Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: Jenny (fair copy, non-holograph, Fitzwilliam Museum)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1869 (probably sometime after 1869, perhaps many years later)
Type of Manuscript: fair copy in unknown hand
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
Manuscript Addition: From a variant belonging to Charles Gatty
Editorial Description: Note at the top of the manuscript.
- An harlot is accounted as spittle.
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make
one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor?
Romans ix - 21.
- Lazy laughing languid Jenny,
- Fond of a freak and of a guinea;
- Whose head is on my knee tonight;—
- (Have all our waltzes left it light
- With those wild tunes?)—ah! Jenny, queen
- Of kisses which the blush between
- Could hardly make much daintier;
- Whose eyes are as blue skies; whose hair
- Holds the light globed like any shell:
10Fair flower, to fragrance reared so well
- Within Love's sultriest hotbed:—
- Blossom of the eternal May,
- Plucked and fouled and trampled on,
- Stemless, scentless, strengthless, gone;
- Even so, alas! or as it were
- A handfull of bright spring-water
- Flung in the whirlpool's shrieking face:—
Note: In this manuscript, the first line of the third stanza and all those
succeeding is written with a hanging indentation, i.e., the first line is at the
right margin and the rest are indented.
- Poor shameful Jenny, full of grace
- Thus with your head upon my knee,—
20Whose look, whose voice, whose memory,
- Whose purse is in your thoughts,
- If of myself you think at all,
- What is the thought?—Conjectural
- On sorry matters best unsolved?—
- Or inly is each grace revolved
- To fit me with a lure?—or—sad
- As it may sound—you're merely glad
- That I'm not drunk or ruffianly
- And let you rest upon my knee?
30For sometimes, were the truth confess'd,
- You're thankful for a little rest.—
- From the crush to rest within,
- And from the sickness, and from the din
- Of women's envious mocking, which
- Mocks you because your gown is rich:
- And from the wise unchildish elf,
- Of schoolmate lesser than himself
- Looking, as you glide silently,
40Whether he knows what you may be,
- And then, in words well listened to,
- Teaching him lust and vice by you;
- But most from the beastliness of man
- Who spares not to end what he began,
- Whose acts are foul and his speech hard,
- Who, having used you, afterward
- Thrusts you aside, as when I dine
- I serve the dishes and the wine.
- Well, handsome Jenny mine, sit up,
50I've filled our glasses, let us sup,
- And do not let me think of you,
- Lest shame of yours suffice for two
- What, still so tired? Well, well then, keep
- Your head there, so you do not sleep;
- But that the weariness may pass
- By bed-time, Jenny, take this glass.
- Ah! lazy lily hand, more bless'd
- If ne'er in rings it had been dress'd
- Nor ever by a glove conceal'd!
60Behold the lilies of the field,
- They toil not neither do they spin;
- So does the ancient text begin,—
- Not of such rest as one of these
- May earn. Another rest and ease
- Along each summer-sated path
- From its new lord the garden hath,
- Than that whose Spring in blessings ran
- Which praised the righteous Husbandman,
- Ere yet, in days of hankering breath,
70The lilies sickened unto death.
- What, Jenny, are your lilies dead?
- Aye, and the snow-white leaves are spread
- Like winter on the garden-bed.
- But you had roses left in May,
- They were not gone too. Jenny, nay,
- But must your roses die away?
- Even so; the leaves are curled apart,
- Still red as from the broken heart,
- And here's the naked stem of Thorns.
80Nay, nay, mere words. Here nothing warns,
- As yet, of winter. Sickness here,
- Or want, alone, could waken fear;
- Nothing but passion wrings a tear
- Except when there may come unsought,
- Haply, at times, a sudden thought
- Of her old days which seem to be
- Much older than any history
- That is written in any book;
- When she would lie in fields and look
90Along the ground through the thick grass,
- And wonder where the city was,
- Far out of sight, whose broil and bale
- They told her then for a child's tale.
- Jenny, you know the city now.
- A child can tell the tale there, how
- Some things which are not yet enroll'd
- In market-lists, are bought and sold
- Even till the early Sunday light,
- When Saturday night is market night
100Everywhere be it dry or wet,
- And market night in the Haymarket.
- Our learned London children know,
- Poor Jenny, all your mirth and woe:
- Have seen your lifted silken skirt
- Advertize dainties through the dirt;
- Have seen your coach-wheels splash rebuke
- On virtue; and have learnt your look
- When, health and wealth slipped past, you stare
- Along the streets alone; and there,
110Round the long park, across the bridge,
- The cold lamps at the pavement's edge
- Wind on together and apart,
- A fiery serpent for your heart.
- Let the thoughts pass, an empty cloud!
- Suppose I were to think aloud,—
- What if to her all this were said?
- Why, as a volume seldom read
- Opens half and shuts again,
- So the pages of her brain
120Would part them at such words, and thence
- Close back upon the dusty sense.
- For is there hue or shape defin'd
- In Jenny's desecrated mind,
- Where all contagious currents meet,
- A Lethe of the middle street?
- Nay, it reflects not any face,
- Nor sound is in its sluggish pace,
- But as they coil, the eddies clot,
- And memory remembers not.
130Why, Jenny, you're asleep, I said
- At first that with that drowsy head
- You ought to have gone straight to bed.
- So, so she sleeps, How gently fair,
- With chin thus nestled in her hair,
- Mouth quiet, eyelids almost blue,
- As if some sky of dreams shone through.
- Just as another woman sleeps!
- Enough to throw one's thoughts in heaps
- Of doubt and horror,—what to say
140Or think—this awful secret sway,
- The potter's power over the clay!
- Of the same lump—it has been said—
- For honour and dishonour made,
- Two sister vessels. Here is one.
- My cousin Nell is fond of fun,
- And fond of dress, and change, and praise,—
- So mere a woman in her ways:
- And if her full eyes rich in youth
- Are like her lips that tell the truth,
150My cousin Nell is fond of love—
- And she's the girl I'm proudest of
- Who does not prize her—guard her well?
- The love of change, in cousin Nell,
- Shall find the best and hold it dear:
- The unconquered mirth turn quieter
- Not through her own, through others' woe:
- The conscious pride of beauty glow
- Beside another's pride in her,
- One little part of all they share.
160For Love himself shall ripen these
- In a kind soil to just increase
- Through years of fertilizing peace.
- Of the same lump—as it is said—
- For honour and dishonour made,
- Two sister vessels. Here is one.
- It makes a goblin of the sun.
- So pure, so fallen! How dare to think
- Of the first common kindred link?
- Yet, Jenny, till the world shall burn
- It seems that all things take their turn.
170And who shall say but this fair tree
- May need, in changes that may be,
- Your children's children's charity?
- Scorned then, no doubt, as you are scorned!
- Shall no man hold his pride forewarned
- Till in the end, the Day of Days,
- At Judgment, one of his own race,
- As frail and lost as yore, shall rise,
- His daughter, with his mother's eyes?
- Each of such curdled lives alike
180A life for which my twelve hours strike
- And Time must be and Time must end.
- Hard to see singly! What might tend
- To give to each clear presence? Well,
- Remember it is possible,
- Whether I please or do not please,
- That in the making each of these
- A separate man has lost his soul
- Fair shines the gilded aureole
- In which our highest painters place
190Some living woman's simple face.
- And the still'd features thus descried
- As Jenny's long throat droops aside,—
- The patient underlip drawn in,
- The shadows where the cheeks are thin
- And pure wide curve from ear to chin,—
- With Giotto's or Giorgione's hand
- To show them to men's souls,—might stand,
- The whole world long, the whole earth through,
- For preachings of what God can do.
200What has man done here? How atone,
- Great God, for this which man has done?
- And for the body and soul which by
- Man's pitiless doom must now comply
- With lifelong hell, what lullaby
- Of sweet forgetful second birth
- Remains? All dark. No sign on earth
- What measure of God's rest endows
- The many mansions of His house.
- If but a woman's heart might see
210This erring heart unerringly
- For once! But that can never be.
- Like a rose shut in a book
- In which pure women may not look,
- For its base pages claim control
- To crush the flower within the soul;
- Where through each dead rose leaf that clings,
- Pale as transparent psyche-wings,
- To the vile text, are traced such things
- As might make lady's cheek indeed
220More than a living rose to read;
- So nought save foolish foulness may
- Watch with hard eyes the sure decay;
- And so the life-blood of this rose,
- Puddled with filthy knowledge, grows
- Through leaves no chaste hand may unclose:
- Yet still it keeps such faded show
- Of when 'twas gathered long ago,
- That the crushed petals' lovely grain,
- The sweetness of the sanguine stain,
230Seen of a woman's eyes, must make
- Her pitiful heart, so prone to ache,
- Love roses better for its sake:—
- Only that this can never be:—
- So are you to your sex,
- But truly, looking long at you,
- The woman almost fades from view.
- A cypher of man's changeless sum
- Of lust, past, present, and to come,
- Is left. A riddle that one shrinks
240To challenge from the scornful sphynx.
- Like a toad within a stone
- Seated while Time crumbles on;
- Which has sat there since earth was curs'd
- When man's seed sinned at the first;
- Which, living through all centuries,
- Not once has seen the sun arise;
- Whose life, to its cold circle charmed,
- The earth's whole summers have not warmed;
- And which still—whitherso the stone
250Be cast—sits there, deaf, blind, alone;—
- Ah! and shall not be driven out
- Till the flint wrapping him about
- Break at the very Master's stroke
- And the dust thereof vanish as smoke
- When in the lamp the flame doth fail:—
- So are you in this world,
- Come, come, what use in thoughts like this?
- I meant a woman good to kiss
- To night should yield me something more
260Than bloodless perking metaphor.
- Jenny, wake up. Why, there's the Dawn.
- And there's an early waggon, drawn
- To market; and some sheep that jog
- Bleating before a barking dog;
- And all as ghostlike as the lamps,
- So on the wings of day decamps
- My last night's folly. Let her sleep.
- Will it not wake her, though, to heap
- These cushions underneath her head
270Where my knee was? No: there's your bed,
- My Jenny, while you dream. And there
- I lay among your outspread hair
- Perhaps the subject of your dreams,
- These golden coins.
- For still it seems
- That in my Jenny's sleep, there stirs
- A spell around the magic purse,—
- Grim web, how clogged with shrivelled flies!
- Between the threads fine fumes arise
- And shape their pictures in the brain
- There roll no streets in glare and rain
280Nor flagrant man-swine whets his tusk;
- But delicately sighs in musk
- The homage of the dim boudoir;
- Or like a palpitating star
- Thrilled into song, the Opera-night
- Breathes faint in the quick pulse of light;
- Or at the carriage-window shine
- Rich wares for choice; or, free to dine,
- Whirls through its hour of health the Park
- And though in the discounted dark
290Her functions there and here are one,—
- Beneath the lamps and in the sun
- At least there reigns the explicit
- Apparelled beyond parallel.
- Ah Jenny, yes, we know your dreams.
- For even the Paphian Venus seems
- A goddess o'er the realms of love,
- When shrined, of silver, in some grove:
- Aye, or let offerings nicely plac'd
- But heap Priapus to the waist,
300And whoso looks on him shall see
- An eligible deity.
- Well, Jenny, waking here alone
- May help you to remember one.
- I think I see you when you wake,
- And rub your eyes for me, and shake
- My gold, in rising, from your hair,
- A Danaë for a moment there.
- And so I must talk lightly still,
- Ashamed to feel ashamed. Until
310To-night no thoughts not born amiss
- Rose at a poor fair face like this.
- If others come for once, I know
- In my life, as in hers, they show,
- By a far gleam which I may near,
- A dark path I can strive to clear.
- Only one kiss. Goodbye, my dear.
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Copyright: © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge