Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: Letter to William Michael Rossetti, 10 September 1871
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of Composition: 1871 September 10
Type of Manuscript: letter
Scribe: DGR

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

page: [1]
23rd December 1880

Dear Wm.,
I wish you'd write me anything of your doings abroad or other news. I am likely to be back in about a fortnight more I suppose but I shouldn't wonder if it stretched to three weeks. The changes in my studio at Chelsea under Webb's directions, giving me a good light at last, will be completed next week. You might go and take a look at them if you liked. I have been doing a replica here (of that Beatrice)—a beastly job, but lucre was the lure—also a little picture of Janey with background of this place and river, made to fit a lovely old Italian frame I have. I have written a few things—notably Part I (51 five-line stanzas) of a poem called “Rose Mary” (you may remember my using the name long ago for some rubbish destroyed) and which is about a magic crystal or Beryl as it was called—a story of my own, good, I think, turning of course on the innocence required in the seer. Part 2 will be much longer I think, and should hope to get on with it now, were it not that Top comes here tonight from Iceland, and will bring a storm of talk with him.
On one short thing I have done, not meant to be a trifle, I want your advice about the close. I copy it herewith, and the form of the four last lines there given is the one I incline to adopt—thus you see leaving the whole question open. But at first I had meant to answer the question in a way, on the theory hardly of annihilation but of absorption. As thus (last five lines)—
  • “And what must our birthright be?
  • O never from thee to sever
  • Thou Will that shalt be and art,—
  • To throb at thy heart for ever
  • Yet never to know thy heart.”
As I say, I incline to the lines given in the copy as the safest course. Those above seem too to have a possible suggestion of a personal Deity, though of course this is not meant. Does the parrot brought me by Stillman talk?
Ever yours,

D. G. R.
P.S. I'm Dark-Blued at last, owing to Brown who was asked to illustrate something of mine for them if I would contribute. It's a little sort of ballad I wrote here—to appear in October.
The Cloud Confines
  • The day is dark and the night
  • To him that would search their heart;
  • No lips of cloud that will part
  • Nor morning song in the light:
  • Only, gazing alone,
  • To him wild shadows are shown,
  • Deep under deep unknown
  • And height above unknown height.
  • Still we say as we go,—
  • 10 “Strange to think by the way,
  • Whatever there is to know,
  • That shall we know one day.”
  • The Past is over and fled;
  • Named new, we name it the old;
  • Thereof some tale hath been told,
  • But no word comes from the dead.
  • Whether at all they be,
  • Or whether as bond or free,
  • Or whether they too were we,
  • 20Or by what spell they have sped.
  • Still we say as we go,—
  • “Strange to think by the way,
  • Whatever there is to know,
  • That shall we know one day.”
  • What of the heart of hate
  • That beats in thy breast*, O Time?—
  • *or “to thy steps”?
  • Red strife from the furthest prime,
  • And anguish of fierce debate;
  • War that shatters her slain,
  • 30 And peace that grinds them* as grain,
  • *or “men”?
  • With eyes fixed ever in vain
  • On the pitiless eyes of Fate.
  • Still we say as we go,—
  • “Strange to think by the way,
  • Whatever there is to know,
  • That shall we know one day.”
  • What of the heart of love
  • That bleeds in thy breast, O Man?—
  • Thy kisses snatched 'neath the ban
  • 40Of fangs that mock them above;
  • Thy bells prolonged unto knells,
  • Thy hope that a breath dispels,
  • Thy bitter forlorn farewells
  • And the empty echoes thereof.
  • Still we say as we go,—
  • “Strange to think by the way,
  • Whatever there is to know,
  • That shall we know one day.”
  • The sky leans dumb on the sea,
  • 50 Aweary with all its wings;
  • And oh! the song the sea sings
  • Is dark everlastingly.
  • Our past is clean forgot,
  • Our present is and is not,
  • Our future's a sealed seedplot,
  • And what betwixt them are we?—
  • What word's to say as we go?
  • What thought's to think by the way?
  • What truth may there be to know,
  • 60 And shall we know it one day?
Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: dgr.ltr.0562.rad.xml