Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature M (Delaware Museum, first
author's proof, copy 2, revise)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 April 28
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Chiswick Press, C. Whittingham and Co.
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
Manuscript Addition: 2
Editorial Description: Printer's proof number added in upper left.
Manuscript Addition: House of Life / Complete
Editorial Description: Printer's notation.
Manuscript Addition: [Charles Whittingham's printer date stamp, 28 Apr.81]
A Sonnet is a moment's monument,—
Memorial from the Soul's eternity
To one dead deathless hour. Look that it be,
Whether for lustral rite or dire portent,
Of its own arduous fulness reverent:
Carve it in ivory or in ebony,
As Day or Night may rule; and let Time see
Its flowering crest impearled and orient.
A Sonnet is a coin: its face reveals
The soul,—its converse, to what Power 'tis due:—
Whether for tribute to the august appeals
Of Life, or dower in Love's high retinue,
It serve; or, 'mid the dark wharf's cavernous breath,
In Charon's palm it pay the toll to Death.
- I marked all kindred Powers the heart finds fair:—
- Truth, with awed lips; and Hope, with
- And Fame, whose loud wings fan the ashen Past
- To signal-fires, Oblivion's flight to scare;
- And Youth, with still some single golden hair
- Unto his shoulder clinging, since the last
- Embrace wherein two sweet arms held him fast;
- And Life, still wreathing flowers for Death to wear.
- Love's throne was not with these; but far above
10 All passionate wind of welcome and farewell
- He sat in breathless bowers they dream not of;
- Though Truth foreknow Love's heart,
- And Fame be for Love's sake desirable,
- And Youth be dear, and Life be sweet to Love.
- As when desire, long darkling, dawns, and first
- The mother looks upon the newborn child,
- Even so my Lady stood at gaze and smiled
- When her soul knew at length the Love it nurs'd.
- Born with her life, creature of poignant thirst
- And exquisite hunger, at her heart Love lay
- Quickening in darkness, till a voice that day
- Cried on him, and the bonds of birth were burst.
- Now, shadowed by his wings, our faces yearn
10 Together, as his fullgrown feet now range
- The grove, and his warm hands our
- Till to his song our bodiless souls in turn
- Be born his children, when Death's nuptial change
- Leaves us for light the halo of his hair.
- O thou who at Love's hour ecstatically
- Unto my heart dost evermore present,
- Clothed with his fire, thy heart his testament;
- Whom I have neared and felt thy breath to be
- The inmost incense of his sanctuary;
- Who without speech hast owned him, and, intent
- Upon his will, thy life with mine hast blent,
- And murmured, “I am thine, thou'rt one with me!”
- O what from thee the grace, to me the prize,
10 And what to Love the glory,—when
- Of the deep stair thou tread'st to the dim shoal
- And weary water of the place of sighs,
- And there dost work deliverance, as thine eyes
- Draw up my prisoned spirit to thy soul!
- When do I see thee most, beloved one?
- When in the light the spirits of mine eyes
- Before thy face, their altar, solemnize
- The worship of that Love through thee made known?
- Or when in the dusk hours, (we two alone,)
- Close-kissed and eloquent of still replies
- Thy twilight-hidden glimmering visage lies,
- And my soul only sees thy soul its own?
- O love, my love! if I no more should see
10Thyself, nor on the earth the shadow of thee,
- Nor image of thine eyes in any spring,—
- How then should sound upon Life's darkening slope
- The ground-whirl of the perished leaves of Hope,
- The wind of Death's imperishable wing?
- By what word's power, the key of paths untrod,
- Shall I the difficult deeps of Love explore,
- Till parted waves of Song yield up the shore
- Even as that sea which Israel crossed dryshod?
- For lo! in some poor rhythmic period,
- Lady, I fain would tell how evermore
- Thy soul I know not from thy body, nor
- Thee from myself, neither our love from God.
- Yea, in God's name, and Love's, and thine, would I
10 Draw from one loving heart such evidence
- As to all hearts all things shall signify;
- Tender as dawn's first hill-fire, and intense
- As instantaneous penetrating sense,
- In Spring's birth-hour, of other Springs gone by.
- What smouldering senses in death's sick delay
- Or seizure of malign vicissitude
- Can rob this body of honour, or denude
- This soul of wedding-raiment worn to-day?
- For lo! even now my lady's lips did play
- With these my lips such consonant interlude
- As laurelled Orpheus longed for when he wooed
- The half-drawn hungering face with that last lay.
- I was a child beneath her touch,—a man
10 When breast to breast we clung, even I and she,—
- A spirit when her spirit looked through me,—
- A god when all our life-breath met to fan
- Our life-blood, till love's emulous ardours ran,
- Fire within fire, desire in deity.
- To all the spirits of Love that wander by
- Along his love-sown harvest-field of sleep
- My lady lies apparent; and the deep
- Calls to the deep; and no man sees but I.
- The bliss so long afar, at length so nigh,
- Rests there attained. Methinks proud
- When Fate's control doth from his harvest reap
- The sacred hour for which the years did sigh.
- First touched, the hand now warm around my neck
10 Taught memory long to mock desire: and lo!
- Across my breast the abandoned hair doth flow,
- Where one shorn tress long stirred the longing ache:
- And next the heart that trembled for its sake
- Lies the queen-heart in sovereign overthrow.
- Some ladies love the jewels in Love's zone
- And gold-tipped darts he hath for painless play
- In idle scornful hours he flings away;
- And some that listen to his lute's soft tone
- Do love to vaunt the silver praise their own;
- Some prize his blindfold sight; and there be they
- Who kissed his wings which brought him yester-
- And thank his wings to-day that he is flown.
- My lady only loves the heart of Love:
10 Therefore Love's heart, my lady, hath for thee
- His bower of unimagined flower and tree:
- There kneels he now, and all-anhungered of
- Thine eyes grey-lit in shadowing hair above,
- Seals with thy mouth his immortality.
- One flame-winged brought a white-winged harp—
- Even where my lady and I lay all alone;
- Saying: “Behold, this minstrel is unknown;
- Bid him depart, for I am minstrel here:
- Only my strains are to Love's dear ones dear.”
- Then said I: “Through thine
- turous tone
- Unto my lady still this harp makes moan,
- And still she deems the cadence deep and clear.”
- Then said my lady: “Thou art Passion of Love,
10 And this Love's Worship: both he plights to me.
- Thy mastering music walks the sunlit sea:
- But where wan water trembles in the grove
- And the wan moon is all the light thereof,
- This harp still makes my name its voluntary.”
- O Lord of all compassionate control,
- O Love! let this my lady's picture glow
- Under my hand to praise her name, and show
- Even of her inner self the perfect whole:
- That he who seeks her beauty's furthest goal,
- Beyond the light that the sweet glances throw
- And refluent wave of the sweet smile, may know
- The very sky and sea-line of her soul.
- Lo! it is done. Above the enthroning throat
10 The mouth's mould testifies of voice and kiss,
- The shadowed eyes remember and foresee.
- Her face is made her shrine. Let all men note
- That in all years (O Love, thy gift is this!)
- They that would look on her must come to me.
- Warmed by her hand and shadowed by her hair
- As close she leaned and poured her
- Whereof the articulate throbs accompany
- The smooth black stream that makes thy whiteness
- Sweet fluttering sheet, even of her breath aware,—
- Oh let thy silent song disclose to me
- That soul wherewith her lips and eyes agree
- Like married music in Love's answering air.
- Fain had I watched her when, at some fond thought,
10 Her bosom to the writing closelier press'd,
- And her breast's secrets peered into her breast;
- When, through eyes raised an instant, her soul
- My soul, and from the sudden confluence caught
- The words that made her love the loveliest.
- Sweet twining hedgeflowers wind-stirred in no wise
- On this June day; and hand that clings
- Still glades; and meeting faces scarcely fann'd:—
- An osier-odoured stream that draws the skies
- Deep to its heart; and mirrored eyes in eyes:—
- Fresh hourly wonder o'er the Summer land
- Of light and cloud; and two souls softly spann'd
- With one o'erarching heaven of smiles and sighs:—
- Even such their path, whose bodies lean unto
10 Each other's visible sweetness amorously,—
- Whose passionate hearts lean by
- Together on his heart for ever true,
- As the cloud-foaming firmamental blue
- Rest on the blue line of a foamless sea.
- “I love you, sweet: how can
you ever learn
- How much I love you?”
“You I love even so,
- And so I learn it.”
“Sweet, you cannot know
- How fair you are.” “If fair enough to earn
- Your love, so much is all my love's concern.”
- “My love grows hourly,
sweet.” “Mine too doth
- Yet love seemed full so many hours ago!”
- Thus lovers speak, till kisses claim their turn.
- Ah! happy they to whom such words as these
10 In youth have served for speech the whole day long,
- Hour after hour, remote from the world's throng,
- Work, contest, fame, all life's confederate pleas,—
- What while Love breathed in sighs and silences
- Through two blent souls one rapturous undersong.
- On this sweet bank your head thrice sweet and dear
- I lay, and spread your hair on either side,
- And see the newborn woodflowers bashful-eyed
- Look through the golden tresses here and there.
- On these debateable borders of the year
- Spring's foot half falters; scarce she yet may know
- The leafless blackthorn-blossom from the snow;
- And through her bowers the wind's way still is clear.
- But April's sun strikes down the glades to-day;
10 So shut your eyes upturned, and feel my kiss
- Creep, as the Spring now thrills through every spray,
- Up your warm throat to your warm lips: for this
- Is even the hour of Love's sworn suitservice,
- With whom cold hearts are counted castaway.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1