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.
Issue: 4

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

Image of page 33 page: 33
Sig. D
  • 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.
Image of page 34 page: 34
  • 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.”
Image of page 35 page: 35
  • 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.
Image of page 36 page: 36
  • 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.
Image of page 37 page: 37
  • “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 passed through,
  • “And I ere long will be with you.”
  • Then low on the hearth her knees sank prone;
  • She signed all folk from the threshold-stone,
  • 190And gazed in the dead man's face alone.
Image of page 38 page: 38
  • 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.
Image of page 39 page: 39
  • “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.
Image of page 40 page: 40
  • '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?”
Image of page 41 page: 41
  • 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.
Image of page 42 page: 42
  • “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.”
Image of page 43 page: 43
  • 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!”
Image of page 44 page: 44
  • She turned, sore dazed, for a voice was near,
  • And she knew that some one called to her.
  • On many a column fair and tall
  • A high court ran round the castle-hall;
  • And thence it was that the priest did call.
  • “I sought your child where you bade me go,
  • And in rooms around and rooms below;
  • But where, alas! may the maiden be?
  • Fear nought,—we shall find her speedily,—
  • 290But come, come hither, and seek with me.”
  • She reached the stair like a lifelorn thing,
  • But hastened upward murmuring:—
  • “Yea, Death's is a face that's fell to see;
  • But bitterer pang Life hoards for thee,
  • Thou broken heart of Rose Mary!”
Image of page 45 page: 45
  • We whose throne is the Beryl,
  • Dire-gifted spirits of fire,
  • Who for a twin
  • Leash Sorrow to Sin,
  • Who on no flower refrain to lour with peril,—
  • We cry,—O desolate daughter!
  • Thou and thy mother share newer shame with each
  • other
  • Than last night's slaughter.
  • Awake and tremble, for our curses assemble!
  • 10 What more, that thou know'st not yet,—
  • That life nor death shall forget?
  • No help from Heaven,—thy woes heart-riven are
  • sterile!
    Image of page 46 page: 46
  • O, once a maiden,
  • With yet worse sorrow can any morrow be laden?
  • It waits for thee,
  • It looms, it must be,
  • O lost among women,—
  • It comes and thou canst not flee.
  • Amen to the omen,
  • 20 Says the voice of the Beryl.
  • Thou sleep'st? Awake,—
  • What dar'st thou yet for his sake,
  • Who each for other did God's own Future imperil?
  • Dost dare to live
  • `Mid the pangs each hour must give?
  • Nay, rather die,—
  • With him thy lover 'neath Hell's cloud-cover to fly,—
  • Hopeless, yet not apart,
  • Cling heart to heart,
  • Image of page 47 page: 47
    Manuscript Addition: If possible, get “ah no!” / into this line
    Editorial Description: DGR's note to line 32 in right margin.
  • 30 And beat through the nether storm-eddying winds
  • together?
  • Shall this be so?
  • There thou shalt meet him, but may'st thou greet him?
  • ah no!
  • He loves, but thee he hoped never more to see,—
  • He sighed as he died,
  • But with never a thought for thee.
  • Alone!
  • Alone, for ever alone,—
  • Whose eyes were such wondrous spies for the fate
  • foreshown!
  • Lo! have not We leashed the twin
  • 40 Of endless Sorrow to Sin,—
  • Who on no flower refrain to lour with peril,—
  • Dire-gifted spirits of fire,
  • We whose throne is the Beryl?
Image of page 48 page: 48
  • 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