Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature P (Delaware Museum, 9 May proof,
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 9
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Chiswick Press, C. Whittingham and Co.
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
Manuscript Addition: 3b
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
- 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
- No breath of song, thy voice alone is there,
- O bitterly beloved! and all her gain
- Is but the pang of unpermitted prayer.
- 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
- 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.”
- 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
- Then the dark ripples spread to waving hair,
- And as I stooped, her own lips rising there
- Bubbled with brimming kisses at my mouth.
- And now Love sang: but his was such a
- 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
- “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
- 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
- Alas! if ever such a pillow could
- Steep deep the soul in sleep till she were
- Better all life forget her than this thing,
- That Willowwood should hold her wandering!”
- 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
- 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.
- What of her glass without her? The blank
- 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
- 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.
- Sweet Love,—but oh! most dread Desire of
- 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
- The unyielding caves of some deep treasure-trove.
- Also his lips, two writhen flakes of flame,
10 Made moan: “Alas O Love, thus leashed
- Wing-footed thou, wing-shouldered, once
- And I, thy cowering self, in chains grown tame,—
- Bound to thy body and soul, named with thy
- Life's iron heart, even Love's Fatality.”
- The hour which might have been yet might not
- Which man's and woman's heart conceived
- 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
- 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!”
- By thine own tears thy song must tears
- 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
- Some prisoned moon in steep
- 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