Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature P (Delaware Museum, 6 May proof, copy 1)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 6
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 209 page: 209
Sig. P
Manuscript Addition: 2a
Editorial Description: Printer's proof number added in upper left.
Manuscript Addition: [Charles Whittingham's printer date stamp, 4 May 81]

  • The mother will not turn, who thinks she hears
  • Her nursling's speech first grow articulate;
  • But breathless with averted eyes elate
  • She sits, with open lips and open ears,
  • That it may call her twice. 'Mid doubts and fears
  • Thus oft my soul has hearkened; till the song,
  • A central moan for days, at length found tongue,
  • And the sweet music welled and the sweet tears.
  • But now, whatever while the soul is fain
  • 10 To list that wonted murmur, as it were
  • The speech-bound sea-shell's low importunate
  • strain,—
  • No breath of song, thy voice alone is there,
  • O bitterly beloved! and all her gain
  • Is but the pang of unpermitted prayer.
Image of page 210 page: 210

  • There came an image in Life's retinue
  • That had Love's wings and bore his gonfalon:
  • Fair was the web, and nobly wrought thereon,
  • O soul-sequestered face, thy form and hue!
  • Bewildering sounds, such as Spring wakens to,
  • Shook in its folds; and through my heart its
  • power
  • Sped trackless as the immemorable hour
  • When birth's dark portal groaned and all was new.
  • But a veiled woman followed, and she caught
  • 10 The banner round its staff, to furl and cling,—
  • Then plucked a feather from the bearer's wing,
  • And held it to his lips that stirred it not,
  • And said to me, “Behold, there is no breath:
  • I and this Love are one, and I am Death.”
Image of page 211 page: 211

  • I sat with Love upon a woodside well,
  • Leaning across the water, I and he;
  • Nor ever did he speak nor looked at me,
  • But touched his lute wherein was audible
  • The certain secret thing he had to tell:
  • Only our mirrored eyes met silently
  • In the low wave; and that sound came to be
  • The passionate voice I knew; and my tears fell.
  • And at their fall, his eyes beneath grew hers;
  • 10And with his foot and with his wing-feathers
  • He swept the spring that watered my heart's
  • drouth.
  • Then the dark ripples spread to waving hair,
  • And as I stooped, her own lips rising there
  • Bubbled with brimming kisses at my mouth.
Image of page 212 page: 212
  • And now Love sang: but his was such a song,
  • So meshed with half-remembrance hard to free,
  • As souls disused in death's sterility
  • May sing when the new birthday tarries long.
  • And I was made aware of a dumb throng
  • That stood aloof, one form by every tree,
  • All mournful forms, for each was I or she,
  • The shades of those our days that had no tongue.
  • They looked on us, and knew us and were known;
  • 10 While fast together, alive from the abyss,
  • Clung the soul-wrung implacable close kiss;
  • And pity of self through all made broken moan
  • Which said, “For once, for once, for once alone!”
  • And still Love sang, and what he sang was this:—
Image of page 213 page: 213
  • “O ye, all ye that walk in Willowwood,
  • That walk with hollow faces burning white;
  • What fathom-depth of soul-struck widowhood,
  • What long, what longer hours, one lifelong night,
  • Ere ye again, who so in vain have wooed
  • Your last hope lost, who so in vain invite
  • Your lips to that their unforgotten food,
  • Ere ye, ere ye again shall see the light!
  • Alas! the bitter banks in Willowwood,
  • 10 With tear-spurge wan, with blood-wort burning
  • red:
  • Alas! if ever such a pillow could
  • Steep deep the soul in sleep till she were dead,—
  • Better all life forget her than this thing,
  • That Willowwood should hold her wandering!”
Image of page 214 page: 214
  • So sang he: and as meeting rose and rose
  • Together cling through the wind's wellaway
  • Nor change at once, yet near the end of day
  • The leaves drop loosened where the heart-stain
  • glows,—
  • So when the song died did the kiss unclose;
  • And her face fell back drowned, and was as grey
  • As its grey eyes; and if it ever may
  • Meet mine again I know not if Love knows.
  • Only I know that I leaned low and drank
  • 10A long draught from the water where she sank,
  • Her breath and all her tears and all her soul:
  • And as I leaned, I know I felt Love's face
  • Pressed on my neck with moan of pity and grace,
  • Till both our heads were in his aureole.
Image of page 215 page: 215

  • What of her glass without her? The blank grey
  • There where the pool is blind of the moon's face.
  • Her dress without her? The tossed empty space
  • Of cloud-rack whence the moon has passed away.
  • Her paths without her? Day's appointed sway
  • Usurped by desolate night. Her pillowed place
  • Without her? Tears, ah me! for love's good
  • grace,
  • And cold forgetfulness of night or day.
  • What of the heart without her? Nay, poor heart,
  • 10 Of thee what word remains ere speech be still?
  • A wayfarer by barren ways and chill,
  • Steep ways and weary, without her thou art,
  • Where the long cloud, the long wood's counterpart,
  • Sheds doubled darkness up the labouring hill.
Image of page 216 page: 216

  • Sweet Love,—but oh! most dread Desire of Love
  • Life-thwarted. Linked in gyves I saw them stand,
  • Love shackled with Vain-longing, hand to hand:
  • And one was eyed as the blue vault above:
  • But hope tempestuous like a fire-cloud hove
  • I' the other's gaze, even as in his whose wand
  • Vainly all night with spell-wrought power has
  • spann'd
  • The unyielding caves of some deep treasure-trove.
  • Also his lips, two writhen flakes of flame,
  • 10 Made moan: “Alas O Love, thus leashed with
  • me!
  • Wing-footed thou, wing-shouldered, once born
  • free:
  • And I, thy cowering self, in chains grown tame,—
  • Bound to thy body and soul, named with thy
  • name,—
  • Life's iron heart, even Love's Fatality.”
Image of page 217 page: 217

  • The hour which might have been yet might not be,
  • Which man's and woman's heart conceived and
  • bore
  • Yet whereof life was barren,—on what shore
  • Bides it the breaking of Time's weary sea?
  • Bondchild of all consummate joys set free,
  • It somewhere sighs and serves, and mute before
  • The house of Love, hears through the echoing door
  • His hours elect in choral consonancy.
  • But lo! what wedded souls now hand in hand
  • 10Together tread at last the immortal strand
  • With eyes where burning memory lights love
  • home?
  • Lo! how the little outcast hour has turned
  • And leaped to them and in their faces yearned:—
  • “I am your child: O parents, ye have come!”
Image of page 218 page: 218

  • To be a sweetness more desired than Spring;
  • A bodily beauty more acceptable
  • Than the wild rose-tree's arch that crowns the fell;
  • To be an essence more environing
  • Than wine's drained juice; a music ravishing
  • More than the passionate pulse of Philomel;—
  • To be all this 'neath one soft bosom's swell
  • That is the flower of life:—how strange a thing!
  • How strange a thing to be what Man can know
  • 10 But as a sacred secret! Heaven's own screen
  • Hides her soul's purest depth and loveliest glow;
  • Closely withheld, as all things most unseen,—
  • The wave-bowered pearl,—the heart-shaped seal of
  • green
  • That flecks the snowdrop underneath the snow.
Image of page 219 page: 219
  • She loves him; for her infinite soul is Love,
  • And he her lodestar. Passion in her is
  • A glass facing his fire, where the bright bliss
  • Is mirrored, and the heat returned. Yet move
  • That glass, a stranger's amorous flame to prove,
  • And it shall turn, by instant contraries,
  • Ice to the moon; while her pure fire to his
  • For whom it burns, clings close i' the heart's alcove.
  • Lo! they are one. With wifely breast to breast
  • 10 And circling arms, she welcomes all command
  • Of love,—her soul to answering ardours fann'd:
  • Yet as morn springs or twilight sinks to rest,
  • Ah! who shall say she deems not loveliest
  • The hour of sisterly sweet hand-in-hand?
Image of page 220 page: 220
  • If to grow old in Heaven is to grow young,
  • (As the Seer saw and said,) then blest were he
  • With youth for evermore, whose heaven should be
  • True Woman, she whom these weak notes have
  • sung.
  • Here and hereafter,—choir-strains of her tongue,—
  • Sky-spaces of her eyes,—sweet signs that flee
  • About her soul's immediate sanctuary,—
  • Were Paradise all uttermost worlds among.
  • The sunrise blooms and withers on the hill
  • 10 Like any hillflower; and the noblest troth
  • Dies here to dust. Yet shall Heaven's promise
  • clothe
  • Even yet those lovers who have cherished still
  • This test for love:—in every kiss sealed fast
  • To feel the first kiss and forbode the last.
Image of page 221 page: 221

  • Love to his singer held a glistening leaf,
  • And said: “The rose-tree and the apple-tree
  • Have fruits to vaunt or flowers to lure the bee;
  • And golden shafts are in the feathered sheaf
  • Of the great harvest-marshal, the year's chief,
  • Victorious Summer; aye, and 'neath warm sea
  • Strange secret grasses lurk inviolably
  • Between the filtering channels of sunk reef.
  • All are my blooms; and all sweet blooms of love
  • 10 To thee I gave while Spring and Summer sang;
  • But Autumn stops to listen, with some pang
  • From those worse things the wind is moaning of.
  • Only this laurel dreads no winter days:
  • Take my last gift; thy heart hath sung my praise.”
Image of page 222 page: 222

  • As growth of form or momentary glance
  • In a child's features will recall to mind
  • The father's with the mother's face combin'd,—
  • Sweet interchange that memories still enhance:
  • And yet, as childhood's years and youth's advance,
  • The gradual mouldings leave one stamp behind,
  • Till in the blended likeness now we find
  • A separate man's or woman's countenance:—
  • So in the Song, the singer's Joy and Pain,
  • 10 Its very parents, evermore expand
  • To bid the passion's fullgrown birth remain,
  • By Art's transfiguring essence subtly spann'd;
  • And from that song-cloud shaped as a man's hand
  • There comes the sound as of abundant rain.
Image of page 223 page: 223
Note: The printer has marked lines 7 and 14 for improving the spacing. The font used for the title is incorrect.

  • By thine own tears thy song must tears beget,
  • O Singer! Magic mirror thou hast none
  • Except thy manifest heart; and save thine own
  • Anguish or ardour, else no amulet.
  • Cisterned in Pride, verse is the feathery jet
  • Of soulless air-flung fountains; nay, more dry
  • Than the Dead Sea for throats that thirst and sigh,
  • That song o'er which no singer's lids grew wet.
  • The Song-god—He the Sun-god—is no slave
  • 10 Of thine; thy Hunter he, who for thy soul
  • Fledges his shaft: to no august control
  • Of thy skilled hand his quivered store he gave:
  • But if thy lips' loud cry leap to his smart,
  • The inspir'd recoil shall pierce thy brother's heart.
Image of page 224 page: 224

  • Some prisoned moon in steep cloud-fastnesses,—
  • Throned queen and thralled; some dying sun
  • whose pyre
  • Blazed with momentous memorable fire;—
  • Who hath not yearned and fed his heart with these?
  • Who, sleepless, hath not anguished to appease
  • Tragical shadow's realm of sound and sight
  • Conjectured in the lamentable night? . . . . .
  • Lo! the soul's sphere of infinite images!
  • What sense shall count them? Whether it forecast
  • 10 The rose-winged hours that flutter in the van
  • Of Love's unquestioning unrevealèd span,—
  • Visions of golden futures: or that last
  • Wild pageant of the accumulated past
  • That clangs and flashes for a drowning man.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1