Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature K (Delaware Museum, first revise proof)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 April 17 (circa)
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Chiswick Press, C. Whittingham and Co.
Issue: 2

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

Image of page 129 page: 129
Sig. K
  • 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.
Image of page 130 page: 130
  • 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.
Image of page 131 page: 131
  • 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.
Image of page 132 page: 132
  • 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.
Image of page 133 page: 133
  • 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.
Image of page 134 page: 134
  • “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.
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  • “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.
Image of page 136 page: 136
  • 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.
Image of page 137 page: 137
  • 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 I felt the strength of a mighty man
  • As wildly across the room I ran
  • And reached her husband's side.
Image of page 138 page: 138
  • And the iron tongs from the chimney-nook
  • I snatched, nor my hand did shake,
  • But the plank at my feet I wrenched and tore,
  • And pointed down through the open floor,
  • And said, “My Liege, for her sake!”
  • And he looked to the Queen, and then he came,
  • For her hands were clasped in prayer.
  • And down he sprang to the inner crypt;
  • And straight I closed the plank I had ripp'd
  • 540And spread the rushes there.
  • (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.)
Image of page 139 page: 139
Note: An opening quotation mark is missing in line 564 of proof, before "God"
  • 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.
  • 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!
Image of page 140 page: 140
  • 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.
  • 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 raging 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.
Image of page 141 page: 141
  • And under the litters and through the bed
  • And within the presses all
  • They sought in vain 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 dropped not her eyes nor did she start,
  • But she answered never a word.
Image of page 142 page: 142
  • 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.”
Image of page 143 page: 143
  • And she said, “My Catherine, God help thee!”
  • Then she looked to the distant floor,
  • And clasping her hands, “O God help him,”
  • 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.
Image of page 144 page: 144
  • 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.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1