Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: The Bride's Prelude (1881 slip proofs, British Library copy)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1881
Type of Manuscript: galley proofs

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

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Note: Bookplate with standing female angel blowing trumpet and seated female angel. Between the two figures is a flowing banner on which is inscribed the owner's name. Below the figures and the ower's name is an inscribed poem.


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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘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 with 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.
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  • 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.
  • Against the haloed lattice warm
  • The bridesmaid sunned her breast;
  • Then to the glass turned tall and free,
  • And braced and shifted daintly
  • 30 Her loin-belt through her côte-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.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • 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.
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  • (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.’
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • 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.’
  • 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.
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  • 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.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘In divers places more than once
  • 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.
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  • ‘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.’
  • 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.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • 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.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘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.
  • ‘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.
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  • ‘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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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘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.
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  • ‘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.
  • 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.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • 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 pleasaùnce
  • 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.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘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.
  • ‘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.
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  • ‘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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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘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.
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Manuscript Addition: ? t
Editorial Description: Printer's query in margin of line 390, referencing the possibility that the “d” in “led” shoud be a “t”.
  • ‘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.
  • ‘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.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • 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
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • Said by fierce effort: ‘From that night
  • Often at nights we met:
  • That night , his passion could but rave:
  • The next, what grace his lips did crave
  • 440 I knew not, but I know I gave.’
  • Where Amelotte was sitting, all
  • The light and warmth of day
  • Were so upon her without shade,
  • That the thing seemed by sunshine made
  • Most foul and wanton to be said.
  • She would have questioned more, and known
  • The whole truth at its worst,
  • But held her silent, in mere shame
  • Of day. 'Twas only these words came:—
  • 450 ‘Sister, thou hast not said his name.’
  • ‘Sister,’ quoth Aloÿse, ‘thou know'st
  • His name. I said that he
  • Was in a manner of our kin.
  • Waiting the title he might win,
  • They called him the Lord Urscelyn.’
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  • 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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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • 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.’
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  • Then Aloÿse lay back, and laughed
  • With wan lips bitterly,
  • Saying, ‘Nay, thank thou God for this,—
  • That never any soul like his
  • 500 Shall have its portion where love is.’
  • Weary of wonder, Amelotte
  • Sat silent: she would ask
  • No more, though all was unexplained:
  • She was too weak; the ache still pained
  • Her eyes,—her forehead's pulse remained.
  • The silence lengthened. Aloÿse
  • Was fain to turn her face
  • Apart, to where the arras told
  • Two Testaments, the New and Old,
  • 510 In shapes and meanings manifold.
  • One solace that was gained, she hid.
  • Her sister, from whose curse
  • Her heart recoiled, had blessed instead:
  • Yet would not her pride have it said
  • How much the blessing comforted.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • 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'Onhault
  • Held up the bended shield
  • And laughed: “Gramercy for our share!—
  • If to our bridal we but fare
  • To smutch the blazon that we bear!”
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘But proud Denise de Villenbois
  • Kissed me, and gave her wench
  • The card, and said: “If in these bowers
  • You women play at paramours,
  • 560 You must not mix your game with ours.”
  • ‘And one upcast it from her hand:
  • “Lo! see how high he'll soar!”
  • But then their laugh was bitterest;
  • For the wind veered at fate's behest
  • And blew it back into my breast.
  • ‘Oh! if I met him in the day
  • Or heard his voice,—at meals
  • Or at the Mass or through the hall,—
  • A look turned towards me would appal
  • 570 My heart by seeming to know all.
  • ‘Yet I grew curious of my shame,
  • And sometimes in the church,
  • On hearing such a sin rebuked,
  • Have held my girdle-glass unhooked
  • To see how such a woman looked.
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  • ‘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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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘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.
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  • ‘But ere we fled, there was a voice
  • Which I heard speak, and say
  • That many of our friends, to shun
  • Our fate, had left us and were gone,
  • 620 And that Lord Urscelyn was one.
  • ‘That name, as was its wont, made sight
  • And hearing whirl. I gave
  • No heed but only to the name:
  • I held my senses, dreading them,
  • And was at strife to look the same.
  • ‘We rode and rode. As the speed grew,
  • The growth of some vague curse
  • Swarmed in my brain. It seemed to me
  • Numbed by the swiftness, but would be—
  • 630 That still—clear knowledge certainly.
  • ‘Night lapsed. At dawn the sea was there
  • And the sea-wind: afar
  • The ravening surge was hoarse and loud,
  • And underneath the dim dawn-cloud
  • Each stalking wave shook like a shroud.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘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.
Added Text
  • ‘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?”
  • But Then 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.
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  • ‘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.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘Not long. At dawn I slept. In dreams
  • All was passed through afresh
  • From end to end. As the morn heaved
  • Towards noon, I, waking sore aggrieved,
  • That I might die, cursed God, and lived.
  • ‘Many days went, and I saw none
  • Except my women. They
  • Calmed their wan faces, loving me;
  • And when they wept, lest I should see,
  • 690 Would chaunt a desolate melody.
  • ‘Panic unthreatened shook my blood
  • Each sunset, all the slow
  • Subsiding of the turbid light.
  • I would rise, sister, as I might,
  • And bathe my forehead through the night
  • ‘To elude madness. The stark walls
  • Made chill the night: and when
  • We oped our curtains, to resume
  • Sun-sickness after long sick gloom,
  • 700 The withering sea-wind walked the room.
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  • Through the gaunt windows the great gales
  • Bore in the tattered clumps
  • Of waif-weed and the tamarisk-boughs;
  • And sea-mews, 'mid the storm's carouse,
  • Were flung, wild-clamouring, in the house.
  • ‘My hounds I had not; and my hawk,
  • Which they had saved for me,
  • Wanting the sun and rain to beat
  • His wings, soon lay with gathered feet;
  • 710 And my flowers faded, lacking heat.
  • ‘Such still were griefs: for grief was still
  • A separate sense, untouched
  • Of that despair which had become
  • My life. Great anguish could benumb
  • My soul,—my heart was quarrelsome.
  • ‘Time crept. Upon a day at length
  • My kinsfolk sat with me:
  • That which they asked was bare and plain:
  • I answered: the whole bitter strain
  • 720 Was again said, and heard again.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘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.
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  • ‘I woke at midnight, cold and dazed;
  • Because I found myself
  • Seated upright, with bosom bare,
  • Upon my bed, combing my hair,
  • Ready to go, I knew not where.
  • ‘It dawned light day,—the last of those
  • Long months of longing days.
  • That noon, the change was wrought on me
  • In somewise,—nought to hear or see,—
  • 750 Only a trance and agony.’
  • The bride's voice failed her, from no will
  • To pause. The bridesmaid leaned,
  • And where the window-panes were white,
  • Looked for the day: she knew not quite
  • If there were either day or night.
  • It seemed to Aloÿse that the whole
  • Day's weight lay back on her
  • Like lead. The hours that did remain
  • Beat their dry wings upon her brain
  • 760 Once in mid-flight, and passed again.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • There hung a cage of burnt perfumes
  • In the recess: but these,
  • For some hours, weak against the sun,
  • Had simmered in white ash. From One
  • The second quarter was begun.
  • They had not heard the stroke. The air,
  • Though altered with no wind,
  • Breathed now by pauses, so to say:
  • Each breath was time that went away,—
  • 770 Each pause a minute of the day.
  • I' the almonry, the almoner,
  • Hard by, had just dispensed
  • Church-dole and march-dole. High and wide
  • Now rose the shout of thanks, which cried
  • On God that He should bless the bride.
  • Its echo thrilled within their feet,
  • And in the furthest rooms
  • Was heard, where maidens flushed and gay
  • Wove with stooped necks the wreaths alway
  • 780 Fair for the virgin's marriage-day.
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  • 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,
  • 780 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,
  • 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
  • 790 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,
  • That I—death reached—may seek it there.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘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.
  • 800 And I nursed hatred day and night.
  • ‘Aye, and I sought revenge by spells;
  • And vainly many a time
  • Have laid my face into the lap
  • Of a wise woman, and heard clap
  • 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
  • 810 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,
  • Still wait for those who took my child.’
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  • 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
  • 820 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;
  • 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,
  • 830 Close to her sister's mouth, to sup.
  • The freshness dwelt upon her sense,
  • Yet did not the bride drink;
  • But she dipped in her hand anon
  • And cooled her temples; and all wan
  • With lids that held their ache, went on.
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • 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
  • 840Whirled round: and we might seek our home.
  • ‘Our wealth was rendered back, with wealth
  • Snatched from our foes. The house
  • Had more than its old strength and fame:
  • But still 'neath the fair outward claim
  • I rankled,—a fierce core of shame.
  • ‘It chilled me from their eyes and lips
  • Upon a night of those
  • First days of triumph, as I gazed
  • Listless and sick, or scarcely raised
  • 850 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
  • The music seemed to sing wild words.
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  • ‘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
  • 860 By God's command and in God's name
  • ‘For my child's bitter sake. O thou
  • Once felt against my heart
  • With longing of the eyes,—a pain
  • Since to my heart for ever,—then
  • 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
  • 870 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,—
  • “The seasons change and Time wears late.”
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Manuscript Addition: Ashley 1415
Editorial Description: Library notation in upper right.
  • ‘For I had my hard secret told,
  • In secret, to a priest;
  • He was much with me; and he said
  • The world's soul, for its sins, was sped,
  • 880 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
  • 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:
  • 890 One day they spoke of Urscelyn.
  • ‘The words were light, among the rest:
  • Quick glance my brothers sent
  • To sift the speech; and I, struck through,
  • Sat sick and giddy in full view:
  • Yet did none gaze, so many knew.
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  • ‘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
  • 900 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
  • 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
  • 910 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,
  • My prayer was, “Show her what I hide!”’
End of Part I.
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Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: 2-1848.blproof.rad.xml
Copyright: By permission of the British Library