Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: The Bride's Prelude (1881 slip proofs, Princeton-Taylor collection)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1881
Type of Manuscript: slip proofs
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
Transcription Gap: H. Buxton Forman's handwritten introduction (pp. iii-xxi) (to be added later)
- ‘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
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.
- 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
- 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.
Note: DGR marks line 1 for printer to reset the oÿ character.
- 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.
- (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 Alo
- 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 Alo
ÿse 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.’
- 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 Alo
ÿse 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: ‘Alo
- 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.
- ‘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.
- ‘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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- ‘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.
- ‘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.
- 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 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.
ÿse 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.
Note: DGR adds the “7” to the page number.
- ‘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.
- ‘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.”
- ‘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.
- 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.
- But Alo
ÿse 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 Alo
ÿse 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
Note: DGR adds the “3” to the page number.
- 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 Alo
ÿse, ‘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.
- 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 Alo
ÿse 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. Alo
- 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.
Note: DGR marks for resetting the colon at the end of line 529.
- 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.
Note: This page comes after page 29 in these proofs. A second copy of page 29
follows this page.
- ‘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!”
- ‘But proud Denise de Ville
- 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.
- ‘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.
- ‘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.
- ‘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.
- ‘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,
- 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,
660 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,
- 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
670 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,—
- 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,
680 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,
- 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,
690 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,
- 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,
700 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;
- 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
710 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
- 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
720 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.”
- 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,
730 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,
- 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,
740 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,—
- 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
750 If there were either day or night.
- It seemed to Alo
ÿse that the whole
- Day's weight lay back on her
- Like lead. The hours that did remain
- Beat their dry wings upon her brain
- 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
760 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,—
- 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
770 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
- 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,
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:—
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.
- ‘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.’
- She stopped, grown fainter. ‘Amelotte,
- Surely,’ she said, ‘this
- 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
her face was made
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.
- ‘Through those dark watches of my woe,
- Time, an ill plant, had waxed
- Apace. That year was finished. Dumb
- And blind, life's wheel with earth's had come
Whirled round: and we might seek our home.
- ‘Our wealth was rendered back, with wealth
- Snatched from our foes. The house
- Had more than its old strength and fame:
- But still 'neath the fair outward claim
I rankled,—a fierce core of shame.
- ‘It chilled me from their eyes and lips
- Upon a night of those
- First days of triumph, as I gazed
- Listless and sick, or scarcely raised
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.
- ‘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.”
- ‘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.
- ‘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.
Transcription Gap: H. Buxton Forman's Appendix (to be added later)
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Copyright: Princeton University Library, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections