Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature Q (Delaware Museum, late uncorrected proof, author's copy)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 18 - 1881 June
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Chiswick Press, C. Whittingham and Co.
Issue: 4

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

Image of page 225 page: 225
Sig. Q
Manuscript Addition: 4b
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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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 spee e ch; 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
  • maze
  • Thenceforth their incommunicable ways
  • Follow the desultory feet of Death?
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  • 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!
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  • Was 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
  • black.
  • 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.
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  • 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
  • thou,
  • O prayer found vain, didst fall from out my
  • prayers?
  • How prickly were the growths which yet how
  • smooth,
  • 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.
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  • 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
  • dew;
  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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
  • toll'd,
  • 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
  • way!
  • 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.
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  • 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
  • here.
  • 10 And dost thou prate of all that man shall do?
  • Canst thou, who hast but plagues, presume to
  • be
  • Glad in his gladness that comes after thee?
  • Will his strength slay thy worm in Hell? Go to:
  • Cover thy countenance, and watch, and fear.
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  • 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
  • o'er:
  • 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
  • thereby?
  • Nay, come up hither. From this wave-washed
  • mound
  • 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
  • beyond,—
  • Still, leagues beyond those leagues, there is more
  • sea.
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I. St. Luke the Painter.
  • 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
  • priest.
  • 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.
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II. Not as These.
  • “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 these are.”
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III. The Husbandmen.
  • 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
  • were
  • 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?
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  • Under the arch of Life, where love and death,
  • Terror and mystery, guard her shrine, I saw
  • Beauty enthroned; and though her gaze struck
  • awe,
  • 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
  • thee
  • 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!
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  • 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-
  • ceive,
  • 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
  • bent
  • And round his heart one strangling golden hair.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1