Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature Q (Delaware Museum, late uncorrected proof,
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 18 -1881 June
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Chiswick Press, C. Whittingham and Co.
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
Manuscript Addition: 4c
Editorial Description: Printer's proof number added in upper left.
- The changing guests, each in a different mood,
- Sit at the roadside table and arise:
- And every life among them in likewise
- Is a soul's board set daily with new food.
- What man has bent o'er his son's sleep, to brood
- How that face shall watch his when cold it lies?—
- Or thought, as his own mother kissed his eyes,
- Of what her kiss was when his father wooed?
- May not this ancient room thou sit'st in dwell
10 In separate living souls for joy or pain?
- Nay, all its corners may be painted plain
- Where Heaven shows pictures of some life spent well;
- And may be stamped, a memory all in vain,
- Upon the sight of lidless eyes in Hell.
- The cuckoo-throb, the heartbeat of the Spring;
- The rosebud's blush that leaves it as it grows
- Into the full-eyed fair unblushing rose;
- The summer clouds that visit every wing
- With fires of sunrise and of sunsetting;
- The furtive flickering streams to light re-born
- 'Mid airs new-fledged and valorous lusts of morn,
- While all the daughters of the daybreak sing:—
- These ardour loves, and memory: and when flown
10 All joys, and through dark forest-boughs in flight
- The wind swoops onward brandishing the light,
- Even yet the rose-tree's verdure left alone
- Will flush all ruddy though the rose be gone;
- With ditties and with dirges infinite.
- As two whose love, first foolish, widening scope,
- Knows suddenly, to music high and soft,
- The Holy of holies; who because they scoff'd
- Are now amazed with shame, nor dare to cope
- With the whole truth aloud, lest heaven should ope;
- Yet, at their meetings, laugh not as they laugh'd
- In speeeh; nor speak, at length; but sitting oft
- Together, within hopeless sight of hope
- For hours are silent:—So it happeneth
10 When Work and Will awake too late, to gaze
- After their life sailed by, and hold their breath.
- Ah! who shall dare to search through what sad
- Thenceforth their incommunicable ways
- Follow the desultory feet of Death?
- From child to youth; from youth to arduous man;
- From lethargy to fever of the heart;
- From faithful life to dream-dowered days apart;
- From trust to doubt; from doubt to brink of ban;—
- Thus much of change in one swift cycle ran
- Till now. Alas, the soul!—how soon must she
- Accept her primal immortality,—
- The flesh resume its dust whence it began?
- O Lord of work and peace! O Lord of life!
10 O Lord, the awful Lord of will! though late,
- Even yet renew this soul with duteous breath:
- That when the peace is garnered in from strife,
- The work retrieved, the will regenerate,
- This soul may see thy face, O Lord of death!
that the landmark? What,—the foolish well
- Whose wave, low down, I did not stoop to drink,
- But sat and flung the pebbles from its brink
- In sport to send its imaged skies pell-mell,
- (And mine own image, had I noted well!)—
- Was that my point of turning?—I had thought
- The stations of my course should rise unsought,
- As altar-stone or ensigned citadel.
- But lo! the path is missed, I must go back,
10 And thirst to drink when next I reach the spring
- Which once I stained, which since may have grown
- Yet though no light be left nor bird now sing
- As here I turn, I'll thank God, hastening,
- That the same goal is still on the same track.
- The gloom that breathes upon me with these airs
- Is like the drops which strike the traveller's brow
- Who knows not, darkling, if they bring him now
- Fresh storm, or be old rain the covert bears.
- Ah! bodes this hour some harvest of new tares,
- Or hath but memory of the day whose plough
- Sowed hunger once,—the night at length when
- O prayer found vain, didst fall from out my
- How prickly were the growths which yet how
10 Along the hedgerows of this journey shed,
- Lie by Time's grace till night and sleep may soothe!
- Even as the thistledown from pathsides dead
- Gleaned by a girl in autumns of her youth,
- Which one new year makes soft her marriage-bed.
- This sunlight shames November where he grieves
- In dead red leaves, and will not let him shun
- The day, though bough with bough be over-run.
- But with a blessing every glade receives
- High salutation; while from hillock-eaves
- The deer gaze calling, dappled white and dun,
- As if, being foresters of old, the sun
- Had marked them with the shade of forest-leaves.
- Here dawn to-day unveiled her magic glass;
10 Here noon now gives the thirst and takes the
- Till eve bring rest when other good things pass.
- And here the lost hours the lost hours renew
- While I still lead my shadow o'er the grass,
- Nor know, for longing, that which I should do.
- This feast-day of the sun, his altar there
- In the broad west has blazed for vesper-song;
- And I have loitered in the vale too long
- And gaze now a belated worshipper.
- Yet may I not forget that I was 'ware,
- So journeying, of his face at intervals
- Transfigured where the fringed horizon falls,—
- A fiery bush with coruscating hair.
- And now that I have climbed and won this height,
10 I must tread downward through the sloping shade
- And travel the bewildered tracks till night.
- Yet for this hour I still may here be stayed
- And see the gold air and the silver fade
- And the last bird fly into the last light.
- Eat thou and drink; to-morrow thou shalt die.
- Surely the earth, that's wise being very old,
- Needs not our help. Then loose me, love, and hold
- Thy sultry hair up from my face; that I
- May pour for thee this golden wine, brim-high,
- Till round the glass thy fingers glow like gold.
- We'll drown all hours: thy song, while hours are
- Shall leap, as fountains veil the changing sky.
- Now kiss, and think that there are really those,
10 My own high-bosomed beauty, who increase
- Vain gold, vain lore, and yet might choose our
- Through many years they toil; then on a day
- They die not,—for their life was death,—but cease;
- And round their narrow lips the mould falls close.
- Watch thou and fear; to-morrow thou shalt die.
- Or art thou sure thou shalt have time for death?
- Is not the day which God's word promiseth
- To come man knows not when? In yonder sky,
- Now while we speak, the sun speeds forth: can I
- Or thou assure him of his goal? God's breath
- Even at this moment haply quickeneth
- The air to a flame; till spirits, always nigh
- Though screened and hid, shall walk the daylight
10 And dost thou prate of all that man shall do?
- Canst thou, who hast but plagues, presume to
- Glad in his gladness that comes after thee?
his strength slay
thy worm in
Hell? Go to:
- Cover thy countenance, and watch, and fear.
- Think thou and act; to-morrow thou shalt die.
- Outstretched in the sun's warmth upon the shore,
- Thou say'st: “Man's measured path is all gone
- Up all his years, steeply, with strain and sigh,
- Man clomb until he touched the truth; and I,
- Even I, am he whom it was destined for.”
- How should this be? Art thou then so much more
- Than they who sowed, that thou shouldst reap
- Nay, come up hither. From this wave-washed
10 Unto the furthest flood-brim look with me;
- Then reach on with thy thought till it be drown'd.
- Miles and miles distant though the last line be,
- And though thy soul sail leagues and leagues
- Still, leagues beyond those leagues, there is more
- Give honour unto Luke Evangelist;
- For he it was (the aged legends say)
- Who first taught Art to fold her hands and pray.
- Scarcely at once she dared to rend the mist
- Of devious symbols: but soon having wist
- How sky-breadth and field-silence and this day
- Are symbols also in some deeper way,
- She looked through these to God and was God's
- And if, past noon, her toil began to irk,
10And she sought talismans, and turned in vain
- To soulless self-reflections of man's skill,—
- Yet now, in this the twilight, she might still
- Kneel in the latter grass to pray again,
- Ere the night cometh and she may not work.
- “I am not as these are,” the poet saith
- In youth's pride, and the painter, among men
- At bay, where never pencil comes nor pen,
- And shut about with his own frozen breath.
- To others, for whom only rhyme wins faith
- As poets,—only paint as painters,—then
- He turns in the cold silence; and again
- Shrinking, “I am not as these are,” he saith.
- And say that this is so, what follows it?
10 For were thine eyes set backwards in thine head,
- Such words were well; but they see on, and far.
- Unto the lights of the great Past, new-lit
- Fair for the Future's track, look thou instead,—
- Say thou instead, “I am not as
- Though God, as one that is an householder,
- Called these to labour in his vineyard first,
- Before the husk of darkness was well burst
- Bidding them grope their way out and bestir,
- (Who, questioned of their wages, answered, “Sir,
- Unto each man a penny:”) though the worst
- Burthen of heat was theirs and the dry thirst:
- Though God hath since found none such as these
- To do their work like them:—Because of this
10 Stand not ye idle in the market-place.
- Which of ye knoweth
he is not that last
- Who may be first by faith and will?—yea, his
- The hand which after the appointed days
- And hours shall give a Future to their Past?
- Under the arch of Life, where love and death,
- Terror and mystery, guard her shrine, I saw
- Beauty enthroned; and though her gaze struck
- I drew it in as simply as my breath.
- Hers are the eyes which, over and beneath,
- The sky and sea bend on thee,—which can draw,
- By sea or sky or woman, to one law,
- The allotted bondman of her palm and wreath.
- This is that Lady Beauty, in whose praise
10 Thy voice and hand shake still,—long known to
- By flying hair and fluttering hem,—the beat
- Following her daily of thy heart and feet,
- How passionately and irretrievably,
- In what fond flight, how many ways and days!
- Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
- (The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
- That, ere the snake's, her sweet tongue could de-
- And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
- And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
- And, subtly of herself contemplative,
- Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
- Till heart and body and life are in its hold.
- The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where
10 Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
- And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
- Lo! as that youth's eyes burned at thine, so went
- Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck
- And round his heart one strangling golden hair.
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