bosom heave,
  • As in Love's harbour, even that loving breast,
  • All care takes refuge while we sink to rest,
  • And mutual dreams the bygone bliss retrieve.
  • Many the days that Winter keeps in store,
  • 10 Sunless throughout, or whose brief sun-glimpses
  • Scarce shed the heaped snow through the naked trees.
  • This day at least was Summer's paramour,
  • Sun-coloured to the imperishable core
  • With sweet well-being of love and full heart's ease.
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  • High grace, the dower of queens; and therewithal
  • Some wood-born wonder's sweet simplicity;
  • A glance like water brimming with the sky
  • Or hyacinth-light where forest-shadows fall;
  • Such thrilling pallor of cheek as doth enthral
  • The heart; a mouth whose passionate forms imply
  • All music and all silence held thereby;
  • Deep golden locks, her sovereign coronal;
  • A round reared neck, meet column of Love's shrine
  • 10 To cling to when the heart takes sanctuary;
  • Hands which for ever at Love's bidding be,
  • And soft-stirred feet still answering to his sign:—
  • These are her gifts, as tongue may tell them o'er.
  • Breathe low her name, my soul; for that means more.

  • Not by one measure mayst thou mete our love;
  • For how should I be loved as I love thee?—
  • I, graceless, joyless, lacking absolutely
  • All gifts that with thy queenship best behove;—
  • Thou, throned in every heart's elect alcove,
  • And crowned with garlands culled from every tree,
  • Which for no head but thine, by Love's decree,
  • All beauties and all mysteries interwove.
  • But here thine eyes and lips yield soft rebuke:—
  • 10“Then only” (say'st thou) “could I love thee less,
  • When thou couldst doubt my love's equality.”
  • Peace, sweet! If not to sum but worth we look,—
  • Thy heart's transcendence, not my heart's excess,—
  • Then more a thousandfold thou lov'st than I.
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  • Could Juno's self more sovereign presence wear
  • Than thou, 'mid other ladies throned in grace?—
  • Or Pallas, when thou bend'st with soul-stilled face
  • O'er poet's page gold-shadowed in thy hair?
  • Dost thou than Venus seem less heavenly fair
  • When o'er the sea of love's tumultuous trance
  • Hovers thy smile, and mingles with thy glance
  • That sweet voice like the last wave murmuring there?
  • Before such triune loveliness divine
  • 10 Awestruck I ask, which goddess here most claims
  • The prize that, howsoe'er adjudged, is thine?
  • Then Love breathes low the sweetest of thy names;
  • And Venus Victrix to my heart doth bring
  • Herself, the Helen of her guerdoning.

  • Not I myself know all my love for thee:
  • How should I reach so far, who cannot weigh
  • To-morrow's dower by gage of yesterday?
  • Shall birth and death, and all dark names that be
  • As doors and windows bared to some loud sea,
  • Lash deaf mine ears and blind my face with spray;
  • And shall my sense pierce love,—the last relay
  • And ultimate outpost of eternity?
  • Lo! what am I to Love, the lord of all?
  • 10 One murmuring shell he gathers from the sand,—
  • One little heart-flame sheltered in his hand.
  • Yet through thine eyes he grants me clearest call
  • And veriest touch of powers primordial
  • That any hour-girt life may understand.
Sig. 13
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  • Sometimes I fain would find in thee some fault,
  • That I might love thee still in spite of it:
  • Yet how should our Lord Love curtail one whit
  • Thy perfect praise whom most he would exalt?
  • Alas! he can but make my heart's low vault
  • Even in men's sight unworthier, being lit
  • By thee, who thereby show'st more exquisite
  • Like fiery chrysoprase in deep basalt.
  • Yet will I nowise shrink; but at Love's shrine
  • 10 Myself within the beams his brow doth dart
  • Will set the flashing jewel of thy heart
  • In that dull chamber where it deigns to shine:
  • For lo! in honour of thine excellencies
  • My heart takes pride to show how poor it is.

  • Not in thy body is thy life at all,
  • But in this lady's lips and hands and eyes;
  • Through these she yields thee life that vivifies
  • What else were sorrow's servant and death's thrall.
  • Look on thyself without her, and recall
  • The waste remembrance and forlorn surmise
  • That lived but in a dead-drawn breath of sighs
  • O'er vanished hours and hours eventual.
  • Even so much life hath the poor tress of hair
  • 10 Which, stored apart, is all love hath to show
  • For heart-beats and for fire-heats long ago;
  • Even so much life endures unknown, even where,
  • 'Mid change the changeless night environeth,
  • Lies all that golden hair undimmed in death.
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  • “When that dead face, bowered in the furthest years,
  • Which once was all the life years held for thee,
  • Can now scarce bid the tides of memory
  • Cast on thy soul a little spray of tears,—
  • How canst thou gaze into these eyes of hers
  • Whom now thy heart delights in, and not see
  • Within each orb Love's philtred euphrasy
  • Make them of buried troth remembrancers?”
  • “Nay, pitiful Love, nay, loving Pity! Well
  • 10 Thou knowest that in these twain I have confess'd
  • Two very voices of thy summoning bell.
  • Nay, Master, shall not Death make manifest
  • In these the culminant changes which approve
  • The love-moon that must light my soul to Love?”

  • “Thou Ghost,” I said, “and is thy name To-day?—
  • Yesterday's son, with such an abject brow!—
  • And can To-morrow be more pale than thou?”
  • While yet I spoke, the silence answered: “Yea,
  • Henceforth our issue is all grieved and grey,
  • And each beforehand makes such poor avow
  • As of old leaves beneath the budding bough
  • Or night-drift that the sundawn shreds away.”
  • Then cried I: “Mother of many malisons,
  • 10 O Earth, receive me to thy dusty bed!”
  • But therewithal the tremulous silence said:
  • “Lo! Love yet bids thy lady greet thee once:—
  • Yea, twice,—whereby thy life is still the sun's;
  • And thrice,—whereby the shadow of death is dead.”
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  • Girt in dark growths, yet glimmering with one star,
  • O night desirous as the nights of youth!
  • Why should my heart within thy spell, forsooth,
  • Now beat, as the bride's finger-pulses are
  • Quickened within the girdling golden bar?
  • What wings are these that fan my pillow smooth?
  • And why does Sleep, waved back by Joy and Ruth,
  • Tread softly round and gaze at me from far?
  • Nay, night deep-leaved! And would Love feign in thee
  • 10 Some shadowy palpitating grove that bears
  • Rest for man's eyes and music for his ears?
  • O lonely night! art thou not known to me,
  • A thicket hung with masks of mockery
  • And watered with the wasteful warmth of tears?

  • Two separate divided silences,
  • Which, brought together, would find loving voice;
  • Two glances which together would rejoice
  • In love, now lost like stars beyond dark trees;
  • Two hands apart whose touch alone gives ease;
  • Two bosoms which, heart-shrined with mutual flame,
  • Would, meeting in one clasp, be made the same;
  • Two souls, the shores wave mocked of sundering seas:—
  • Such are we now. Ah! may our hope forecast
  • 10 Indeed one hour again, when on this stream
  • Of darkened love once more the light shall gleam?—
  • An hour how slow to come, how quickly past,—
  • Which blooms and fades, and only leaves at last,
  • Faint as shed flowers, the attenuated dream.
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  • Like labour-laden moonclouds faint to flee
  • From winds that sweep the winter-bitten wold,—
  • Like multiform circumfluence manifold
  • Of night's flood-tide,—like terrors that agree
  • Of hoarse-tongued fire and inarticulate sea,—
  • Even such, within some glass dimmed by our breath,
  • Our hearts discern wild images of Death,
  • Shadows and shoals that edge eternity.
  • Howbeit athwart Death's imminent shade doth soar
  • 10 One Power, than flow of stream or flight of dove
  • Sweeter to glide around, to brood above.
  • Tell me, my heart,—what angel-greeted door
  • Or threshold of wing-winnowed threshing-floor
  • Hath guest fire-fledged as thine, whose lord is Love?

  • I deemed thy garments, O my Hope, were grey,
  • So far I viewed thee. Now the space between
  • Is passed at length; and garmented in green
  • Even as in days of yore thou stand'st to-day.
  • Ah God! and but for lingering dull dismay,
  • On all that road our footsteps erst had been
  • Even thus commingled, and our shadows seen
  • Blent on the hedgerows and the water-way.
  • O Hope of mine whose eyes are living love,
  • 10 No eyes but hers,—O Love and Hope the same!—
  • Lean close to me, for now the sinking sun
  • That warmed our feet scarce gilds our hair above.
  • O hers thy voice and very hers thy name!
  • Alas, cling round me, for the day is done!
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  • Bless love and hope. Full many a withered year
  • Whirled past us, eddying to its chill doomsday;
  • And clasped together where the blown leaves lay,
  • We long have knelt and wept full many a tear.
  • Yet lo! one hour at last, the Spring's compeer,
  • Flutes softly to us from some green byeway:
  • Those years, those tears are dead, but only they:—
  • Bless love and hope, true soul; for we are here.
  • Cling heart to heart; nor of this hour demand
  • 10 Whether in very truth, when we are dead,
  • Our hearts shall wake to know Love's golden head
  • Sole sunshine of the imperishable land;
  • Or but discern, through night's unfeatured scope,
  • Scorn-fired at length the illusive eyes of Hope.

  • Love, should I fear death most for you or me?
  • Yet if you die, can I not follow you,
  • Forcing the straits of change? Alas! but who
  • Shall wrest a bond from night's inveteracy,
  • Ere yet my hazardous soul put forth, to be
  • Her warrant against all her haste might rue?—
  • Ah! in your eyes so reached what dumb adieu,
  • What unsunned gyres of waste eternity?
  • And if I die the first, shall death be then
  • 10 A lampless watchtower whence I see you weep?—
  • Or (woe is me!) a bed wherein my sleep
  • Ne'er notes (as death's dear cup at last you drain)
  • The hour when you too learn that all is vain
  • And that Hope sows what Love shall never reap?
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  • Because our talk was of the cloud-control
  • And moon-track of the journeying face of Fate,
  • Her tremulous kisses faltered at love's gate
  • And her eyes dreamed against a distant goal:
  • But soon, remembering her how brief the whole
  • Of joy, which its own hours annihilate,
  • Her set gaze gathered, thirstier than of late,
  • And as she kissed, her mouth became her soul.
  • Thence in what ways we wandered, and how strove
  • 10 To build with fire-tried vows the piteous home
  • Which memory haunts and whither sleep may roam,—
  • They only know for whom the roof of Love
  • Is the still-seated secret of the grove,
  • Nor spire may rise nor bell be heard therefrom.

  • What shall be said of this embattled day
  • And armèd occupation of this night
  • By all thy foes beleaguered,—now when sight
  • Nor sound denotes the loved one far away?
  • Of these thy vanquished hours what shalt thou say,—
  • As every sense to which she dealt delight
  • Now labours lonely o'er the stark noon-height
  • To reach the sunset's desolate disarray?
  • Stand still, fond fettered wretch! while Memory's art
  • 10 Parades the Past before thy face, and lures
  • Thy spirit to her passionate portraitures:
  • Till the tempestuous tide-gates flung apart
  • Flood with wild will the hollows of thy heart,
  • And thy heart rends thee, and thy body endures.
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  • The mother will not turn, who thinks she hears
  • Her nursling's speech first grow articulate;
  • But breathless with averted eyes elate
  • She sits, with open lips and open ears,
  • That it may call her twice. 'Mid doubts and fears
  • Thus oft my soul has hearkened; till the song,
  • A central moan for days, at length found tongue,
  • And the sweet music welled and the sweet tears.
  • But now, whatever while the soul is fain
  • 10 To list that wonted murmur, as it were
  • The speech-bound sea-shell's low importunate strain,—
  • No breath of song, thy voice alone is there,
  • O bitterly beloved! and all her gain
  • Is but the pang of unpermitted prayer.

  • There came an image in Life's retinue
  • That had Love's wings and bore his gonfalon:
  • Fair was the web, and nobly wrought thereon,
  • O soul-sequestered face, thy form and hue!
  • Bewildering sounds, such as Spring wakens to,
  • Shook in its folds; and through my heart its power
  • Sped trackless as the immemorable hour
  • When birth's dark portal groaned and all was new.
  • But a veiled woman followed, and she caught
  • 10 The banner round its staff, to furl and cling,—
  • Then plucked a feather from the bearer's wing,
  • And held it to his lips that stirred it not,
  • And said to me, “Behold, there is no breath:
  • I and this Love are one, and I am Death.”
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  • I sat with Love upon a woodside well,
  • Leaning across the water, I and he;
  • Nor ever did he speak nor looked at me,
  • But touched his lute wherein was audible
  • The certain secret thing he had to tell:
  • Only our mirrored eyes met silently
  • In the low wave; and that sound came to be
  • The passionate voice I knew; and my tears fell.
  • And at their fall, his eyes beneath grew hers;
  • 10And with his foot and with his wing-feathers
  • He swept the spring that watered my heart's drouth.
  • Then the dark ripples spread to waving hair,
  • And as I stooped, her own lips rising there
  • Bubbled with brimming kisses at my mouth.
  • And now Love sang: but his was such a song,
  • So meshed with half-remembrance hard to free,
  • As souls disused in death's sterility
  • May sing when the new birthday tarries long.
  • And I was made aware of a dumb throng
  • That stood aloof, one form by every tree,
  • All mournful forms, for each was I or she,
  • The shades of those our days that had no tongue.
  • They looked on us, and knew us and were known;
  • 10 While fast together, alive from the abyss,
  • Clung the soul-wrung implacable close kiss;
  • And pity of self through all made broken moan
  • Which said, “For once, for once, for once alone!”
  • And still Love sang, and what he sang was this:—
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  • “O ye, all ye that walk in Willowwood,
  • That walk with hollow faces burning white;
  • What fathom-depth of soul-struck widowhood,
  • What long, what longer hours, one lifelong night,
  • Ere ye again, who so in vain have wooed
  • Your last hope lost, who so in vain invite
  • Your lips to that their unforgotten food,
  • Ere ye, ere ye again shall see the light!
  • Alas! the bitter banks in Willowwood,
  • 10 With tear-spurge wan, with blood-wort burning red:
  • Alas! if ever such a pillow could
  • Steep deep the soul in sleep till she were dead,—
  • Better all life forget her than this thing,
  • That Willowwood should hold her wandering!”
  • So sang he: and as meeting rose and rose
  • Together cling through the wind's wellaway
  • Nor change at once, yet near the end of day
  • The leaves drop loosened where the heart-stain glows,—
  • So when the song died did the kiss unclose;
  • And her face fell back drowned, and was as grey
  • As its grey eyes; and if it ever may
  • Meet mine again I know not if Love knows.
  • Only I know that I leaned low and drank
  • 10A long draught from the water where she sank,
  • Her breath and all her tears and all her soul:
  • And as I leaned, I know I felt Love's face
  • Pressed on my neck with moan of pity and grace,
  • Till both our heads were in his aureole.
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  • What of her glass without her? The blank grey
  • There where the pool is blind of the moon's face.
  • Her dress without her? The tossed empty space
  • Of cloud-rack whence the moon has passed away.
  • Her paths without her? Day's appointed sway
  • Usurped by desolate night. Her pillowed place
  • Without her? Tears, ah me! for love's good grace,
  • And cold forgetfulness of night or day.
  • What of the heart without her? Nay, poor heart,
  • 10 Of thee what word remains ere speech be still?
  • A wayfarer by barren ways and chill,
  • Steep ways and weary, without her thou art,
  • Where the long cloud, the long wood's counterpart,
  • Sheds doubled darkness up the labouring hill.

  • Sweet Love,—but oh! most dread Desire of Love
  • Life-thwarted. Linked in gyves I saw them stand,
  • Love shackled with Vain-longing, hand to hand:
  • And one was eyed as the blue vault above:
  • But hope tempestuous like a fire-cloud hove
  • I' the other's gaze, even as in his whose wand
  • Vainly all night with spell-wrought power has spann'd
  • The unyielding caves of some deep treasure-trove.
  • Also his lips, two writhen flakes of flame,
  • 10 Made moan: “Alas O Love, thus leashed with me!
  • Wing-f