Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature G (Delaware Museum, complete final proof, copy 2)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 17
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Chiswick Press, C. Whittingham and Co.
Issue: 5

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

Image of page 81 page: 81
Sig. G
Manuscript Addition: 5
Editorial Description: Proof number added by printer.
Manuscript Addition: [Charles Whittingham's printer date stamp, 17 May 81]
  • 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.
Image of page 82 page: 82
  • 'Neath the ship's travaìl 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.
Image of page 83 page: 83
  • 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.
Image of page 84 page: 84
  • 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.
Image of page 85 page: 85
  • 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;
Image of page 86 page: 86
  • 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.”
Image of page 87 page: 87
  • 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
  • save!”
  • He clutched to the yard with panting stare,
  • And we looked and knew Fitz-Stephen there.
  • He clung, and “What of the Prince?” quoth he.
  • “Lost, lost!” we cried. He cried, “Woe on me!”
  • 190And loosed his hold and sank through the sea.
Image of page 88 page: 88
  • 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.
Image of page 89 page: 89
  • 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.
Image of page 90 page: 90
  • 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?”
Image of page 91 page: 91
  • 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.”
Image of page 92 page: 92
  • 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,
Image of page 93 page: 93
  • 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.
Image of page 94 page: 94
  • “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.
Image of page 95 page: 95
  • 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.)
page: [96]
Note: blank page
Electronic Archive Edition: 1