Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature D (Delaware Museum, final revise)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 April 22
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Chiswick Press, C. Whittingham and Co.
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
- 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
- “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
“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 fell too,—
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,
Manuscript Addition: If possible, get “ah no!” / into
Editorial Description: DGR's note to line 32 in right margin.
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.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1