Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription
Document Title: The Stream's Secret and Four Sonnets (Huntington Library Revise Page
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1870 March
Printer: Strangeways and Walden
full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.
- What thing unto mine ear
- Wouldst thou convey,—what secret thing,
- O wandering water ever whispering?
- Surely thy speech shall be of her.
- Thou water, O thou whispering wanderer,
- What message dost thou bring?
- Say, hath not Love leaned low
- This hour beside thy far well-head,
- And there through jealous hollowed fingers said
10 The thing that most I long to know,—
- Murmuring with curls all dabbled in thy flow
- And washed lips rosy red?
- He told it to thee there
- Where thy voice hath a louder tone;
- But where it welters to this little moan
- His will decrees that I should hear.
- Now speak: for with the silence is no fear,
- And I am all alone.
- Shall Time not still endow
20 One hour with life, and I and she
- Slake on love's lips the thirst of memory?
- Say, stream; lest love should disavow
- Thy service, and the bird upon the bough
- Sing first to tell it me.
- What whisperest thou? Nay, why
- Name the dead hours? I mind them well:
- Their ghosts in many darkened doorways dwell
- With desolate eyes to know them by.
- That hour must still be born ere it can die:
30 Of that I'd have thee tell.
- But hear, before thou speak!
- Withhold, I pray, the vain behest
- That while the maze hath still its bower for quest
- My burning heart should cease to seek.
- Be sure that Love ordained for souls more meek
- His roadside dells of rest.
- Stream, when this silver thread
- In flood-time is a torrent brown,
- May any bulwark bind thy foaming crown?
40 Shall not the waters surge and spread
- And to the crannied boulders of their bed
- Still shoot the dead leaves down?
- Let no rebuke find place
- In speech of thine: or it shall prove
- That thou dost ill expound the words of Love,
- Even as thine eddy's rippling race
- Would blur the perfect image of his face.
- I will have none thereof.
- O learn and understand
50 That 'gainst the wrongs himself did wreak
- Love sought her aid; until her shadowy cheek
- And eyes beseeching gave command;
- And compassed in her close compassionate hand
- My heart must burn and speak.
- For then at last we spoke
- What eyes so oft had told to eyes
- Through that long-lingering silence whose half-sighs
- Alone the buried secret broke,
- Which with snatched hands and lips' reverberate stroke
60 Then from the heart did rise.
- But she is far away
- Now; nor the hours of night grown hoar
- Bring yet to me, long gazing from the door,
- The wind-stirred robe of roseate grey
- And rose-crown of the hour that leads the day
- When we shall meet once more.
- Dark as thy blinded wave
- When brimming midnight floods the glen,—
- Bright as the laughter of thy runnels when
70 The dawn brings all the light they crave;
- Even so these hours to wound and that to save
- Are sisters in Love's ken.
- Oh sweet her bending grace
- Then when I kneel beside her feet;
- And sweet her eyes' o'erhanging heaven; and sweet
- The gathering folds of her embrace;
- And her fall'n hair at last shed round my face
- When breaths and tears shall meet.
- Beneath her sheltering hair,
80 In the warm silence near her breast,
- Our kisses and our sobs shall sink to rest;
- As in some still trance made aware
- That day and night have wrought to fulness there
- And Love has built our nest.
- And as in the dim grove,
- When the rains cease that hushed them long,
- 'Mid glistening boughs the song-birds wake to song,—
- So from our hearts deep-shrined in love,
- While the leaves throb beneath, around, above,
90 The quivering notes shall throng.
- Till tenderest words found vain
- Draw back to wonder mute and deep,
- And closed lips in closed arms a silence keep,
- Subdued by memory's circling strain,—
- The wind-rapt sound that the wind brings again
- While all the willows weep.
- Then by her summoning art
- Shall memory conjure back the sere
- Autumnal Springs, from many a dying year
100 Born dead; and, bitter to the heart,
- The very ways where now we walk apart
- Who then shall cling so near.
- And with each thought new-grown,
- Some sweet caress or some sweet name
- Low breathed shall let me know her thought the same;
- Making me rich with every tone
- And touch of the dear heaven so long unknown
- That filled my dreams with flame.
- Pity and love shall burn
110 In her pressed cheek and cherishing hands;
- And from the living spirit of love that stands
- Between her lips to soothe and yearn,
- Each separate breath shall clasp me round in turn
- And loose my spirit's bands.
- Oh passing sweet and dear,
- Then when the worshipped form and face
- Are felt at length in darkling close embrace;
- Round which so oft the sun shone clear,
- With mocking light and pitiless atmosphere,
120 In many an hour and place.
Note: Stanza 21 in the text contains a runover. The final word of line 125 appears directly to
the right of line 126, set off by a bracket.
- Ah me! with what proud growth
- Shall that hour's thirsting race be run;
- While, for each several sweetness still begun
- Afresh, endures love's endless drouth:
- Sweet hands, sweet hair, sweet cheeks, sweet eyes, sweet
- Each singly wooed and won.
- Yet most with the sweet soul
- Shall love's espousals then be knit;
- What time the governing cloud sheds peace from it
130 O'er tremulous wings that touch the goal,
- And on the unmeasured height of Love's control
- The lustral fires are lit.
- Therefore, when breast and cheek
- Now part, from long embraces free,—
- Each on the other gazing shall but see
- A self that has no need to speak:
- All things unsought, yet nothing more to seek,—
- One love in unity.
- O water wandering past,—
140 Albeit to thee I speak this thing,
- O water, thou that wanderest whispering,
- Thou keep'st thy counsel to the last.
- What spell upon thy bosom should Love cast,
- Its secret thence to wring?
- Nay, must thou hear the tale
- Of the past days,—the heavy debt
- Of life that obdurate time withholds,—ere yet
- To win thine ear these prayers prevail,
- And by thy voice Love's self with high All-hail
150 Yield up the amulet?
- How should all this be told?—
- All the sad sum of wayworn days;—
- Heart's anguish in the impenetrable maze;
- And on the waste uncoloured wold
- The visible burthen of the sun grown cold
- And the moon's labouring gaze?
- Alas! shall hope be nurs'd
- On life's all-succouring breast in vain,
- And made so perfect only to be slain?
160 Or shall not rather the sweet thirst
- Even yet rejoice the heart with warmth dispers'd
- And strength grown fair again?
- Stands it not by the door—
- Love's Hour—till she and I shall meet;
- With bodiless form and unapparent feet
- That cast no shadow yet before,
- Though round its head the dawn begins to pour
- The breath that makes day sweet?
- Its eyes invisible
170 Watch till the dial's thin-thrown shade
- Be born,—yea, till the journeying line be laid
- Upon the point that wakes the spell,
- And there in lovelier light than tongue can tell
- Its presence stand array'd.
- Its soul remembers yet
- Those sunlit hours that passed it by;
- And still it hears the night's disconsolate cry,
- And feels the branches wringing wet
- Cast on its brow, that may not once forget,
180 Dumb tears from the blind sky.
- But oh! when now her foot
- Draws near, for whose sake night and day
- Were long in weary longing sighed away,—
- The Hour of Love, no longer mute,
- Shall sing beside the door, and Love's own lute
- Thrill to the passionate lay.
- Thou know'st, for Love has told
- Within thine ear, O stream, how soon
- That song shall lift its sweet appointed tune.
190 O tell me, for my lips are cold,
- And in my veins the blood is waxing old
- Even while I beg the boon.
- So, in that hour of sighs
- Assuaged, shall we beside this stone
- Yield thanks for grace; while in thy mirror shown
- The twofold image softly lies,
- Until we kiss, and each in other's eyes
- Is imaged all alone.
- Still silent? Can no art
200 Of Love's then move thy pity? Nay,
- To thee let nothing come that owns his sway:
- Let happy lovers have no part
- With thee; nor even so sad and poor a heart
- As thou hast spurned to-day.
- To-day? Lo! night is here.
- The glen grows heavy with some veil
- Risen from the earth or fall'n to make earth pale;
- And all stands hushed to eye and ear,
- Until the night-wind shake the shade like fear
210 And every covert quail.
- Ah! by another wave
- On other airs the hour must come
- Which to thy heart, my love, shall call me home.
- Between the lips of the low cave
- Against that night the lapping waters lave,
- And the dark lips are dumb.
- But there Love's self doth stand,
- And with Life's weary wings far-flown,
- And with Death's eyes that make the water moan,
220 Gathers the water in his hand:
- And they that drink know nought of sky or land
- But only love alone.
- O soul-sequestered face
- Far off,—O were that night but now!
- So even beside that stream even I and thou
- Through thirsting lips should draw Love's grace,
- And in the zone of that supreme embrace
- Bind aching breast and brow.
- O water whispering
230 Still through the dark into mine ears,—
- As with mine eyes, is it not now with hers?—
- Mine eyes that add to thy cold spring,
- Wan water, wandering water weltering,
- This hidden tide of tears.
Manuscript Addition: House of Life
Editorial Description: DGR's notation on the poem's placement
- Warmed by her hand and shadowed by her hair
- As close she leaned and poured her heart through thee,
- Whereof the articulate throbs accompany
- The smooth black stream that makes thy whiteness fair,—
- Sweet fluttering sheet, even of her breath aware,—
- Oh let thy silent song disclose to me
- That soul wherewith her lips and eyes agree
- Like married music in Love's answering air.
- Fain had I watched her when, at some fond thought,
10 Her bosom to the writing closelier press'd,
- And her breast's secrets peered into her breast;
- When, through eyes raised an instant, her soul sought
- My soul, and from the sudden confluence caught
- The words that made her love the loveliest.
Manuscript Addition: House of Life
Editorial Description: DGR's notation on the poem's placement
- So now the changed year's turning wheel returns:
- And as a girl sails balanced in the wind,
- And now before and now again behind
- Stoops as it swoops, with cheek that laughs and burns,—
- So Spring comes merry towards me now, but earns
- No answering smile from me, whose life is twin'd
- With the dead boughs that winter still must bind,
- And whom to-day the Spring no more concerns.
- Behold, this crocus is a withering flame;
10 This snowdrop, snow; this apple-blossom's part
- To breed the fruit that breeds the serpent's art.
- Nay, for these Spring-flowers, turn thy face from them,
- Nor gaze till on the year's last lily-stem
- The white cup shrivels round the golden heart.
- Dusk-haired and gold-robed o'er the golden wine
- She stoops, wherein, distilled of death and shame,
- Sink the black drops; while, lit with fragrant flame,
- Round her spread board the golden sunflowers shine.
- Doth Helios here with Hecatè combine
- (O Circe, thou their votaress!) to proclaim
- For these thy guests all rapture in Love's name,
- Till pitiless Night give Day the countersign?
- Lords of their hour, they come. And by her knee
10 Those cowering beasts, their equals heretofore,
- Wait; who with them in new equality
- To-night shall echo back the unchanging roar
- Which sounds for ever from the tide-strown shore
- Where the dishevelled seaweed hates the sea.
- Is it the moved air or the moving sound
- That is Life's self and draws my life from me,
- And by instinct ineffable decree
- Holds my breath quailing on the bitter bound?
- Nay, is it Life or Death, thus thunder-crown'd,
- That 'mid the tide of all emergency
- Now notes my separate wave, and to what sea
- Its difficult eddies labour in the ground?
- Oh! what is this that knows the road I came,
10The flame turned cloud, the cloud returned to flame,
- The lifted shifted steeps and all the way?—
- That spreads round me at last this wind-warm space,
- And in regenerate rapture turns my face
- Upon the devious coverts of dismay?
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