Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature S (Delaware Museum, first revise)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 10 May
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: R
Editorial Description: Printer's siglum in upper right.
Manuscript Addition: [Charles Whittingham's printer date stamp, 10 May 81]
- Around the vase of Life at your slow pace
- He has not crept, but turned it with his hands,
- And all its sides already understands.
- There, girt, one breathes alert for some great race;
- Whose road runs far by sands and fruitful space;
- Who laughs, yet through the jolly throng
- Who weeps, nor stays for weeping; who at last,
- A youth, stands somewhere crowned, with silent face.
- And he has filled this vase with wine for blood,
10 With blood for tears, with spice for burning vow,
- With watered flowers for buried love most fit;
- And would have cast it shattered to the flood,
- Yet in Fate's name has kept it whole; which now
- Stands empty till his ashes fall in it.
- As thy friend's face, with shadow of soul
- Somewhile unto thy sight perchance hath been
- Ghastly and strange, yet never so is seen
- In thought, but to all fortunate favour wed;
- As thy love's death-bound features never dead
- To memory's glass return, but contravene
- Frail fugitive days, and alway keep, I ween,
- Than all new life a livelier lovelihead:—
- So Life herself, thy spirit's friend and love,
10 Even still as Spring's authentic harbinger
- Glows with fresh hours for hope to glorify;
- Though pale she lay when in the winter grove
- Her funeral flowers were snow-flakes shed on her
- And the red wings of frost-fire rent the sky.
- Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;
- I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell;
- Unto thine ear I hold the dead-sea shell
- Cast up thy Life's foam-fretted feet between;
- Unto thine eyes the glass where that is seen
- Which had Life's form and Love's, but by my spell
- Is now a shaken shadow intolerable,
- Of ultimate things unuttered the frail screen.
- Mark me, how still I am! But should there dart
10 One moment through thy soul the soft surprise
- Of that winged Peace which lulls the
- Then shalt thou see me smile, and turn apart
- Thy visage to mine ambush at thy heart
- Sleepless with cold commemorative eyes.
- Whence came his feet into my field, and why?
- How is it that he sees it all so drear?
- How do I see his seeing, and how hear
- The name his bitter silence knows it by?
- This was the little fold of separate sky
- Whose pasturing clouds in the soul's atmosphere
- Drew living light from one continual year:
- How should he find it lifeless? He, or I?
- Lo! this new Self now wanders round my field,
10 With plaints for every flower, and for each tree
- A moan, the sighing wind's auxiliary:
- And o'er sweet waters of my life, that yield
- Unto his lips no draught but tears unseal'd,
- Even in my place he weeps. Even I, not he.
- To-day Death seems to me an infant child
- Which her worn mother Life upon my knee
- Has set to grow my friend and play with me;
- If haply so my heart might be beguil'd
- To find no terrors in a face so mild,—
- If haply so my weary heart might be
- Unto the newborn milky eyes of thee,
- O Death, before resentment reconcil'd.
- How long, O Death? And shall thy feet depart
10 Still a young child's with mine, or wilt thou
- Fullgrown the helpful daughter of my heart,
- What time with thee indeed I reach the strand
- Of the pale wave which knows thee what thou art,
- And drink it in the hollow of thy hand?
- And thou, O Life, the lady of all bliss,
- With whom, when our first heart beat full and
- I wandered till the haunts of men were pass'd,
- And in fair places found all bowers amiss
- Till only woods and waves might hear our kiss,
- While to the winds all thought of Death we
- Ah, Life! and must I have from thee at last
- No smile to greet me and no babe but this?
- Lo! Love, the child once ours; and Song, whose
10 Blew like a flame and blossomed like a wreath;
- And Art, whose eyes were worlds by God found fair;
- These o'er the book of Nature mixed their
- With neck-twined arms, as oft we watched them
- And did these die that thou mightst
- When vain desire at last and vain regret
- Go hand in hand to death, and all is vain,
- What shall assuage the unforgotten pain
- And teach the unforgetful to forget?
- Shall Peace be still a sunk stream long unmet,—
- Or may the soul at once in a green plain
- Stoop through the spray of some sweet
- And cull the dew-drenched flowering amulet?
- Ah! when the wan soul in that golden air
10 Between the scriptured petals softly blown
- Peers breathless for the gift of grace unknown,—
- Ah! let none other alien spell soe'er
- But only the one Hope's one name be there,—
- Not less nor more, but even that word alone.
Transcribed Footnote (page 263):
END OF THE HOUSE OF LIFE.
- Let no man ask thee of anything
- Not yearborn between Spring and Spring.
- More of all worlds than he can know,
- Each day the single sun doth show.
- A trustier gloss than thou canst give
- From all wise scrolls demonstrative,
- The sea doth sigh and the wind sing.
- Let no man awe thee on any height
- Of earthly kingship's mouldering might.
10The dust his heel holds meet for thy brow
- Hath all of it been what both are now;
- And thou and he may plague together
- A beggar's eyes in some dusty weather
- When none that is now knows sound or sight.
- Crave thou no dower of earthly things
- Unworthy Hope's imaginings.
- To have brought true birth of Song to be
- And to have won hearts to Poesy,
- Or anywhere in the sun or rain
20To have loved and been beloved again,
- Is loftiest reach of Hope's bright wings.
- The wild waifs cast up by the sea
- Are diverse ever seasonably.
- Even so the soul-tides still may land
- A different drift upon the sand.
- But one the sea is evermore:
- And one be still, 'twixt shore and shore,
- As the sea's life, thy soul in thee.
- Dost vaunt thee poet? Muse upon
- The work another's mind hath done:—
- Do first its beauties touch thy thought?
- Then ponder what thyself hast wrought;—
- Is first thy word, “Alas! how far
- Behind conception's guiding star!—
- True Poet elsewise thou art none.
- Say, hast thou pride? How then may fit
30Thy mood with flatterers' silk-spun wit?
- Haply the sweet voice lifts thy crest,
- A breeze of fame made manifest.
- Nay, but then chaf'st at flattery? Pause:
- Be sure thy wrath is not because
- It makes thee feel thou lovest it.
- Let thy soul strive that still the same
- Be early friendship's sacred flame.
- The affinities have strongest part
- In youth, and draw men heart to heart:
40As life wears on and finds no rest,
- The individual in each breast
- Is tyrannous to sunder them.
- In the life-drama's stern cue-call,
- A friend's a part well-prized by all:
- And if thou meet an enemy,
- What art thou that none such should be?
- Even so: but if the two parts run
- Into each other and grow one,
- Then comes the curtain's cue to fall.
50Whate'er by other's need is claimed
- More than by thine,—to him unblamed
- Resign it: and if he should hold
- What more than he thou lack'st, bread, gold,
- Or any good whereby we live,—
- To thee such substance let him give
- Freely: nor he nor thou be shamed.
- Strive that thy works prove equal: lest
- That work which thou hast done the best
- Should come to be to thee at length
60(Even as to envy seems the strength
- Of others) hateful and abhorr'd,—
- Thine own above thyself made lord,—
- Of self-rebuke the bitterest.
- Unto the man of yearning thought
- And aspiration, to do nought
- Is in itself almost an act,—
- Being chasm-fire and cataract
- Of the soul's utter depths unseal'd.
- Yet woe to thee if once thou yield
70Unto the act of doing nought!
- How callous seems beyond revoke
- The clock with its last listless stroke!
- How much too late at length!—to trace
- The hour on its forewarning face,
Electronic Archive Edition: 1