BALLADS AND SONNETS.
BALLADS AND SONNETS
DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI.
ELLIS AND WHITE,
29, New Bond Street, W.
CHISWICK PRESS:—CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO.,
TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE.
THE FRIEND WHOM MY VERSE WON FOR ME,
THESE FEW MORE PAGES
ARE AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED.
The word “Page” appears as a running header over the page numbers.
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.
- “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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- “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!”
- 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.
- “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 in 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.”
- “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.
- “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.
- 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?”
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
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?
What were her eyes
But the fiend's own spies,
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.
Whose steed did neigh,
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
Whose eyes were so wondrous wise,
Yet blind, ah! blind to his peril!
For stole not We in
Through a love-linked sin,
'Gainst whom all powers at war with ours are
Fire-spirits of dread desire,
We whose home is the Beryl?
- “Pale Rose Mary, what shall
- 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.
- “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.
- 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?
- “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.
- 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 self-same 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.
- 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.
- “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
- “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.
- “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.
- 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
260“We 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
270“The Warden's sister of Holycleugh!”
- 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!”
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
Than last night's slaughter.
Awake and tremble, for our curses assemble!
What more, that thou know'st not yet,—
That life nor death shall forget?
No help from Heaven,—thy woes
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,
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,
And beat through the nether storm-eddying winds
Shall this be so?
There thou shalt meet him, but may'st thou greet him?
He loves, but thee he hoped never more to see,—
He sighed as he died,
But with never a thought for thee.
Alone, for ever alone,—
Whose eyes were such wondrous spies for the fate
Lo! have not We leashed the twin
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Beryl-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.
- 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.
- 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 thee, 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.
- “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?
- 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.
- “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.”
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
Woe! must We behold this mother
Find grace in her dead child's face, and doubt of
But that perfect pardon, alas! hath assured her
Woe! must We behold this daughter,
Made clean from the soil of sin wherewith We had
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;
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
Fills the White City,
And the floor of Heaven to her feet for ever is
Hark, a voice cries “Flee!”
Woe! woe! what shelter have We,
Whose pangs begin
With God's grace to sin,
For whose spent powers the immortal hours are
Gyre-circling spirits of fire,
We, cast forth from the Beryl?
- 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!”
- 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,
- ”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.
- 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
- Is a songbird's course so swift on the wing?“
- And under the winter stars' still throng,
- From brown throats, white throats, merry and
- 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!
- 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.
- '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.)
- 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.
- “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
- He clutched to the yard with panting stare,
- And we looked and knew Fitz-Stephen there.
- He clung, and “What of the Prince?”
- “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.
- 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;
- “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.
- 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.)
Transcribed Note (page ):
Tradition says that Catherine Douglas, in honour of her
when she barred the door with her arm against
the murderers of James
the First of Scots, received popu-
larly the name of
“Barlass.” This name remains to
descendants, the Barlas family, in Scotland, who bear
their crest a broken arm. She married Alexander Lovell of
A few stanzas from King James's lovely poem known as
The King's Quhair, 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
THE KING'S TRAGEDY.
JAMES I. OF SCOTS.—20TH FEBRUARY, 1437.
- 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.
- 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 bowers 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- “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
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.”
- 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.
- 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!”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- “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
- 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!
Awake for shame,—your heaven is won,—
And amorously your heads lift all:
Thank Love, that you to his grace doth call!”
- 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
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,
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.
And of this flower I say no more
But unto my help her heart hath tended
And even from death her man defended.”
- “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.
“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
To come, well might'st thou weep and wail!”
- And our wail, O God! is long.
- 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!‘”
- 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.
- 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.
- “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.
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!”
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 smoothe it fair.
- (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.
Note: typo: there is an
umlaut over the letter “r” in the word
“iron” in line 568.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!”
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
- “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!”
Note: justified, centered.
Transcribed Note (page [160b]):
(The present full series of
The House of Life consists of
sonnets only. It will be evident that many among
now first added are still the work of earlier years.)
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
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.
- I marked all kindred Powers the heart finds fair:—
- Truth, with awed lips; and Hope, with eyes up-
- 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
- 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 fullgrown feet now range
- The grove, and his warm hands our couch
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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
- 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 yester-
- 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.
- One flame-winged brought a white-winged harp-
- 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
- turous 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.
- Warmed by her hand and shadowed by her hair
- As close she leaned and poured her heart through
- Whereof the articulate throbs accompany
- The smooth black stream that makes thy whiteness
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Together on his heart for ever true,
- As the cloud-foaming firmamental blue
- Rest on the blue line of a foamless sea.
- “I love you, sweet: how can you
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Note: The concluding period is missing from the last line of this poem.
- 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
- 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
- Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass,—
- The finger-points look through like rosy blooms:
- Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams
- '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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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!
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Thou lovely and beloved, thou my love;
- Whose kiss seems still the first; whose summon-
- ing 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
- O lovely and beloved, O my love?
- 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
- My soul with changeful light of infinite love.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- This day at least was Summer's paramour,
- Sun-coloured to the imperishable core
- With sweet well-being of love and full heart's
- 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
Note: There is no space after the first comma in line 13.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- “When that dead face,
bowered in the furthest
- 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
- Girt in dark growths, yet glimmering with one
- 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
- Tread softly round and gaze at me from far?
- Nay, night deep-leaved! And would Love feign in
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
- Would, meeting in one clasp, be made the same;
- Two souls, the shores wave-mocked of sundering
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Our hearts discern wild images of Death,
- Shadows and shoals that edge eternity.
- Howbeit athwart Death's imminent shade doth
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
- 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!
- 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?
- 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
- 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 armed 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.”
- 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
- 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:—
- “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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- The unyielding caves of some deep treasure-trove.
- Also his lips, two writhen flakes of flame,
10 Made moan: “Alas O Love, thus
- Wing-footed thou, wing-shouldered, once born
- And I, thy cowering self, in chains grown tame,—
- Bound to thy body and soul, named with thy
- Life's iron heart, even Love's Fatality.”
- The hour which might have been yet might not be,
- Which man's and woman's heart conceived
- Yet whereof life was barren,—on what shore
- Bides it the breaking of Time's weary sea?
- Bondchild of all consummate joys set free,
- It somewhere sighs and serves, and mute before
- The house of Love, hears through the echoing door
- His hours elect in choral consonancy.
- But lo! what wedded souls now hand in hand
10Together tread at last the immortal strand
- With eyes where burning memory lights love
- Lo! how the little outcast hour has turned
- And leaped to them and in their faces yearned:—
- “I am your child: O parents, ye have come!”
- To be a sweetness more desired than Spring;
- A bodily beauty more acceptable
- Than the wild rose-tree's arch that crowns the fell;
- To be an essence more environing
- Than wine's drained juice; a music ravishing
- More than the passionate pulse of Philomel;—
- To be all this 'neath one soft bosom's swell
- That is the flower of life:—how strange a thing!
- How strange a thing to be what Man can know
10 But as a sacred secret! Heaven's own screen
- Hides her soul's purest depth and loveliest glow;
- Closely withheld, as all things most unseen,—
- The wave-bowered
pearl,—the heart-shaped seal of
- That flecks the snowdrop underneath the snow.
- She loves him; for her infinite soul is Love,
- And he her lodestar. Passion in her is
- A glass facing his fire, where the bright bliss
- Is mirrored, and the heat returned. Yet move
- That glass, a stranger's amorous flame to prove,
- And it shall turn, by instant contraries,
- Ice to the moon; while her pure fire to his
- For whom it burns, clings close i' the heart's alcove.
- Lo! they are one. With wifely breast to breast
10 And circling arms, she welcomes all command
- Of love,—her soul to answering
- Yet as morn springs or twilight sinks to rest,
- Ah! who shall say she deems not loveliest
- The hour of sisterly sweet hand-in-hand?
- If to grow old in Heaven is to grow young,
- (As the Seer saw and said,) then blest were he
- With youth for evermore, whose heaven should be
- True Woman, she whom these weak notes have
- Here and hereafter,—choir-strains of her tongue,—
- Sky-spaces of her eyes,—sweet signs
- About her soul's immediate sanctuary,—
- Were Paradise all uttermost worlds among.
- The sunrise blooms and withers on the hill
10 Like any hillflower; and the noblest troth
- Dies here to dust. Yet shall Heaven's
- Even yet those lovers who have cherished still
- This test for love:—in every kiss
- To feel the first kiss and forbode the last.
- Love to his singer held a glistening leaf,
- And said: “The rose-tree and the apple-tree
- Have fruits to vaunt or flowers to lure the bee;
- And golden shafts are in the feathered sheaf
- Of the great harvest-marshal, the year's chief,
- Victorious Summer; aye, and 'neath warm sea
- Strange secret grasses lurk inviolably
- Between the filtering channels of sunk reef.
- All are my blooms; and all sweet blooms of love
10 To thee I gave while Spring and Summer sang;
- But Autumn stops to listen, with some pang
- From those worse things the wind is moaning of.
- Only this laurel dreads no winter days:
- Take my last gift; thy heart hath suug my praise.”
Transcribed Footnote (page 221):
END OF PART I.
- As growth of form or momentary glance
- In a child's features will recall to mind
- The father's with the mother's face combin'd,—
- Sweet interchange that memories still enhance:
- And yet, as childhood's years and youth's advance,
- The gradual mouldings leave one stamp behind,
- Till in the blended likeness now we find
- A separate man's or woman's countenance:—
- So in the Song, the singer's Joy and Pain,
10 Its very parents, evermore expand
- To bid the passion's fullgrown birth remain,
- By Art's transfiguring essence subtly spann'd;
- And from that song-cloud shaped as a man's hand
- There comes the sound as of abundant rain.
- By thine own tears thy song must tears beget,
- O Singer! Magic mirror thou hast none
- Except thy manifest heart; and save thine own
- Anguish or ardour, else no amulet.
- Cisterned in Pride, verse is the feathery jet
- Of soulless air-flung fountains; nay, more dry
- Than the Dead Sea for throats that thirst and sigh,
- That song o'er which no singer's lids grew wet.
- The Song-god—He the Sun-god—is no slave
10 Of thine; thy Hunter he, who for thy soul
- Fledges his shaft: to no august control
- Of thy skilled hand his quivered store he gave:
- But if thy lips' loud cry leap to his smart,
- The inspir'd recoil shall pierce thy brother's heart.
- Some prisoned moon in steep cloud-fastnesses,—
- Throned queen and thralled; some dying sun
- whose pyre
- Blazed with momentous memorable fire;—
- Who hath not yearned and fed his heart with these?
- Who, sleepless, hath not anguished to appease
- Tragical shadow's realm of sound and sight
- Conjectured in the lamentable night? . . . . .
- Lo! the soul's sphere of infinite images!
- What sense shall count them? Whether it forecast
10 The rose-winged hours that flutter in the van
- Of Love's unquestioning unrevealèd span,—
- Visions of golden futures: or that last
- Wild pageant of the accumulated past
- That clangs and flashes for a drowning man.
- The changing guests, each in a different mood,
- Sit at the roadside table and arise:
- And every life among them in likewise
- Is a soul's board set daily with new food.
- What man has bent o'er his son's sleep, to brood
- How that face shall watch his when cold it lies?—
- Or thought, as his own mother kissed his eyes,
- Of what her kiss was when his father wooed?
- May not this ancient room thou sit'st in dwell
10 In separate living souls for joy or pain?
- Nay, all its corners may be painted plain
- Where Heaven shows pictures of some life spent well;
- And may be stamped, a memory all in vain,
- Upon the sight of lidless eyes in Hell.
- The cuckoo-throb, the heartbeat of the Spring;
- The rosebud's blush that leaves it as it grows
- Into the full-eyed fair unblushing rose;
- The summer clouds that visit every wing
- With fires of sunrise and of sunsetting;
- The furtive flickering streams to light re-born
- 'Mid airs new-fledged and valorous lusts of morn,
- While all the daughters of the daybreak sing:—
- These ardour loves, and memory: and when flown
10 All joys, and through dark forest-boughs in flight
- The wind swoops onward brandishing the light,
- Even yet the rose-tree's verdure left alone
- Will flush all ruddy though the rose be gone;
- With ditties and with dirges infinite.
- As two whose love, first foolish, widening scope,
- Knows suddenly, to music high and soft,
- The Holy of holies; who because they scoff'd
- Are now amazed with shame, nor dare to cope
- With the whole truth aloud, lest heaven should ope;
- Yet, at their meetings, laugh not as they laugh'd
- In speech; nor speak, at length; but sitting oft
- Together, within hopeless sight of hope
- For hours are silent:—So it happeneth
10 When Work and Will awake too late, to gaze
- After their life sailed by, and hold their breath.
- Ah! who shall dare to search through what
- Thenceforth their incommunicable ways
- Follow the desultory feet of Death?
- From child to youth; from youth to arduous man;
- From lethargy to fever of the heart;
- From faithful life to dream-dowered days apart;
- From trust to doubt; from doubt to brink of ban;—
- Thus much of change in one swift cycle ran
- Till now. Alas, the soul!—how soon must she
- Accept her primal immortality,—
- The flesh resume its dust whence it began?
- O Lord of work and peace! O Lord of life!
10 O Lord, the awful Lord of will! though late,
- Even yet renew this soul with duteous breath:
- That when the peace is garnered in from strife,
- The work retrieved, the will regenerate,
- This soul may see thy face, O Lord of death!
that the landmark? What,—the foolish well
- Whose wave, low down, I did not stoop to drink,
- But sat and flung the pebbles from its brink
- In sport to send its imaged skies pell-mell,
- (And mine own image, had I noted well!)—
- Was that my point of turning?—I had thought
- The stations of my course should rise unsought,
- As altar-stone or ensigned citadel.
- But lo! the path is missed, I must go back,
10 And thirst to drink when next I reach the spring
- Which once I stained, which since may have grown
- Yet though no light be left nor bird now sing
- As here I turn, I'll thank God, hastening,
- That the same goal is still on the same track.
- The gloom that breathes upon me with these airs
- Is like the drops which strike the traveller's brow
- Who knows not, darkling, if they bring him now
- Fresh storm, or be old rain the covert bears.
- Ah! bodes this hour some harvest of new tares,
- Or hath but memory of the day whose plough
- Sowed hunger once,—the night at
- O prayer found vain, didst fall from out my
- How prickly were the growths which yet how
10 Along the hedgerows of this journey shed,
- Lie by Time's grace till night and sleep may soothe!
- Even as the thistledown from pathsides dead
- Gleaned by a girl in autumns of her youth,
- Which one new year makes soft her marriage-bed.
- This sunlight shames November where he grieves
- In dead red leaves, and will not let him shun
- The day, though bough with bough be over-run.
- But with a blessing every glade receives
- High salutation; while from hillock-eaves
- The deer gaze calling, dappled white and dun,
- As if, being foresters of old, the sun
- Had marked them with the shade of forest-leaves.
- Here dawn to-day unveiled her magic glass;
10 Here noon now gives the thirst and takes the
- Till eve bring rest when other good things pass.
- And here the lost hours the lost hours renew
- While I still lead my shadow o'er the grass,
- Nor know, for longing, that which I should do.
- This feast-day of the sun, his altar there
- In the broad west has blazed for vesper-song;
- And I have loitered in the vale too long
- And gaze now a belated worshipper.
- Yet may I not forget that I was 'ware,
- So journeying, of his face at intervals
- Transfigured where the fringed horizon falls,—
- A fiery bush with coruscating hair.
- And now that I have climbed and won this height,
10 I must tread downward through the sloping shade
- And travel the bewildered tracks till night.
- Yet for this hour I still may here be stayed
- And see the gold air and the silver fade
- And the last bird fly into the last light.
- Eat thou and drink; to-morrow thou shalt die.
- Surely the earth, that's wise being very old,
- Needs not our help. Then loose me, love, and hold
- Thy sultry hair up from my face; that I
- May pour for thee this golden wine, brim-high,
- Till round the glass thy fingers glow like gold.
- We'll drown all hours: thy song, while
- Shall leap, as fountains veil the changing sky.
- Now kiss, and think that there are really those,
10 My own high-bosomed beauty, who increase
- Vain gold, vain lore, and yet might
- Through many years they toil; then on a day
- They die not,—for their life was
- And round their narrow lips the mould falls close.
- Watch thou and fear; to-morrow thou shalt die.
- Or art thou sure thou shalt have time for death?
- Is not the day which God's word promiseth
- To come man knows not when? In yonder sky,
- Now while we speak, the sun speeds forth: can I
- Or thou assure him of his goal? God's breath
- Even at this moment haply quickeneth
- The air to a flame; till spirits, always nigh
- Though screened and hid, shall walk the daylight
10 And dost thou prate of all that man shall do?
- Canst thou, who hast but plagues,
- Glad in his gladness that comes after thee?
his strength slay
thy worm in Hell? Go to:
- Cover thy countenance, and watch, and fear.
- Think thou and act; to-morrow thou shalt die.
- Outstretched in the sun's warmth upon the shore,
- Thou say'st: “Man's
measured path is all gone
- Up all his years, steeply, with strain and sigh,
- Man clomb until he touched the truth; and I,
- Even I, am he whom it was destined for.”
- How should this be? Art thou then so much more
- Than they who sowed, that thou shouldst reap
- Nay, come up hither. From this wave-washed
10 Unto the furthest flood-brim look with me;
- Then reach on with thy thought till it be drown'd.
- Miles and miles distant though the last line be,
- And though thy soul sail leagues and leagues
- Still, leagues beyond those leagues,
there is more
- Give honour unto Luke Evangelist;
- For he it was (the aged legends say)
- Who first taught Art to fold her hands and pray.
- Scarcely at once she dared to rend the mist
- Of devious symbols: but soon having wist
- How sky-breadth and field-silence and this day
- Are symbols also in some deeper way,
- She looked through these to God and was God's
- And if, past noon, her toil began to irk,
10And she sought talismans, and turned in vain
- To soulless self-reflections of man's skill,—
- Yet now, in this the twilight, she might still
- Kneel in the latter grass to pray again,
- Ere the night cometh and she may not work.
- “I am not as these
are,” the poet saith
- In youth's pride, and the painter, among men
- At bay, where never pencil comes nor pen,
- And shut about with his own frozen breath.
- To others, for whom only rhyme wins faith
- As poets,—only paint as painters,—then
- He turns in the cold silence; and again
- Shrinking, “I am not as these are,”
- And say that this is so, what follows it?
10 For were thine eyes set backwards in thine head,
- Such words were well; but they see on, and far.
- Unto the lights of the great Past, new-lit
- Fair for the Future's track, look thou instead,—
- Say thou instead, “I am not as
- Though God, as one that is an householder,
- Called these to labour in his vineyard first,
- Before the husk of darkness was well burst
- Bidding them grope their way out and bestir,
- (Who, questioned of their wages, answered, “Sir,
- Unto each man a penny:”) though the worst
- Burthen of heat was theirs and the dry thirst:
- Though God hath since found none such as these
- To do their work like them:—Because of this
10 Stand not ye idle in the market-place.
- Which of ye knoweth
not that last
- Who may be first by faith and will?—yea, his
- The hand which after the appointed days
- And hours shall give a Future to their Past?
- Under the arch of Life, where love and death,
- Terror and mystery, guard her shrine, I saw
- Beauty enthroned; and though her gaze struck
- I drew it in as simply as my breath.
- Hers are the eyes which, over and beneath,
- The sky and sea bend on thee,—which can draw,
- By sea or sky or woman, to one law,
- The allotted bondman of her palm and wreath.
- This is that Lady Beauty, in whose praise
10 Thy voice and hand shake
still,—long known to
- By flying hair and fluttering hem,—the beat
- Following her daily of thy heart and feet,
- How passionately and irretrievably,
- In what fond flight, how many ways and days!
- Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
- (The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
- That, ere the snake's, her sweet tongue
- And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
- And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
- And, subtly of herself contemplative,
- Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
- Till heart and body and life are in its hold.
- The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where
10 Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
- And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
- Lo! as that youth's eyes burned at thine, so went
- Thy spell through him, and left his
- And round his heart one strangling golden hair.
- Is it this sky's vast vault or ocean's sound
- That is Life's self and draws my life from me,
- And by instinct ineffable decree
- Holds my breath quailing on the bitter bound?
- Nay, is it Life or Death, thus thunder-crown'd,
- That 'mid the tide of all emergency
- Now notes my separate wave, and to what sea
- Its difficult eddies labour in the ground?
- Oh! what is this that knows the road I came,
10The flame turned cloud, the cloud returned to flame,
- The lifted shifted steeps and all the way?—
- That draws round me at last this wind-warm space,
- And in regenerate rapture turns my face
- Upon the devious coverts of dismay?
- As the child knows not if his mother's face
- Be fair; nor of his elders yet can deem
- What each most is; but as of hill or stream
- At dawn, all glimmering life surrounds his place:
- Who yet, tow'rd noon of his half-weary race,
- Pausing awhile beneath the high sun-beam
- And gazing steadily back,—as through a dream,
- In things long past new features now can trace:—
- Even so the thought that is at length fullgrown
10 Turns back to note the sun-smit paths, all grey
- And marvellous once, where first it walked alone;
- And haply doubts, amid the unblenching day,
- Which most or least impelled its onward way,—
- Those unknown things or these things overknown.
- What place so strange,—though
- With unimaginable fires arise
- At the earth's end,—what passion of surprise
- Like frost-bound fire-girt scenes of long ago?
- Lo! this is none but I this hour; and lo!
- This is the very place which to mine eyes
- Those mortal hours in vain immortalize,
- 'Mid hurrying crowds, with what alone I know.
- City, of thine a single simple door,
10 By some new Power reduplicate, must be
- Even yet my life-porch in eternity,
- Even with one presence filled, as once of yore:
- Or mocking winds whirl round a chaff-strown floor
- Thee and thy years and these my words and me.
- I said: “Nay, pluck
not,—let the first fruit be:
- Even as thou sayest, it is sweet and red,
- But let it ripen still. The tree's bent head
- Sees in the stream its own fecundity
- And bides the day of fulness. Shall not we
- At the sun's hour that day possess the shade,
- And claim our fruit before its ripeness fade,
- And eat it from the branch and praise the tree?”
- I say: “Alas! our fruit hath wooed the sun
10 Too long,—'tis fallen and floats adown
- Lo, the last clusters! Pluck them every one,
- And let us sup with summer; ere the gleam
- Of autumn set the year's pent sorrow free,
- And the woods wail like echoes from the sea.”
- Once more the changed year's turning wheel returns:
- And as a girl sails balanced in the wind,
- And now before and now again behind
- Stoops as it swoops, with cheek that laughs and
- So Spring comes merry towards me here, but earns
- No answering smile from me, whose life is twin'd
- With the dead boughs that winter still must bind,
- And whom to-day the Spring no more concerns.
- Behold, this crocus is a withering flame;
10 This snowdrop, snow; this apple-blossom's part
- To breed the fruit that breeds the serpent's art.
- Nay, for these Spring-flowers, turn thy face from
- Nor stay till on the year's last lily-stem
- The white cup shrivels round the golden heart.
- Sweet stream-fed glen, why say
“farewell” to thee
- Who far'st so well and find'st for ever smooth
- The brow of Time where man may read no ruth?
- Nay, do thou rather say “farewell” to me,
- Who now fare forth in bitterer fantasy
- Than erst was mine where other shade might soothe
- By other streams, what while in fragrant youth
- The bliss of being sad made melancholy.
- And yet, farewell! For better shalt thou fare
10 When children bathe sweet faces in thy flow
- And happy lovers blend sweet shadows there
- In hours to come, than when an hour ago
- Thine echoes had but one man's sighs to bear
- And thy trees whispered what he feared to know.
- What is the sorriest thing that enters Hell?
- None of the sins,—but this and that fair deed
- Which a soul's sin at length could supersede.
- These yet are virgins, whom death's timely knell
- Might once have sainted; whom the fiends compel
- Together now, in snake-bound shuddering sheaves
- Of anguish, while the pit's pollution leaves
- Their refuse maidenhood abominable.
- Night sucks them down, the tribute of the pit,
10 Whose names, half entered in the book of Life,
- Were God's desire at noon. And as their hair
- And eyes sink last, the Torturer deigns no whit
- To gaze, but, yearning, waits his destined wife,
- The Sin still blithe on earth that sent them
- The lost days of my life until to-day,
- What were they, could I see them on the street
- Lie as they fell? Would they be ears of wheat
- Sown once for food but trodden into clay?
- Or golden coins squandered and still to pay?
- Or drops of blood dabbling the guilty feet?
- Or such spilt water as in dreams must cheat
- The undying throats of Hell, athirst alway?
- I do not see them here; but after death
10 God knows I know the faces I shall see,
- Each one a murdered self, with low last breath.
- “I am thyself,—what hast
thou done to me?”
- “And I—and
I—thyself,” (lo! each one saith,)
- “And thou thyself to all eternity!”
- When first that horse, within whose populous womb
- The birth was death, o'ershadowed Troy with fate,
- Her elders, dubious of its Grecian freight,
- Brought Helen there to sing the songs of home;
- She whispered, “Friends, I am alone; come, come!”
- Then, crouched within, Ulysses waxed afraid,
- And on his comrades' quivering mouths he laid
- His hands, and held them till the voice was dumb.
- The same was he who, lashed to his own mast,
10 There where the sea-flowers screen the charnel-
- Beside the sirens' singing island pass'd,
- Till sweetness failed along the inveterate waves. . . .
- Say, soul,—are songs of Death no heaven to thee,
- Nor shames her lip the cheek of Victory?
- That lamp thou fill'st in Eros' name to-night,
- O Hero, shall the Sestian augurs take
- To-morrow, and for drowned Leander's sake
- To Anteros its fireless lip shall plight.
- Aye, waft the unspoken vow: yet dawn's first light
- On ebbing storm and life twice ebb'd must break;
- While 'neath no sunrise, by the Avernian Lake,
- Lo where Love walks, Death's pallid neophyte.
- That lamp within Anteros' shadowy shrine
10 Shall stand unlit (for so the gods decree)
- Till some one man the happy issue see
- Of a life's love, and bid its flame to shine:
- Which still may rest unfir'd; for, theirs or thine,
- O brother, what brought love to them or thee?
Transcribed Footnote (page 250):
1 After the deaths of Leander and of Hero, the
lamp was dedicated to Anteros, with the edict that no
should light it unless his love had proved fortunate.
- Ye who have passed Death's haggard hills; and ye
- Whom trees that knew your sires shall
- And still stand silent:—is it all a show,—
- A wisp that laughs upon the wall?—decree
- Of some inexorable supremacy
- Which ever, as man strains his blind surmise
- From depth to ominous depth, looks past his eyes,
- Sphinx-faced with unabashèd augury?
- Nay, rather question the Earth's self. Invoke
10 The storm-felled forest-trees moss-grown to-day
- Whose roots are hillocks where the children play;
- Or ask the silver sapling 'neath what yoke
- Those stars, his spray-crown's clustering gems,
- shall wage
- Their journey still when his boughs
Note: The word “SONNET” is missing from the title
on this page.
- Get thee behind me. Even as, heavy-curled,
- Stooping against the wind, a charioteer
- Is snatched from out his chariot by the hair,
- So shall Time be; and as the void car, hurled
- Abroad by reinless steeds, even so the world:
- Yea, even as chariot-dust upon the air,
- It shall be sought and not found anywhere.
- Get thee behind me, Satan. Oft unfurled,
- Thy perilous wings can beat and break like lath
10 Much mightiness of men to win thee praise.
- Leave these weak feet to tread in narrow ways.
- Thou still, upon the broad vine-sheltered path,
- Mayst wait the turning of the phials of wrath
- For certain years, for certain months and days.
- As when two men have loved a woman well,
- Each hating each, through Love's and Death's
- Since not for either this stark marriage-sheet
- And the long pauses of this wedding-bell;
- Yet o'er her grave the night and day dispel
- At last their feud forlorn, with cold and heat;
- Nor other than dear friends to death may fleet
- The two lives left that most of her can tell:—
- So separate hopes, which in a soul had wooed
10 The one same Peace, strove with each other long,
- And Peace before their faces perished since:
- So through that soul, in restless brotherhood,
- They roam together now, and wind among
- Its bye-streets, knocking at the dusty inns.
- Beholding youth and hope in mockery caught
- From life; and mocking pulses that remain
- When the soul's death of bodily death is fain;
- Honour unknown, and honour known unsought;
- And penury's sedulous self-torturing thought
- On gold, whose master therewith buys his bane;
- And longed-for woman longing all in vain
- For lonely man with love's desire distraught;
- And wealth, and strength, and power, and plea-
10 Given unto bodies of whose souls men say,
- None poor and weak, slavish and foul, as they:—
- Beholding these things, I behold no less
- The blushing morn and blushing eve confess
- The shame that loads the intolerable day.
- As some true chief of men, bowed down with stress
- Of life's disastrous eld, on blossoming youth
- May gaze, and murmur with self-pity and ruth,—
- “Might I thy fruitless treasure but possess,
- Such blessing of mine all coming years should
- Then sends one sigh forth to the unknown goal,
- And bitterly feels breathe against his soul
- The hour swift-winged of nearer nothingness:—
- Even so the World's grey Soul to the green World
10 Perchance one hour must cry:
“Woe's me, for
- Inveteracy of ill portends the doom,—
- Whose heart's old fire in shadow of shame is furl'd:
- While thou even as of yore art journeying,
- All soulless now, yet merry with the Spring!”
- Great Michelangelo, with age grown bleak
- And uttermost labours, having once o'ersaid
- All grievous memories on his long life shed,
- This worst regret to one true heart could speak:—
- That when, with sorrowing love and reverence meek,
- He stooped o'er sweet Colonna's dying bed,
- His Muse and dominant Lady, spirit-wed,—
- Her hand he kissed, but not her brow or cheek.
- O Buonarruoti,—good at Art's fire-wheels
10 To urge her chariot!—even thus the Soul,
- Touching at length some sorely-chastened goal,
- Earns oftenest but a little: her appeals
- Were deep and mute,—lowly her claim.
- What holds for her Death's garner? And for thee?
- Around the vase of Life at your slow pace
- He has not crept, but turned it with his hands,
- And all its sides already understands.
- There, girt, one breathes alert for some great race;
- Whose road runs far by sands and fruitful space;
- Who laughs, yet through the jolly throng has
- Who weeps, nor stays for weeping; who at last,
- A youth, stands somewhere crowned, with silent face.
- And he has filled this vase with wine for blood,
10 With blood for tears, with spice for burning vow,
- With watered flowers for buried love most fit;
- And would have cast it shattered to the flood,
- Yet in Fate's name has kept it whole; which now
- Stands empty till his ashes fall in it.
- As thy friend's face, with shadow of soul o'erspread,
- Somewhile unto thy sight perchance hath been
- Ghastly and strange, yet never so is seen
- In thought, but to all fortunate favour wed;
- As thy love's death-bound features never dead
- To memory's glass return, but contravene
- Frail fugitive days, and alway keep, I ween,
- Than all new life a livelier lovelihead:—
- So Life herself, thy spirit's friend and love,
10 Even still as Spring's authentic harbinger
- Glows with fresh hours for hope to glorify;
- Though pale she lay when in the winter grove
- Her funeral flowers were snow-flakes shed on her
- And the red wings of frost-fire rent the sky.
- Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;
- I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell;
- Unto thine ear I hold the dead-sea shell
- Cast up thy Life's foam-fretted feet between;
- Unto thine eyes the glass where that is seen
- Which had Life's form and Love's, but by my spell
- Is now a shaken shadow intolerable,
- Of ultimate things unuttered the frail screen.
- Mark me, how still I am! But should there dart
10 One moment through thy soul the soft surprise
- Of that winged Peace which lulls the
- Then shalt thou see me smile, and turn apart
- Thy visage to mine ambush at thy heart
- Sleepless with cold commemorative eyes.
- Whence came his feet into my field, and why?
- How is it that he sees it all so drear?
- How do I see his seeing, and how hear
- The name his bitter silence knows it by?
- This was the little fold of separate sky
- Whose pasturing clouds in the soul's atmosphere
- Drew living light from one continual year:
- How should he find it lifeless? He, or I?
- Lo! this new Self now wanders round my field,
10 With plaints for every flower, and for each tree
- A moan, the sighing wind's auxiliary:
- And o'er sweet waters of my life, that yield
- Unto his lips no draught but tears unseal'd,
- Even in my place he weeps. Even I, not he.
- To-day Death seems to me an infant child
- Which her worn mother Life upon my knee
- Has set to grow my friend and play with me;
- If haply so my heart might be beguil'd
- To find no terrors in a face so mild,—
- If haply so my weary heart might be
- Unto the newborn milky eyes of thee,
- O Death, before resentment reconcil'd.
- How long, O Death? And shall thy feet depart
10 Still a young child's with mine, or wilt thou stand
- Fullgrown the helpful daughter of my heart,
- What time with thee indeed I reach the strand
- Of the pale wave which knows thee what thou art,
- And drink it in the hollow of thy hand?
- And thou, O Life, the lady of all bliss,
- With whom, when our first heart beat full and fast,
- I wandered till the haunts of men were pass'd,
- And in fair places found all bowers amiss
- Till only woods and waves might hear our kiss,
- While to the winds all thought of Death we cast:—
- Ah, Life! and must I have from thee at last
- No smile to greet me and no babe but this?
- Lo! Love, the child once ours; and Song, whose
10 Blew like a flame and blossomed like a wreath;
- And Art, whose eyes were worlds by God found fair;
- These o'er the book of Nature mixed their breath
- With neck-twined arms, as oft we watched them
- And did these die that thou mightst
- When vain desire at last and vain regret
- Go hand in hand to death, and all is vain,
- What shall assuage the unforgotten pain
- And teach the unforgetful to forget?
- Shall Peace be still a sunk stream long unmet,—
- Or may the soul at once in a green plain
- Stoop through the spray of some sweet life-
- And cull the dew-drenched flowering amulet?
- Ah! when the wan soul in that golden air
10 Between the scriptured petals softly blown
- Peers breathless for the gift of grace unknown,—
- Ah! let none other alien spell soe'er
- But only the one Hope's one name be there,—
- Not less nor more, but even that word alone.
Transcribed Footnote (page 263):
END OF THE HOUSE OF LIFE.
- Let no man ask thee of anything
- Not yearborn between Spring and Spring.
- More of all worlds than he can know,
- Each day the single sun doth show.
- A trustier gloss than thou canst give
- From all wise scrolls demonstrative,
- The sea doth sigh and the wind sing.
- Let no man awe thee on any height
- Of earthly kingship's mouldering might.
10The dust his heel holds meet for thy brow
- Hath all of it been what both are now;
- And thou and he may plague together
- A beggar's eyes in some dusty weather
- When none that is now knows sound or sight.
- Crave thou no dower of earthly things
- Unworthy Hope's imaginings.
- To have brought true birth of Song to be
- And to have won hearts to Poesy,
- Or anywhere in the sun or rain
20To have loved and been beloved again,
- Is loftiest reach of Hope's bright wings.
- The wild waifs cast up by the sea
- Are diverse ever seasonably.
- Even so the soul-tides still may land
- A different drift upon the sand.
- But one the sea is evermore:
- And one be still, 'twixt shore and shore,
- As the sea's life, thy soul in thee.
- Say, hast thou pride? How then may fit
30Thy mood with flatters' silk-spun wit?
- Haply the sweet voice lifts thy crest,
- A breeze of fame made manifest.
- Nay, but then chaf'st at flattery? Pause:
- Be sure thy wrath is not because
- It makes thee feel thou lovest it.
- Let thy soul strive that still the same
- Be early friendship's sacred flame.
- The affinities have strongest part
- In youth, and draw men heart to heart:
40As life wears on and finds no rest,
- The individual in each breast
- Is tyrannous to sunder them.
- In the life-drama's stern cue-call,
- A friend's a part well-prized by all:
- And if thou meet an enemy,
- What art thou that none such should be?
- Even so: but if the two parts run
- Into each other and grow one,
- Then comes the curtain's cue to fall.
50Whate'er by other's need is claimed
- More than by thine,—to him unblamed
- Resign it: and if he should hold
- What more than he thou lack'st, bread, gold,
- Or any good whereby we live,—
- To thee such substance let him give
- Freely: nor he nor thou be shamed.
- Strive that thy works prove equal: lest
- That work which thou hast done the best
- Should come to be to thee at length
60(Even as to envy seems the strength
- Of others) hateful and abhorr'd,—
- Thine own above thyself made lord,—
- Of self-rebuke the bitterest.
- Unto the man of yearning thought
- And aspiration, to do nought
- Is in itself almost an act,—
- Being chasm-fire and cataract
- Of the soul's utter depths unseal'd.
- Yet woe to thee if once thou yield
70Unto the act of doing nought!
- How callous seems beyond revoke
- The clock with its last listless stroke!
- How much too late at length!—to trace
- The hour on its forewarning face,
- The thing thou hast not dared to do!. . . .
- Behold, this
may be thus! Ere true
- It prove, arise and bear thy yoke.
- Let lore of all Theology
- Be to thy soul what it
80But know,—the Power that fashions man
- Measured not out thy little span
- For thee to take the meting-rod
- In turn, and so approve on God
- Thy science of Theometry.
- To God at best, to Chance at worst,
- Give thanks for good things, last as first.
- But windstrown blossom is that good
- Whose apple is not gratitude.
- Even if no prayer uplift thy face,
90Let the sweet right to render grace
- As thy soul's cherished child be nurs'd.
- Didst ever say, “Lo, I forget”?
- Such thought was to remember yet.
- As in a gravegarth, count to see
- The monuments of memory.
- Be this thy soul's appointed scope:—
- Gaze onward without claim to hope,
- Nor, gazing backward, court regret.
- Honey-flowers to the honey-comb
- And the honey-bee's from home.
- A honey-comb and a honey-flower,
- And the bee shall have his hour.
- A honeyed heart for the honey-comb,
- And the humming bee flies home.
- A heavy heart in the honey-flower,
- And the bee has had his hour.
- A honey-cell's in the honeysuckle,
10And the honey-bee knows it well.
- The honey-comb has a heart of honey,
- And the humming bee's so bonny.
- A honey-flower's the honeysuckle,
- And the bee's in the honey-bell.
- The honeysuckle is sucked of honey,
- And the bee is heavy and bonny.
- Brown shell first for the butterfly
- And a bright wing by and by.
- Butterfly, good-bye to your shell,
20And, bright wings, speed you well.
- Bright lamplight for the butterfly
- And a burnt wing by and by.
- Butterfly, alas for your shell,
- And, bright wings, fare you well.
- Lost love-labour and lullaby,
- And lowly let love lie.
- Lost love-morrow and love-fellow
- And love's life lying low.
- Lovelorn labour and life laid by
30And lowly let love lie.
- Late love-longing and life-sorrow
- And love's life lying low.
- Beauty's body and benison
- With a bosom-flower new blown.
- Bitter beauty and blessing bann'd
- With a breast to burn and brand.
- Beauty's bower in the dust o'erblown
- With a bare white breast of bone.
- Barren beauty and bower of sand
40With a blast on either hand.
- Buried bars in the breakwater
- And bubble of the brimming weir.
- Body's blood in the breakwater
- And a buried body's beir.
- Buried bones in the breakwater
- And bubble of the brawling weir.
- Bitter tears in the breakwater
- And a breaking heart to bear.
- Hollow heaven and the hurricane
50And hurry of the heavy rain.
- Hurried clouds in the hollow heaven
- And a heavy rain hard-driven.
- The heavy rain it hurries amain
- And heaven and the hurricane.
- Hurrying wind o'er the heaven's hollow
- And the heavy rain to follow.
- Love, I speak to your heart,
- Your heart that is always here.
- Oh draw me deep to its sphere,
- Though you and I are apart;
- And yield, by the spirit's art,
- Each distant gift that is dear.
- O love, my love, you are here!
- Your eyes are afar to-day,
- Yet, love, look now in mine eyes.
10 Two hearts sent forth may despise
- All dead things by the way.
- All between is decay,
- Dead hours and this hour that dies,
- O love, look deep in mine eyes!
- Your hands to-day are not here,
- Yet lay them, love, in my hands.
- The hourglass sheds its sands
- All day for the dead hours' bier;
- But now, as two hearts draw near,
20 This hour like a flower expands.
- O love, your hands in my hands!
- Your voice is not on the air,
- Yet, love, I can hear your voice:
- It bids my heart to rejoice
- As knowing your heart is there,—
- A music sweet to declare
- The truth of your steadfast choice.
- O love, how sweet is your voice!
- To-day your lips are afar,
30 Yet draw my lips to them, love,
- Around, beneath, and above,
- Is frost to bind and to bar;
- But where I am and you are,
- Desire and the fire thereof.
- O kiss me, kiss me, my love!
- Your heart is never away,
- But ever with mine, for ever,
- For ever without endeavour,
- To-morrow, love, as to-day;
40Two blent hearts never astray,
- Two souls no power may sever,
- Together, O my love, for ever!
- Leaves and rain and the days of the year,
Water-willow and wellaway,)
- All these fall, and my soul gives ear,
- And she is hence who once was here.
With a wind blown night and day.)
- Ah! but now, for a secret sign,
The willow's wan and the water white,)
- In the held breath of the day's decline
- Her very face seemed pressed to mine.
With a wind blown day and night.)
- O love, of my death my life is fain;
The willows wave on the water-way,)
- Your cheek and mine are cold in the rain,
- But warm they'll be when we meet again.
With a wind blown night and day.)
- Mists are heaved and cover the sky;
The willows wail in the waning light,)
- O loose your lips, leave space for a sigh,—
- They seal my soul, I cannot die.
With a wind blown day and night.)
- Leaves and rain and the days of the year,
Water-willow and wellaway,)
- All still fall, and I still give ear,
- And she is hence, and I am here.
With a wind blown night and day.)
- In this new shade of Death, the show
- Passes me still of form and face;
- Some bent, some gazing as they go,
- Some swiftly, some at a dull pace,
- Not one that speaks in any case.
- If only one might speak!—the one
- Who never waits till I come near;
- But always seated all alone
- As listening to the sunken air,
10 Is gone before I come to her.
- O dearest! while we lived and died
- A living death in every day,
- Some hours we still were side by side,
- When where I was you too might stay
- And rest and need not go away.
- O nearest, furthest! Can there be
- At length some hard-earned heart-won home,
- Where,—exile changed for sanctuary,—
- Our lot may fill indeed its sum,
20 And you may wait and I may come?
- To-night this sunset spreads two golden wings
- Cleaving the western sky;
- Winged too with wind it is, and winnowings
- Of birds; as if the day's last hour in rings
- Of strenuous flight must die.
- Sun-steeped in fire, the homeward pinions sway
- Above the dovecote-tops;
- And clouds of starlings, ere they rest with day,
- Sink, clamorous like mill-water, at wild play,
10 By turns in every copse:
- Each tree heart-deep the wrangling rout receives,—
- Save for the whirr within,
- You could not tell the starlings from the leaves;
- Then one great puff of wings, and the swarm heaves
- Away with all its din.
- Even thus Hope's hours, in ever-eddying flight,
- To many a refuge tend;
- With the first light she laughed, and the last light
- Glows round her still; who natheless in the night
20 At length must make an end.
- And now the mustering rooks innumerable
- Together sail and soar,
- While for the day's death, like a tolling knell,
- Unto the heart they seem to cry, Farewell,
- No more, farewell, no more!
- Is Hope not plumed, as 'twere a fiery dart?
- And oh! thou dying day,
- Even as thou goest must she too depart,
- And Sorrow fold such pinions on the heart,
30 As will not fly away?
- O leave your hand where it lies cool
- Upon the eyes whose lids are hot:
- Its rosy shade is bountiful
- Of silence, and assuages thought.
- O lay your lips against your hand
- And let me feel your breath through it,
- While through the sense your song shall fit
- The soul to understand.
- The music lives upon my brain
10 Between your hands within mine eyes;
- It stirs your lifted throat like pain,
- An aching pulse of melodies.
- Lean nearer, let the music pause:
- The soul may better understand
- Your music, shadowed in your hand,
- Now while the song withdraws.
- I looked and saw your eyes
- In the shadow of your hair,
- As a traveller sees a stream
- In the shadow of the wood;
- And I said, “My faint heart sighs,
- Ah me! to linger there,
- To drink deep and to dream
- In the sweet solitude.”
- I looked and saw your heart
10 In the shadow of your eyes,
- As a seeker sees the gold
- In the shadow of the stream;
- And I said, “Ah me! what art
- Should win the immortal prize,
- Whose want must make life cold
- And Heaven a hollow dream?”
- I looked and saw your love
- In the shadow of your heart,
- As a diver sees the pearl
20 In the shadow of the sea;
- And I murmured, not above
- My breath, but all apart,—
- “Ah! you can love, true girl,
- And is your love for me?”
- Ah! dear one, we were young so long,
- It seemed that youth would never go,
- For skies and trees were ever in song
- And water in singing flow
- In the days we never again shall know.
- Alas, so long!
- Ah! then was it all Spring weather?
- Nay, but we were young and together.
- Ah! dear one, I've been old so long,
10 It seems that age is loth to part,
- Though days and years have never a song,
- And oh! have they still the art
- That warmed the pulses of heart to heart?
- Alas, so long!
- Ah! then was it all Spring weather?
- Nay, but we were young and together.
- Ah! dear one, you've been dead so long,—
- How long until we meet again,
- Where hours may never lose their song
20 Nor flowers forget the rain
- In glad noonlight that never shall wane?
- Alas, so long!
- Ah! shall it be then Spring weather,
- And ah! shall we be young together?
- Waving whispering trees,
- What do you say to the breeze
- And what says the breeze to you?
- 'Mid passing souls ill at ease,
- Moving murmuring trees,
- Would ye ever wave an Adieu?
- Tossing turbulent seas,
- Winds that wrestle with these,
- Echo heard in the shell,—
10'Mid fleeting life ill at ease,
- Restless ravening seas,—
- Would the echo sigh Farewell?
- Surging sumptuous skies,
- For ever a new surprise,
- Clouds eternally new,—
- Is every flake that flies,
- Widening wandering skies,
- For a sign—Farewell, Adieu?
- Sinking suffering heart
20That know'st how weary thou art,—
- Soul so fain for a flight,—
- Aye, spread your wings to depart,
- Sad soul and sorrowing heart,—
- Adieu, Farewell, Good-night.
- Thin are the night-skirts left behind
- By daybreak hours that onward creep,
- And thin, alas! the shred of sleep
- That wavers with the spirit's wind:
- But in half-dreams that shift and roll
- And still remember and forget,
- My soul this hour has drawn your soul
- A little nearer yet.
- Our lives, most dear, are never near,
10 Our thoughts are never far apart,
- Though all that draws us heart to heart
- Seems fainter now and now more clear.
- To-night Love claims his full control,
- And with desire and with regret
- My soul this hour has drawn your soul
- A little nearer yet.
- Is there a home where heavy earth
- Melts to bright air that breathes no pain,
- Where water leaves no thirst again
20And springing fire is Love's new birth?
- If faith long bound to one true goal
- May there at length its hope beget,
- My soul that hour shall draw your soul
- For ever nearer yet.
- There is a cloud above the sunset hill,
- That wends and makes no stay,
- For its goal lies beyond the fiery west;
- A lingering breath no calm can chase away,
- The onward labour of the wind's last will;
- A flying foam that overleaps the crest
- Of the top wave: and in possession still
- A further reach of longing; though at rest
- From all the yearning years,
10Together in the bosom of that day
- Ye cling, and with your kisses drink your tears.
- The day is dark and the night
- To him that would search their heart;
- No lips of cloud that will part
- Nor morning song in the light:
- Only, gazing alone,
- To him wild shadows are shown,
- Deep under deep unknown
- And height above unknown height.
- Still we say as we go,—
10 “Strange to think by the way,
- Whatever there is to know,
- That shall we know one day.”
- The Past is over and fled;
- Named new, we name it the old;
- Thereof some tale hath been told,
- But no word comes from the dead;
- Whether at all they be,
- Or whether as bond or free,
- Or whether they too were we,
20Or by what spell they have sped.
- Still we say as we go,—
- “Strange to think by the way,
- Whatever there is to know,
- That shall we know one day.”
- What of the heart of hate
- That beats in thy breast, O Time?—
- Red strife from the furthest prime,
- And anguish of fierce debate;
- War that shatters her slain,
30 And peace that grinds them as grain,
- And eyes fixed ever in vain
- On the pitiless eyes of Fate.
- Still we say as we go,—
- “Strange to think by the way,
- Whatever there is to know,
- That shall we know one day.”
- What of the heart of love
- That bleeds in thy breast, O Man?—
- Thy kisses snatched 'neath the ban
40Of fangs that mock them above;
- Thy bells prolonged unto knells,
- Thy hope that a breath dispels,
- Thy bitter forlorn farewells
- And the empty echoes thereof?
- Still we say as we go,—
- “Strange to think by the way,
- Whatever there is to know,
- That shall we know one day.”
- The sky leans dumb on the sea,
50 Aweary with all its wings;
- And oh! the song the sea sings
- Is dark everlastingly.
- Our past is clean forgot,
- Our present is and is not,
- Our future's a sealed seedplot,
- And what betwixt them are we?—
- We who say as we go,—
- “Strange to think by the way,
- Whatever there is to know,
60 That shall we know one day.”
- Turn not the prophet's page, O Son! He knew
- All that thou hast to suffer, and hath writ.
- Not yet thine hour of knowledge. Infinite
- The sorrows that thy manhood's lot must rue
- And dire acquaintance of thy grief. That clue
- The spirits of thy mournful ministerings
- Seek through yon scroll in silence. For these
- The angels have desired to look into.
- Still before Eden waves the fiery sword,—
10 Her Tree of Life unransomed: whose sad Tree
- Of Knowledge yet to growth of Calvary
- Must yield its Tempter,—Hell the earliest dead
- Of Earth resign,—and yet, O Son and Lord,
- The Seed o' the woman bruise the serpent's
Transcribed Footnote (page ):
1 In this picture the Virgin Mother is seen
from the Child Saviour the prophetic writings in which
sufferings are foretold. Angelic figures beside them
- What masque of what old wind-withered New-Year
- Honours this Lady?
- For birth, and with all flowrets prankt and pied:
- Aurora, Zephyrus, with mutual cheer
- Of clasp and kiss: the Graces circling near,
- 'Neath bower-linked arch of white arms glorified:
- And with those feathered feet which hovering
- O'er Spring's brief bloom, Hermes the harbinger.
- Birth-bare, not death-bare yet, the young stems
10 This Lady's temple-columns: o'er her head
- Love wings his shaft. What mystery here is read
- Of homage or of hope? But how command
- Dead Springs to answer? And how question here
- These mummers of that wind-withered New-
Transcribed Footnote (page 312):
1 The same lady, here surrounded by the masque
Spring, is evidently the subject of a portrait by Botticelli
merly in the Pourtalès collection in Paris. This
inscribed “Smeralda Bandinelli.”
- With Shakspeare's manhood at a boy's wild
- Through Hamlet's doubt to Shakspeare near
- And kin to Milton through his Satan's pride,—
- At Death's sole door he stooped, and craved a dart;
- And to the dear new bower of England's art,—
- Even to that shrine Time else had deified,
- The unuttered heart that soared against his
- Drove the fell point, and smote life's seals apart.
- Thy nested home-loves, noble Chatterton;
10 The angel-trodden stair thy soul could trace
- Up Redcliffe's spire; and in the world's armed
- Thy gallant sword-play:—these to many an one
- Are sweet for ever; as thy grave unknown
- And love-dream of thine unrecorded face.
- This is the place. Even here the dauntless soul,
- The unflinching hand, wrought on; till in that
- As on that very bed, his life partook
- New birth, and passed. Yon river's dusky shoal,
- Whereto the close-built coiling lanes unroll,
- Faced his work-window, whence his eyes would
- Thought-wandering, unto nought that met them
- But to the unfettered irreversible goal.
- This cupboard, Holy of Holies, held the cloud
10 Of his soul writ and limned; this other one,
- His true wife's charge, full oft to their abode
- Yielded for daily bread the martyr's stone,
- Ere yet their food might be that Bread alone,
- The words now home-speech of the mouth of God.
- His Soul fared forth (as from the deep home-grove
- The father-songster plies the hour-long quest,)
- To feed his soul-brood hungering in the nest;
- But his warm Heart, the mother-bird, above
- Their callow fledgling progeny still hove
- With tented roof of wings and fostering breast
- Till the Soul fed the soul-brood. Richly blest
- From Heaven their growth, whose food was Human
- Yet ah! Like desert pools that show the stars
10 Once in long leagues,—even
such the scarce-
- snatched hours
- Which deepening pain left to his lordliest
- Heaven lost through spider-trammelled prison-bars.
- Six years, from sixty saved! Yet kindling skies
- Own them, a beacon to our centuries.
- The weltering London ways where children weep
- And girls whom none call maidens laugh,—
- strange road
- Miring his outward steps, who inly trode
- The bright Castalian brink and Latmos' steep:—
- Even such his life's cross-paths; till deathly deep
- He toiled through sands of Lethe; and long pain,
- Weary with labour spurned and love found vain,
- In dead Rome's sheltering shadow wrapped his
- O pang-dowered Poet, whose reverberant lips
10And heart-strung lyre awoke the Moon's eclipse,—
- Thou whom the daisies glory in growing o'er,—
- Their fragrance clings around thy name, not writ
- But rumour'd in water, while the fame of it
- Along Time's flood goes echoing evermore.
- 'Twixt those twin
worlds,—the world of Sleep,
- which gave
- No dream to warn,—the tidal world of Death,
- Which the earth's sea, as the earth, replenisheth,—
- Shelley, Song's orient sun, to breast the wave,
- Rose from this couch that morn. Ah! did he brave
- Only the sea?—or did man's deed of hell
- Engulph his bark 'mid mists impenetrable? . . . .
- No eye discerned, nor any power might save.
- When that mist cleared, O Shelley! what dread veil
10 Was rent from thee, to whom far-darkling Truth
- Reigned sovereign guide through thy brief age-
- less youth?
- Was the Truth
- Past doubt, thou gav'st it; and in
- Art first of praisers, being most
- The head and hands of murdered Cicero,
- Above his seat high in the Forum hung,
- Drew jeers and burning tears. When on the rung
- Of a swift-mounted ladder, all aglow,
- Fluvia, Mark Antony's shameless wife, with show
- Of foot firm-poised and gleaming arm upflung,
- Bade her sharp needle pierce that god-like tongue
- Whose speech fed Rome even as the Tiber's flow.
- And thou, Cleopatra's Needle, that hadst thrid
10Great skirts of Time ere she and Antony hid
- Dead hope!—hast thou too reached, surviving
- A city of sweet speech scorned,—on whose chill stone
- Keats withered, Coleridge pined, and Chatterton,
- Breadless, with poison froze the God-fired breath?
- In grappled ships around The Victory,
- Three boys did England's Duty with stout cheer,
- While one dread truth was kept from every ear,
- More dire than deafening fire that churned the sea:
- For in the flag-ship's weltering cockpit, he
- Who was the Battle's Heart without a peer,
- He who had seen all fearful sights save Fear,
- Was passing from all life save Victory.
- And round the old memorial board to-day,
10 Three greybeards—each a warworn British Tar—
- View through the mist of years that hour afar:
- Who soon shall greet, 'mid memories of fierce fray,
- The impassioned soul which on its radiant way
- Soared through the fiery cloud of Trafalgar.
- From him did forty million serfs, endow'd
- Each with six feet of death-due soil, receive
- Rich freeborn lifelong land, whereon to sheave
- Their country's harvest. These to-day aloud
- Demand of Heaven a Father's blood,—sore bow'd
- With tears and thrilled with wrath; who, while
- they grieve,
- On every guilty head would fain achieve
- All torment by his edicts disallow'd.
- He stayed the knout's red-ravening fangs; and first
10 Of Russian traitors, his own murderers go
- White to the tomb. While he,—laid foully low
- With limbs red-rent, with festering brain which erst
- Willed kingly freedom,—'gainst the deed accurst
- To God bears witness of his people's woe.
- Did she in summer write it, or in spring,
- Or with this wail of autumn at her ears,
- Or in some winter left among old years
- Scratched it through tettered cark? A certain thing
- That round her heart the frost was hardening,
- Not to be thawed of tears, which on this pane
- Channelled the rime, perchance, in fevered rain,
- For false man's sake and love's most bitter sting.
- Howbeit, between this last word and the next
10Unwritten, subtly seasoned was the smart,
- And here at least the grace to weep: if she,
- Rather, midway in her disconsolate text,
- Rebelled not, loathing from the trodden heart
- That thing which she had found man's love to be.
Transcribed Footnote (page 321):
1 For a woman's fragmentary inscription.
- How large that thrush looks on the bare thorn-tree!
- A swarm of such, three little months ago,
- Had hidden in the leaves and let none know
- Save by the outburst of their minstrelsy.
- A white flake here and there—a snow-lily
- Of last night's frost—our naked flower-beds hold;
- And for a rose-flower on the darkling mould
- The hungry redbreast gleams. No bloom, no bee.
- The current shudders to its ice-bound sedge:
10 Nipped in their bath, the stark reeds one by one
- Flash each its clinging diamond in the sun:
- 'Neath winds which for this Winter's sovereign
- Shall curb great king-masts to the ocean's edge
- And leave memorial forest-king's o'erthrown.
- Soft-littered is the new-year's lambing-fold,
- And in the hollowed haystack at its side
- The shepherd lies o'nights now, wakeful-eyed
- At the ewes' travailing call through the dark cold.
- The young rooks cheep 'mid the thick caw o'the old:
- And near unpeopled stream-sides, on the ground,
- By her spring-cry the moorhen's nest is found,
- Where the drained flood-lands flaunt their marigold.
- Chill are the gusts to which the pastures cower,
10 And chill the current where the young reeds stand
- As green and close as the young wheat on land:
- Yet here the cuckoo and the cuckoo-flower
- Plight to the heart Spring's perfect imminent hour
- Whose breath shall soothe you like your dear
- one's hand.
- Sister, first shake we off the dust we have
- Upon our feet, lest it defile the stones
- Inscriptured, covering their sacred bones
- Who lie i'the aisles which keep the names they gave,
- Their trust abiding round them in the grave;
- Whom painters paint for visible orisons,
- And to whom sculptors pray in stone and bronze;
- Their voices echo still like a spent wave.
- Without here, the church-bells are but a tune,
10And on the carven church-door this hot noon
- Lays all its heavy sunshine here without:
- But having entered in, we shall find there
- Silence, and sudden dimness, and deep prayer,
- And faces of crowned angels all about.
- Upon the landscape of his coming life
- A youth high-gifted gazed, and found it fair:
- The heights of work, the floods of praise, were
- What friendships, what desires, what love, what
- All things to come. The fanned springtide was rife
- With imminent solstice; and the ardent air
- Had summer sweets and autumn fires to bear;—
- Heart's ease full-pulsed with perfect strength for
- A mist has risen: we see the youth no more:
he see on and strive on? And
- Late-tottering worldworn hence, find
his to be
- The young strong hand which helps us up that
- Or, echoing the No More with Nevermore,
- Must Night be ours and his? We hope: and he?
- How dear the sky has been above this place!
- Small treasures of this sky that we see here
- Seen weak through prison-bars from year to
- Eyed with a painful prayer upon God's grace
- To save, and tears that stayed along the face
- Lifted at sunset. Yea, how passing dear,
- Those nights when through the bars a wind left
- The heaven, and moonlight soothed the limpid
- So was it, till one night the secret kept
10 Safe in low vault and stealthy corridor
- Was blown abroad on gospel-tongues of flame.
- O ways of God, mysterious evermore!
- How many on this spot have cursed and wept
- That all might stand here now and own Thy
- “There is a budding morrow in midnight:”—
- So sang our Keats, our English nightingale.
- And here, as lamps across the bridge turn pale
- In London's smokeless resurrection-light,
- Dark breaks to dawn. But o'er the deadly blight
- Of love deflowered and sorrow of none avail
- Which makes this man gasp and this woman
- Can day from darkness ever again take flight?
- Ah! gave not these two hearts their mutual pledge,
10Under one mantle sheltered 'neath the hedge
- In gloaming courtship? And O God! to-day
- He only knows he holds her;—but what part
- Can life now take? She cries in her locked heart,—
- “Leave me—I do not know
- Her lute hangs shadowed in the apple-tree,
- While flashing fingers weave the sweet-strung
- Between its chords; and as the wild notes swell,
- The sea-bird for those branches leaves the sea.
- But to what sound her listening ear stoops she?
- What netherworld gulf-whispers doth she hear,
- In answering echoes from what planisphere,
- Along the wind, along the estuary?
- She sinks into her spell: and when full soon
10 Her lips move and she soars into her song,
- What creatures of the midmost main shall throng
- In furrowed surf-clouds to the summoning rune:
- Till he, the fated mariner, hears her cry,
- And up her rock, bare-breasted, comes to die?
- Behold Fiammetta, shown in Vision here.
- Gloom-girt 'mid Spring-flushed apple-growth she
- And as she sways the branches with her hands,
- Along her arm the sundered bloom falls sheer,
- In separate petals shed, each like a tear;
- While from the quivering bough the bird expands
- His wings. And lo! thy spirit understands
- Life shaken and shower'd and flown, and Death
- drawn near.
- All stirs with change. Her garments beat the air:
10 The angel circling round her aureole
- Shimmers in flight against the tree's grey bole:
- While she, with reassuring eyes most fair,
- A presage and a promise stands; as 'twere
- On Death's dark storm the rainbow of the Soul.
- The thronged boughs of the shadowy sycamore
- Still bear young leaflets half the summer through;
- From when the robin 'gainst the unhidden blue
- Perched dark, till now, deep in the leafy core,
- The embowered throstle's urgent wood-notes soar
- Through summer silence. Still the leaves come
- Yet never rosy-sheathed as those which drew
- Their spiral tongues from spring-buds heretofore.
- Within the branching shade of Reverie
10Dreams even may spring till autumn; yet none be
- Like woman's budding day-dream spirit-fann'd.
- Lo! tow'rd deep skies, not deeper than her look,
- She dreams; till now on her forgotten book
- Drops the forgotten blossom from her hand.
- Mystery: lo! betwixt the sun and moon
- Astarte of the Syrians: Venus Queen
- Ere Aphrodite was. In silver sheen
- Her twofold girdle clasps the infinite boon
- Of bliss whereof the heaven and earth commune:
- And from her neck's inclining flower-stem lean
- Love-freighted lips and absolute eyes that wean
- The pulse of hearts to the spheres' dominant tune.
- Torch-bearing her sweet ministers compel
10 All thrones of light beyond the sky and sea
- The witness of Beauty's face to be:
- That face, of Love's all-penetrative spell
- Amulet, talisman, and oracle,—
- Betwixt the sun and moon a mystery.
- Lungi è la luce che in sù
- Rifrange appena, un breve istante scorta
- Del rio palazzo alla soprana porta.
- Lungi quei fiori d'Enna, O lido oscuro,
- Dal frutto tuo fatal che omai m'è duro.
- Lungi quel cielo dal tartareo manto
- Che quì mi cuopre: e lungi ahi lungi ahi quanto
- Le notti che saràn dai dì che furo.
- Lungi da me mi sento; e ognor sognando
10 Cerco e ricerco, e resto ascoltatrice;
- E qualche cuore a qualche anima dice,
- (Di cui mi giunge il suon da quando in quando,
- Continuamente insieme sospirando,)—
- “Oimè per te, Proserpina infelice!”
- Afar away the light that brings cold cheer
- Unto this wall,—one instant and no more
- Admitted at my distant palace-door.
- Afar the flowers of Enna from this drear
- Dire fruit, which, tasted once, must thrall me here.
- Afar those skies from this Tartarean grey
- That chills me: and afar, how far away,
- The nights that shall be from the days that were.
- Afar from mine own self I seem, and wing
10 Strange ways in thought, and listen for a sign:
- And still some heart unto some soul doth pine,
- (Whose sounds mine inner sense is fain to bring,
- Continually together murmuring,)—
- “Woe's me for thee, unhappy Proserpine!”
- O bella Mano, che ti lavi e piaci
- In quel medesmo tuo puro elemento
- Donde la Dea dell' amoroso avvento
- Nacque, (e dall' onda s'infuocar le faci
- Di mille inispegnibili fornaci):—
- Come a Venere a te l'oro e l'argento
- Offron gli Amori; e ognun riguarda attento
- La bocca che sorride e te che taci.
- In dolce modo dove onor t'invii
10 Vattene adorna, e porta insiem fra tante
- Di Venere e di vergine sembiante;
- Umilemente in luoghi onesti e pii
- Bianca e soave ognora; infin che sii,
- O Mano, mansueta in man d'amante.
- O lovely hand, that thy sweet self dost lave
- In that thy pure and proper element,
- Whence erst the Lady of Love's high advènt
- Was born, and endless fires sprang from the
- Even as her Loves to her their offerings gave,
- For thee the jewelled gifts they bear; while each
- Looks to those lips, of music-measured speech
- The fount, and of more bliss than man may crave.
- In royal wise ring-girt and bracelet-spann'd,
10 A flower of Venus' own virginity,
- Go shine among thy sisterly sweet band;
- In maiden-minded converse delicately
- Evermore white and soft; until thou be,
- O hand! heart-handsel'd in a lover's hand.
CHISWICK PRESS:—CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO.,
Tooks Court, Chancery Lane.
Note: justified, centered.
Will be published immediately.
A New Edition, with Additions
BY DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI.
Crown 8vo, bound from the author's design.
Revised and Re-arranged Edition, crown 8vo, price
DANTE AND HIS CIRCLE;
WITH THE ITALIAN POETS PRECEDING HIM
A Collection of Lyrics,
Edited and Translated in the
BY D. G. ROSSETTI.
This work includes a translation of
THE VITA NUOVA OF DANTE.