Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Letter to William Michael Rossetti, 27-29 September 1849
Author: DGR
Date of Composition: 1849 September 27-29
Type of Manuscript: letter
Scribe: DGR

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

Image of page [1] page: [1]
Note: The text shifts to a second column after line 40 of the first poem.
Manuscript Addition: stet
Editorial Description: DGR's note to the initially cancelled lines 54-55
Between London and Paris:

September 1849.

Thursday, 27 th

London to Folkstone.

1/2 past 1 to 1/2 past 5.
  • A constant keeping past of shaken trees,
  • And a bewildered glitter of loose road;
  • Banks of bright growth, with single blades atop
  • Against white sky; and wires—a constant chain—
  • That seem to draw the clouds along with them;
  • (Things which one stoops against the light to see
  • Through the low window;—shaking by at rest,
  • Or fierce like water as the swiftness grows;)
  • And, seen through fences or a bridge far off,
  • 10Trees that in moving keep their distances intervals,
  • Still one 'twixt bar and bar; and then at times
  • Long reaches of green level, where one cow,
  • Feeding among her fellows that feed on,
  • Lifts her slow neck, and gazes for the sound.
  • There are six of us, I that write away;
  • Hunt reads Dumas, hard-lipped, with heavy jowl
  • And brows hung low, and the long ends of hair
  • Standing out limp. A grazier at one end
  • (Thank luck not my end!) has [?] blocked out the air,
  • 20And sits in heavy consciousness of guilt.
  • The poor young muff who's face to face with me
  • Is pitiful in loose collar & black tie,
  • His latchet-button shaking as we go.
  • There are flowers by me, half upon my knees,
  • Owned by a dame who's fair in soul, no doubt.
  • The wind that beats among us carries off
  • Their scent; but still I have them for my eye.
  • Fields mown in ridges; and close garden-crops
  • Of the earth's increase; and a constant sky
  • 30Still with clear trees that let you see the wind;
  • And snatches of the engine-smoke, by fits
  • Tossed to the wind against the landscape, where
  • Rooks, stooping, heave their wings upon the day.
  • Brick walls we pass between, past so at once
  • That for the suddenness I cannot know
  • Or what, or where begun, or where at end.
  • Sometimes a station in grey quiet; whence,
  • With a short gathered champing of pent sound,
  • We are let out upon the air again.
  • 40Now nearly darkness; knees, & arms, & sides

  • Column Break

  • Feel the least touch; and close about the face
  • A wind of noise that is along like God.
  • Pauses of water soon, at intervals,
  • That has the sky in it:—the reflexes
  • O' the trees move towards the bank as we go by,
  • Leaving the water's surface plain. I now
  • Lie back and close my eyes a space; for they
  • Smart from the open forwardness of thought
  • Fronting the wind.

  • I did not scribble more,
  • 50Be certain, after this; but yawned, & read,
  • And nearly dozed a little, I believe,
  • Till, stretching up against the carriage-back,
  • I was roused altogether, and looked out
  • Deleted Text
  • To where, upon the desolate verge of light,
  • Yearned, pale and vast, the iron-coloured sea.
  • To where the pale sea brooded motion[less].
Note: The final three lines, initially crossed out, are marked “stet”.

Folkstone to Boulogne.

6 to 9.—rough passage

“Darkness, as darkness itself, and

as the shadow of death; without

any order, and where the light

is as darkness.”


“If ye know them, they are in the

valley of the shadow of death.”


Friday, 28 th

At Boulogne: upon the cliffs: noon.
  • The sea is in its listless chime,
  • Like Time's lapse rendered audible,—
  • The murmur of the earth's large shell.
  • In a sad blueness, beyond rhyme
  • It ends: Sense, without thought, can pass
  • No stadium further. Since Time was,
  • This sound hath told the lapse of Time.
  • No stagnance that Death wins,—it hath
  • The mournfulness of ancient life,
  • 10 Always enduring at dull strife.
  • Like the world's heart, in calm and wrath,
  • Its painful pulse is in the sands.
  • Last utterly, the whole sky stands,
  • Grey & not known, along its path.
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Note: The text shifts to a second column after line 43 of the first poem.

Boulogne to Amiens and Paris

3 to 11 p.m. (3 rd class.)

  • Strong extreme speed, that the brain hurries with
  • Further than trees, and hedges, & green grass
  • Whitened by distance,—further than small pools
  • Held among fields and gardens,—further than
  • Haystacks, and windmillsails, and roofs, & herds,—
  • The sea's last margin ceases at the sun.
  • The sea has left us, but the sun remains.
  • Sometimes the country spreads aloof in tracts
  • Smooth from the harvest: sometimes sky & land
  • 10Are shut from the square space the window leaves,
  • By a dense crowd of trees, stem behind stem
  • Passing across each other as we pass:
  • Sometimes tall poplar-wands stand white, their heads
  • Outmeasuring the distant hills. Sometimes
  • The ground has a deep greenness; sometimes brown
  • In stubble; and sometimes no ground at all,
  • For the close strength of crops that stand unreaped.
  • The water-plots are sometimes all the sun's,—
  • Sometimes quite green through shadows filling them
  • 20Or islanded with growths of reeds,—or else
  • Masked in green dust like the wide face o' the fields.
  • And still the swiftness lasts; that to our speed,
  • The trees seem shaken like a press of spears.
  • There is some count of us:—folks travelling capped,
  • Priesthood, and lank hard-featured soldiery;
  • Females (no women), Blouses, Hunt, & I.

  • We are relayed at Amiens. The steam
  • Snorts, chafes and bridles like 300 horse,
  • And flings its dusky mane upon the air.
  • 30Our company is thinned, and lamps alight.
  • But still there are the folks in travelling-caps,
  • (No priesthood now, but always soldiery,
  • And babies to make up for show in noise,)
  • Females (no women), Blouses, Hunt, & I.
  • Our windows at one side are shut for warmth.
  • Upon the other side, a leaden sky,
  • Hung in blank glare, makes all the country dusk dim,
  • Which too seems bald and meagre,—be it truth,
  • Or of the waxing darkness. Here and there
  • 40The shade takes light, where in thin patches stand
  • The [?] unstirred dregs of water. Hunt can see
  • A moon, he says; but I am too far back.
  • Still the same speed & thunder. We are stopt

  • Column Break

  • Again, and speech sounds tells clearer than in day.
  • Hunt has just stretched to tell me that he fears
  • I and my note-book may be taken for
  • The stuff that goes to make an “émissaire”
  • “De la perfide.” Let me abate my zeal:
  • There is a stout gendarme within the coach.
  • 50This cursed pitching is too bad. My teeth
  • Jingle together in it; and my legs
  • (Which I got wet at Boulogne this good day
  • Wading for starfish) are so chilled that I
  • Would don my coat, were not these seats too hard
  • To spare it from beneath me, and were not
  • The love of ease less than the love of sloth.
  • Hunt has just told me it is nearly 8:
  • We do not reach till 1/2 past 10. Drat verse,
  • And steam, and Paris, & the songs fins of time!
  • 60Marry, for me, look you, I will go sleep.

  • Most of them slept; I could not—held awake
  • By jolting clamour, with shut eyes; my head
  • Willing to nod and fancy itself vague.
  • Only at stations I looked round me, when
  • The s Short silence paused among us, & I felt
  • A creeping in my feet, through from abrupt calm.
  • At such times Hunt would jerk himself, & then
  • Tumble uncouthly forward in his sleep.
  • This lasted near 3 hours. The darkness now
  • 70Stayeth behind us on the sullen road,
  • And all this light is Paris. Dieu merci.

Paris, Saturday night, 29 th.

  • Send to me, dear William, by return of post,
  • As much as you can manage of that rhyme
  • Incurred at Ventnor. Bothers and delays
  • Have still prevented me from copying this
  • Till now: now that I do so, let it be
  • Anticipative compensation.
  • Numéro 4, Rue Geoffroy Marie,
  • Faubourg Montmartre, près des Boulevards.
  • 80Dear William, labelled thus the thing will reach.

Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: dgr.ltr.0554.rad.xml