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
Scribe: unknown

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

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Manuscript Addition: From a variant belonging to Charles Gatty
Editorial Description: Note at the top of the manuscript.
  • An harlot is accounted as spittle.
Ecclesiasticus xxvi
  • 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:—
    • Nay,
    • 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:—
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      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, ma vie?
    • 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
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    • 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.
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    • 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.
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    • 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
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    • 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.
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    • 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?
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    • 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,—
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    • 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,
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    • 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, ma vie.
    • 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.
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    • 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, ma belle.
    • 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,
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    • 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
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    • 290Her functions there and here are one,—
    • Beneath the lamps and in the sun
    • At least there reigns the explicit belle,
    • 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.
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    Source File: 3-1848.fizms.rad.xml
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