Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature E (Delaware Museum, final revise proof)
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.
Manuscript Addition: 4
Editorial Description: Printer's proof-sequence number in upper left corner.
Manuscript Addition: [Charles Whittingham and Chiswick Press Printer's Stamp, dated 22 Apr. 81]
Editorial Description: Stamped at upper left.
- 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.
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- 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.
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- “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.
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- 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:—
Electronic Archive Edition: 1