Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Ballads and Sonnets (1881), proof Signature S (Delaware Museum, second revise, complete uncorrected copy)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1881 May 18 (circa)
Publisher: F. S. Ellis
Printer: Chiswick Press, C. Whittingham and Co.
Issue: 3

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

Image of page 257 page: 257
Sig. S
Manuscript Addition: 3c
Editorial Description: Printer's proof number added in upper left.

  • 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 has
  • pass'd;
  • 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.
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  • As thy friend's face, with shadow of soul o'erspread,
  • 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.
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  • 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 breath of
  • sighs,—
  • Then shalt thou see me smile, and turn apart
  • Thy visage to mine ambush at thy heart
  • Sleepless with cold commemorative eyes.
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  • 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.
Image of page 261 page: 261

  • 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 stand
  • 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?
Image of page 262 page: 262
  • And thou, O Life, the lady of all bliss,
  • With whom, when our first heart beat full and fast,
  • 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 cast:—
  • 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
  • hair
  • 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 breath
  • With neck-twined arms, as oft we watched them
  • there:
  • And did these die that thou mightst bear me
  • Death?
Image of page 263 page: 263

  • 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 life-
  • fountain
  • 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):


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  • 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;
    Image of page 268 page: 268
  • 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.
    Image of page 269 page: 269
  • But one the sea is evermore:
  • And one be still, 'twixt shore and shore,
  • As the sea's life, thy soul in thee.
  • 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:
    Image of page 270 page: 270
  • 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,
    Image of page 271 page: 271
  • 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
    Image of page 272 page: 272
  • 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,
  • The thing thou hast not dared to do!. . . .
  • Behold, this may be thus! Ere true
  • It prove, arise and bear thy yoke.
  • Let lore of all Theology
  • Be to thy soul what it can be:
  • 80But know,—the Power that fashions man
  • Measured not out thy little span
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