Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: The Works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1911)
Author: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Date of publication: 1911
Publisher: Ellis
Printer: Hazell, Watson and Viney, Ltd.

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

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Manuscript Addition: James Smith / Trin. Coll. / Cambridge. / G3
Editorial Description: Note written in pen in upper right corner.
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THE WORKS

OF

DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI
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D. G. Rossetti

From a Photograph by Downey 1862

Note: First line of the caption is a facsimile reproduction of Rossetti's autograph. The remainder of the caption is in cursive type.
Figure: Photogravure reproduction of photograph of DGR by Downey. Nearly full-length of DGR in overcoat, turned slightly to right. Left hand rests on ornately carved table, right hand upon hip.



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THE WORKS

OF

DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI




EDITED

WITH PREFACE AND NOTES

BY

WILLIAM M. ROSSETTI

REVISED AND ENLARGED EDITION

LONDON

ELLIS: 29 New Bond Street, W.

1911

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PRINTED AND BOUND BY

HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD

LONDON AND AYLESBURY.
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DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI

DIED 9 APRIL 1882 AGED 53

FRANCES MARY LAVINIA ROSSETTI

DIED 8 APRIL 1886 AGED 85


TO

THE MOTHER'S SACRED MEMORY

THIS COLLECTED EDITION OF

THE SON'S WORKS

IS DEDICATED BY

THE SURVIVING SON AND BROTHER

W M R
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PREFACE
The most adequate mode of prefacing the Collected Works

of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as of most authors, would probably

be to offer a broad general view of his writings, and to analyse

with some critical precision his relation to other writers,

contemporary or otherwise, and the merits and defects of his

performances. In this case, as in how few others, one would

also have to consider in what degree his mind worked con-

sentaneously or diversely in two several arts—the art of poetry

and the art of painting. But the hand of a brother is not

the fittest to undertake any work of this scope. My preface

will not therefore deal with themes such as these, but will

be confined to minor matters, which may nevertheless be

relevant also within their limits. And first may come a very

brief outline of the few events of an outwardly uneventful

life.
Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, who, at an early stage of

his professional career, modified his name into Dante Gabriel

Rossetti, was born on 12th May 1828, at No. 38 Charlotte

Street (now 110 Hallam Street), Portland Place, London.

In blood he was three-fourths Italian, and only one-fourth

English; being on the father's side wholly Italian (Abruzzese),

and on the mother's side half Italian (Tuscan) and half

English. His father was Gabriele Rossetti, born in 1783 at

Vasto, in the Abruzzi, Adriatic coast, in the then kingdom

of Naples. Gabriele Rossetti (died 1854) was a man of letters,

a custodian of ancient bronzes in the Museo Borbonico of

Naples, and a poet; he distinguished himself by patriotic

lays which fostered the popular movement resulting in the

grant of a constitution by Ferdinand I. of Naples in 1820.

The King, after the fashion of Bourbons and tyrants, revoked

the constitution in 1821, and persecuted the abettors of it,

and Rossetti had to escape for his freedom, or perhaps even

for his life. He settled in London in 1824, married, and
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became Professor of Italian in King's College, London,

publishing also various works of bold speculation in the way

of Dantesque commentary and exposition. His wife was

Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori (died 1886), daughter of

Gaetano Polidori (died 1853), a teacher of Italian and literary

man who had in early youth been secretary to the poet

Alfieri, and who published various books, including a com-

plete translation of Milton's poems. Frances Polidori was

English on the side of her mother, whose maiden name was

Pierce. The family of Rossetti and his wife consisted of four

children, born in four successive years—Maria Francesca

(died 1876), Dante Gabriel, William Michael, and Christina

Georgina (died 1894). Few more affectionate husbands and

fathers have lived, and no better wife and mother, than

Gabriele and Frances Rossetti. The means of the family

were always strictly moderate, and became scanty towards

1843, when the father's health began to fail. In 1842 (or

perhaps 1841) Dante Gabriel left King's College School, where

he had learned Latin, French, and a beginning of Greek;

and he entered upon the study of the art of painting, to

which he had from earliest childhood exhibited a very marked

bent. After a while he was admitted to the school of the

Royal Academy, but never proceeded beyond its antique

section. In 1848 Rossetti co-operated with two of his fellow-

students in painting, John Everett Millais and William Hol-

man Hunt, and with the sculptor Thomas Woolner, in form-

ing the so-called Præraphaelite Brotherhood. There were

three other members of the Brotherhood—James Collinson,

Frederic George Stephens, and the present writer. Ford

Madox Brown, the historical painter, was known to Rossetti

a little before the Præraphaelite scheme was started, and

bore an important part both in directing his studies and in

upholding the movement, but he did not think fit to join

the Brotherhood in any direct or complete sense. Through

a fellow-painter, Walter Howell Deverell, Rossetti came to

know Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal, daughter of a Sheffield cutler,

herself a milliner's assistant, gifted with some artistic and

some poetic faculty: in the Spring of 1860, after a long

engagement, they married. Their wedded life was of short

duration, as she died in February 1862, having meanwhile

given birth to a still-born child. For several years up to this

date Rossetti, designing and painting many works, in oil-
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colour or as yet more frequently in water-colour, had resided

at No. 14 Chatham Place, Blackfriars Bridge, a line of street

now demolished. In the autumn of 1862 he removed to

No. 16 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. At first certain apartments in

the house were occupied by Mr. George Meredith the novelist,

Mr. Swinburne the poet, and myself. This arrangement did

not last long, although I myself remained a partial inmate of

the house up to 1873. My brother continued domiciled in

Cheyne Walk until his death; but from 1871 he was some-

times away at Kelmscot manorhouse, in Oxfordshire, not far

from Lechlade, occupied jointly by himself, and by the poet

Mr. William Morris with his family. From the autumn of

1872 till the summer of 1874 he was wholly settled at

Kelmscot, scarcely visiting London at all. He then returned

to London, and Kelmscot passed out of his ken.
In the early months of 1850 the members of the Præraphae-

lite Brotherhood, with the co-operation of some friends,

brought out a short-lived magazine named The Germ (after-

wards Art and Poetry); here appeared the first verses and

the first prose published by Rossetti, including The Blessed

Damozel
and Hand and Soul . In 1856 he contributed a little

to The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine , printing there The

Burden of Nineveh
and Staff and Scrip. In 1861, during his

married life, he published his volume of translations The

Early Italian Poets
, now entitled Dante and his Circle . By

the time therefore of the death of his wife he had a certain

restricted yet far from inconsiderable reputation as a poet,

along with his recognized position as a painter—a non-

exhibiting painter, for, after the first two or three years of

his professional course, he adhered with practical uniformity

to the plan of abstaining from exhibition altogether. He

had contemplated bringing out in or about 1862 a volume of

original poems; but, in the grief and dismay which over-

whelmed him in losing his wife, he determined to sacrifice to

her memory this long-cherished project, and he buried in

her coffin the manuscripts which would have furnished forth

the volume. With the lapse of years he came to see that,

as a final settlement of the matter, this was neither obligatory

nor desirable; so in 1869 the manuscripts were disinterred,

and in 1870 his volume named Poems was issued. For some

considerable while it was hailed with general and lofty praise,

chequered by only moderate stricture or demur; but late
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in 1871 Mr. Robert Buchanan published under a pseudonym,

in the Contemporary Review , a very hostile article named

The Fleshly School of Poetry , attacking the poems on literary

and more especially on moral grounds. The article, in an

enlarged form, was afterwards reissued as a pamphlet. The

assault produced on Rossetti an effect altogether dispropor-

tionate to its intrinsic importance; indeed, it developed in

his character an excess of sensitiveness and of distempered

brooding which his nearest relatives and friends had never

before surmised,—for hitherto he had on the whole had an

ample sufficiency of high spirits, combined with a certain

underlying gloominess or abrupt moodiness of nature and out-

look. Unfortunately there was in him already only too much

of morbid material on which this venom of detraction was

to work. For some years the state of his eyesight had given

very grave cause for apprehension, he himself fancying from

time to time that the evil might end in absolute blindness, a

fate with which our father had been formidably threatened

in his closing years. From this or other causes insomnia had

ensued, coped with by far too free a use of chloral, which may

have begun towards the spring of 1870. In the summer of

1872 he had a dangerous crisis of illness; and from that

time forward, but more especially from the middle of 1874,

he became secluded in his habits of life, and often depressed,

fanciful, and gloomy. Not indeed that there were no in-

tervals of serenity, even of brightness; for in fact he was

often genial and pleasant, and a most agreeable companion

with as much bonhomie as acuteness for wiling an evening

away. He continued also to prosecute his pictorial work

with ardour and diligence, and at times he added to his

product as a poet. The second of his original volumes,

Ballads and Sonnets , was published in the autumn of 1881.

About the same time he sought change of air and scene in

the Vale of St. John, near Keswick, Cumberland; but he

returned to town more shattered in health and in mental tone

than he had ever been before. In December a shock of a

quasi-paralytic character struck him down. He rallied

sufficiently to remove to Birchington-on-Sea, near Margate.

The hand of death was then upon him, and was to be relaxed

no more. The last stage of his maladies was uræmia. Tended

by his mother and his sister Christina, with the constant

companionship at Birchington of Mr. Hall Caine, and in the
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presence likewise of Mr. Theodore Watts-Dunton, Mr.

Frederic Shields, and myself, he died on Easter Sunday,

April 9th 1882. His sister-in-law, the daughter of Madox

Brown, arrived immediately after his latest breath had been

drawn. He lies buried in the churchyard of Birchington.
Few brothers were more constantly together, or shared

one another's feelings and thoughts more intimately, in child-

hood, boyhood, and well on into mature manhood, than

Dante Gabriel and myself. I have no idea of limning his

character here at any length, but will define a few of its

leading traits. He was always and essentially of a dominant

turn, in intellect and in temperament a leader. He was im-

petuous and vehement, and necessarily therefore impatient;

easily angered, easily appeased, although the embittered

feelings of his later years obscured this amiable quality to

some extent; constant and helpful as a friend where he per-

ceived constancy to be reciprocated; free-handed and heed-

less of expenditure, whether for himself or for others; in

family affection warm and equable, and (except in relation

to our mother, for whom he had a fondling love) not demon-

strative. Never on stilts in matters of the intellect or of

aspiration, but steeped in the sense of beauty, and loving,

if not always practising, the good; keenly alive also to the

laughable as well as the grave or solemn side of things;

superstitious in grain, and anti-scientific to the marrow.

Throughout his youth and early manhood I considered him

to be markedly free from vanity, though certainly well

equipped in pride; the distinction between these two ten-

dencies was less definite in his closing years. Extremely

natural and therefore totally unaffected in tone and manner,

with the naturalism characteristic of Italian blood; good-

natured and hearty, without being complaisant or accommo-

dating; reserved at times, yet not haughty; desultory enough

in youth, diligent and persistent in maturity; self-centred

always, and brushing aside whatever traversed his purpose

or his bent. He was very generally and very greatly liked

by persons of extremely diverse character; indeed, I think

it can be no exaggeration to say that no one ever disliked

him. Of course I do not here confound the question of liking

a man's personality with that of approving his conduct out-

and-out.
Of his manner I can perhaps convey but a vague impression.
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I have said that it was natural; it was likewise eminently

easy, and even of the free-and-easy kind. There was a

certain British bluffness, streaking the finely poised Italian

suppleness and facility. As he was thoroughly unconven-

tional, caring not at all to fall in with the humours or pre-

possessions of any particular class of society, or to conciliate

or approximate the socially distinguished, there was little in

him of any veneer or varnish of elegance; none the less he

was courteous and well-bred, meeting all sorts of persons

upon equal terms— i.e., upon his own terms; and I am

satisfied that those who are most exacting in such matters

found in Rossetti nothing to derogate from the standard of

their requirements. In habit of body he was indolent and

lounging, disinclined to any prescribed or trying exertion of

any sort, and very difficult to stir out of his ordinary groove,

yet not wanting in active promptitude whenever it suited

his liking. He often seemed totally unoccupied, especially

of an evening; no doubt the brain was busy enough.
The appearance of my brother was to my eye rather Italian

than English, though I have more than once heard it said

that there was nothing observable to bespeak foreign blood.

He was of rather low middle stature, say five feet seven and

a half, like our father; and, as the years advanced, he re-

sembled our father not a little in a characteristic way, yet

with highly obvious divergences. Meagre in youth, he was

at times decidedly fat in mature age. The complexion, clear

and warm, was also dark, but not dusky or sombre. The

hair was dark and somewhat silky; the brow grandly spacious

and solid; the full-sized eyes blueish-grey; the nose shapely,

decided, and rather projecting, with an aquiline tendency

and large nostrils, and perhaps no detail in the face was more

noticeable at a first glance than the very strong indentation

at the spring of the nose below the forehead; the mouth

moderately well-shaped, but with a rather thick and un-

moulded under-lip; the chin unremarkable; the line of the

jaw, after youth was passed, full, rounded, and sweeping; the

ears well-formed and rather small than large. His lips were

wide, his hands and feet small; the hands very much those

of the artist or author type, white, delicate, plump, and soft

as a woman's. His gait was resolute and rapid, his general

aspect compact and determined, the prevailing expression of

the face that of a fiery and dictatorial mind concentrated
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into repose. Some people regarded Rossetti as eminently

handsome; few, I think, would have refused him the epithet

of well-looking. It rather surprises me to find from Mr.

Caine's book of Recollections that that gentleman, when he

first saw Rossetti in 1880, considered him to look full ten

years older than he really was,—namely, to look as if sixty-

two years old. To my own eye nothing of the sort was

apparent. He wore moustaches from early youth, shaving his

cheeks; from 1873 or thereabouts he grew whiskers and beard,

moderately full and auburn-tinted, as well as moustaches.

His voice was deep and harmonious; in the reading of poetry,

remarkably rich, with rolling swell and musical cadence.
My brother was very little of a traveller; he disliked

the interruption of his ordinary habits of life, and the flurry

or discomfort, involved in locomotion; moreover, he was a

bad sailor. In boyhood he knew Boulogne: he was in Paris

three or four times, and twice visited some principal cities

of Belgium. This was the whole extent of his foreign travel-

ling. He crossed the Scottish border more than once and

knew various parts of England pretty well—Hastings, Bath,

Oxford, Matlock, Stratford-on-Avon, Newcastle-on-Tyne,

Bognor, Herne Bay; Kelmscot, Keswick, and Birchington-

on-Sea have been already mentioned. From 1878 or there-

abouts he became, until he went to the neighbourhood of

Keswick, an absolute home-keeping recluse, never even

straying outside the large garden of his own house, except to

visit from time to time our mother in the central part of

London.
From an early period of life he had a large circle of friends,

and could always have commanded any amount of inter-

course with any number of ardent or kindly well-wishers, had

he but felt elasticity or cheerfulness of mind enough for the

purpose. I should do injustice to my own feelings if I were

not to mention here some of his leading friends. First and

foremost I name Mr. Madox Brown, his chief intimate through-

out life, on the unexhausted resources of whose affection and

converse he drew incessantly for long years; they were at

last separated by the removal of Mr. Brown to Manchester,

for the purpose of painting the Town Hall frescoes. The

Præraphaelites—Millais, Hunt, Woolner, Stephens, Collinson

—were on terms of unbounded familiarity with him in youth;

owing to death or other causes, he lost sight eventually of all
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of them except Mr. Stephens. Mr. William Bell Scott was,

like Mr. Brown, a close friend from a very early period until

the last; Scott being both poet and painter, there was a

strict bond of affinity between him and Rossetti. Mr. Ruskin

was extremely intimate with my brother from 1854 till about

1865, and was of material help to his professional career.

As he rose towards celebrity, Rossetti knew Burne Jones,

and through him Morris and Swinburne, all staunch and

fervently sympathetic friends. Mr. Shields was a rather later

acquaintance, who soon became an intimate, equally re-

spected and cherished. Then Mr. Hueffer the musical critic

(afterwards a close family connection, editor of the Tauchnitz

edition of Rossetti's works), and Dr. Hake the poet. Through

the latter my brother came to know Mr. Theodore Watts-

Dunton, whose intellectual companionship and incessant

assiduity of friendship did more than anything else towards

assuaging the discomforts and depression of his closing years.

In the latest period the most intimate among new acquaint-

ances were Mr. William Sharp and Mr. Hall Caine, both of

them known to Rossettian readers as his biographers. Nor

should I omit to speak of the extremely friendly relation in

which my brother stood to some of the principal purchasers

of his pictures—Mr. Leathart, Mr. Rae, Mr. Leyland, Mr.

Graham, Mr. Valpy, Mr. Turner, and his early associate Mr.

Boyce. Other names crowd upon me—James Hannay, John

Tupper, Patmore, Thomas and John Seddon, Mrs. Bodichon,

Browning, John Marshall, Tebbs, Mrs. Gilchrist, Miss Boyd,

Sandys, Whistler, Joseph Knight, Fairfax Murray, Mr. and

Mrs. Stillman, Treffry Dunn, Lord and Lady Mount-Temple,

Oliver Madox Brown, the Marstons, father and son—but I

forbear.
Before proceeding to some brief account of the sequence

etc. of my brother's writings, it may be worth while to speak

of the poets who were particularly influential in nurturing

his mind and educing its own poetic endowment. The first

poet with whom he became partially familiar was Shakespear.

Then followed the usual boyish fancies for Walter Scott and

Byron. The Bible was deeply impressive to him, perhaps

above all Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Apocalypse. Byron gave

place to Shelley when my brother was about sixteen years

of age; and Mrs. Browning and the old English or Scottish

ballads rapidly ensued. It may have been towards this
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date, say 1845, that he first seriously applied himself to

Dante, and drank deep of that inexhaustible well-head of

poesy and thought; for the Florentine, though familiar to

him as a name, and in some sense as a pervading penetrative

influence, from earliest childhood, was not really assimilated

until boyhood was practically past. Bailey's Festus was

enormously relished about the same time—read again and

yet again; also Faust, Victor Hugo, Alfred de Musset (and

along with them a swarm of French novelists), and Keats,

whom my brother for the most part, though not without

some compunctious visitings now and then, truly preferred

to Shelley. The only classical poet whom he took to in any

degree worth speaking of was Homer, the Odyssey consider-

ably more than the Iliad. Tennyson reigned along with

Keats, and Edgar Poe and Coleridge along with Tennyson.

In the long run he perhaps enjoyed and revered Coleridge

beyond any other modern poet whatsoever; but Coleridge

was not so distinctly or separately in the ascendant, at any

particular period of youth, as several of the others. Blake

likewise had his peculiar meed of homage, and Charles Wells,

the influence of whose prose style, in the Stories after Nature,

I trace to some extent in Rossetti's Hand and Soul . Lastly

came Browning, and for a time, like the serpent-rod of Moses,

swallowed up all the rest. This was still at an early stage

of life; for I think the year 1847 cannot certainly have been

passed before my brother was deep in Browning. The

readings or fragmentary recitations of Bells and Pomegranates,

Paracelsus, and above all Sordello, are something to remember

from a now distant past. My brother lighted upon Pauline

(published anonymously) in the British Museum, copied it

out, recognized that it must be Browning's, and wrote to the

great poet at a venture to say so, receiving a cordial response,

followed by a genial and friendly intercourse for several

years. One prose-work of great influence upon my brother's

mind, and upon his product as a painter, must not be left

unspecified—Malory's Mort d'Arthur, which he knew to some

extent in boyhood, and which engrossed him towards 1856.

The only poet whom I feel it needful to add to the above is

Chatterton. In the last two or three years of his life my

brother entertained an abnormal—I think an exaggerated—

admiration of Chatterton. It appears to me that (to use a

very hackneyed phrase) he “evolved this from his inner
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consciousness” at that late period; certainly in youth and

early manhood he had no such feeling. He then read the

poems of Chatterton with cursory glance and unexcited

spirit, recognizing them as very singular performances for

their date in English literature, and for the author's boyish

years, but beyond that laying no marked stress upon them.
The reader may perhaps be surprised to find some names

unmentioned in this list: I have stated the facts as I re-

member and know them. Chaucer, Spenser, the Elizabethan

dramatists (other than Shakespear), Milton, Dryden, Pope,

Wordsworth, are unnamed. It should not be supposed that

he read them not at all, or cared not for any of them; but,

if we except Chaucer in a rather loose way and (at a late

period of life) Marlowe in some of his non-dramatic poems,

they were comparatively neglected. Thomas Hood he valued

highly; also very highly Burns in mature years, but he was

not a constant reader of the Scottish lyrist. Of Italian poets

he earnestly loved none save Dante: Cavalcanti in his degree,

and also Poliziano and Michelangelo—not Petrarca, Boccaccio,

Ariosto, Tasso, or Leopardi, though in boyhood he delighted

well enough in Ariosto. Of French poets, none beyond

Hugo and Alfred de Musset; except Villon, and partially

Dumas, whose novels ranked among his favourite reading.

In German poetry he read nothing currently in the original,

although (as our pages bear witness) he had in earliest youth

so far mastered the language as to make some translations.

Calderon, in Fitzgerald's version, he admired deeply; but

this was only at a late date. He had no liking for the

specialities of Scandinavian, nor indeed of Teutonic, thought

and work, and little or no curiosity about Oriental—such as

Indian, Persian, or Arabic—poetry. Any writing about

devils, spectres, or the supernatural generally, whether in

poetry or in prose, had always a fascination for him; at one

time, say 1844, his supreme delight was the blood-curdling

romance of Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer.
I now pass to a specification of my brother's own writings.

Of his merely childish or boyish performances I need have

said nothing, were it not that they have been mentioned in

other books regarding Rossetti. First then there was The

Slave
, a “drama” which he composed and wrote out in or

about the seventh year of his age. It is of course simple

nonsense. “Slave” and “traitor” were two words which
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he found passim in Shakespear; so he gave to his principal

characters the names of Slave and Traitor. If what they do

is meaningless, what they say (when they deviate from

prose) is not exactly unmetrical. Towards his thirteenth

year he began a romantic prose-tale named Roderick and

Rosalba
. I hardly think that he composed anything else

prior to the ballad narrative Sir Hugh the Heron , founded on

a tale by Allan Cunningham. Our grandfather printed it

in 1843, which is some couple of years after the date of its

composition. It is correctly enough versified, but has no

merit, and little that could even be called promise. Soon

afterwards a prose-tale named Sorrentino , in which the devil

played a conspicuous part, was begun, and carried to some

length; it was of course boyish, but it must, I think, have

shown some considerable degree of cleverness. In 1844 there

was the translation of Bürger's Lenore , spirited and fairly

efficient; and in November 1845 was begun a translation of

the Nibelungenlied , almost deserving (if my memory serves me)

to be considered good. Several hundred lines of it must

certainly have been written. My brother was by this time

a practised and competent versifier, at any rate, and his

mere prentice-work may count as finished.
Other original verse, not in any large quantity, succeeded,

along with the version of Der Arme Heinrich , and the begin-

ning of his translations from the early Italians. These must,

I think, have been in full career in the first half of 1847, and

may even have begun in 1845. They show a keen sensitive-

ness to whatsoever is poetic in the originals, and a sinuous

strength and ease in providing English equivalents, with the

command of a rich and romantic vocabulary. In his nine-

teenth year, or before 12th May 1847, he wrote The Blessed

Damozel
. As that is universally recognized as one of his

typical or consummate productions, marking the high level

of his faculty whether inventive or executive, I may here

close this record of preliminaries; the poems, with such

slight elucidations as my notes supply, being left to speak

for themselves. I will only add that for some while, more

especially in the latter part of 1848 and in 1849, my brother

practised his pen to no small extent in writing sonnets to

bouts-rimés. He and I would sit together in our bare little

room at the top of No. 50 Charlotte Street, I giving him the

rhymes for a sonnet, and he me the rhymes for another;
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and we would write off our emulous exercises with consider-

able speed, he constantly the more rapid of the two. From

five to eight minutes may have been the average time for

one of his sonnets; not unfrequently more, and sometimes

hardly so much. In fact, the pen scribbled away at its

fastest. Several of his bouts-rimés sonnets still exist in

my possession, a little touched up after the first draft: I

present most of them in this re-edition. Some have a faux

air of intensity of meaning, as well as of expression; but

their real core of significance is necessarily small, the only

wonder being how he could spin so deftly with so weak a

thread. I may be allowed to mention that most of my own

sonnets (and not sonnets alone) published in The Germ were

bouts-rimés experiments such as above described. In poetic

tone they are of course inferior to my brother's work of like

fashioning; in point of sequence or self-congruity of mean-

ing, the comparison might be less to my disadvantage.
Dante Rossetti's published works were as follows: three

volumes, chiefly of poetry. I shall transcribe the title-pages

verbatim.
(1 a) The Early Italian Poets from Ciullo d'Alcamo to

Dante Alighieri (1100—1200—1300) in the Original Metres.

Together with Dante's Vita Nuova. Translated by D. G.

Rossetti. Part I. Poets chiefly before Dante. Part II.

Dante and his Circle. London: Smith, Elder and Co.

65, Cornhill. 1861. The rights of translation and reproduc-

tion, as regards all editorial parts of this work, are reserved.
(1 b) Dante and his Circle, with the Italian Poets preceding

him (1100—1200—1300). A Collection of Lyrics, edited,

and translated in the original metres, by Dante Gabriel

Rossetti. Revised and rearranged edition. Part I. Dante's

Vita Nuova, &c. Poets of Dante's Circle. Part II. Poets

chiefly before Dante. London: Ellis and White, 29, New

Bond Street. 1874.
(2 a) Poems by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. London: F. S.

Ellis, 33, King Street, Covent Garden. 1870.
(2 b) Poems by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. A new edition.

London: Ellis and White, 29, New Bond Street. 1881.
(3) Ballads and Sonnets by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

London: Ellis and White, 29, New Bond Street, W. 1881.
The reader will understand that 1 b is essentially the same

book as 1 a, but altered in arrangement, chiefly by inverting
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the order in which the poems of Dante and of the Dantesque

epoch, and those of an earlier period, are printed. In the

present collection, I reprint 1 b, taking no further count of 1 a.

The volume 2 b is to a great extent the same as 2 a, yet by

no means identical with it. 2 a contained a section named

Sonnets and Songs, towards a work to be called “The House

of Life.”
In 1881, when 2 b and 3 were published simul-

taneously, The House of Life was completed, was made to

consist solely of sonnets, and was transferred to 3; while the

gap thus left in 2 b was filled up by other poems. This essential

modification of The House of Life clearly governed my action.
It thus became impossible for me to reproduce 2 a: but the

question had to be considered whether I should reprint 2 b and

3 exactly as they stood in 1881, adding after them a section

of poems not hitherto printed in any one of my brother's

volumes; or whether I should recast, in point of arrange-

ment, the entire contents of 2 b and 3, inserting here and

there, in their most appropriate sequence, the poems hitherto

unprinted. I have chosen the latter alternative, as being

in my own opinion the only arrangement which is thoroughly

befitting for an edition of Collected Works. I am aware that

some readers would have preferred to see the old order— i.e.,

the order of 1881—retained, so that the two volumes of that

year could be perused as they then stood. Indeed, one of

my brother's friends, most worthy, whether as friend or as

critic, to be consulted on such a subject, decidedly advocated

that plan. On the other hand, I found my own view con-

firmed by my sister Christina, who, both as a member of the

family and as a poetess, deserved an attentive hearing. The

reader who inspects my table of contents will be readily able

to follow the method of arrangement which is here adopted.

I have divided the materials into Principal Poems, Miscel-

laneous Poems, Translations, and some minor headings; and

have in each section arranged the poems—and the same has

been done with the prose-writings—in the order of the dates

of their composition. This order of date is certainly near to

being correct; though some allowance, especially in the case

of The House of Life , must be made for differences of period

when the poems were begun and were brought into their final

form. The few translations which were printed in 2 b (as

also in 2 a) have been removed to follow on after 1 b.
There are two poems by my brother which I am unable
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to include among his Collected Works. One of these is a

grotesque ballad about a Dutchman, Jan van Hunks , begun

at a very early date, and finished in his last illness. The

other is a brace of sonnets, interesting in subject, and as

being the very latest thing that he wrote. These works were

presented as a gift of love and gratitude to Mr. Watts-Dunton,

with whom it remains to publish them at his own discretion:

he has already brought out Jan van Hunks in The English

Review
.
Dante Rossetti was a very fastidious writer, and, I might

add, a very fastidious painter. He did not indeed “cudgel

his brains” for the idea of a poem or the structure or diction

of a stanza. He wrote out of a large fund or reserve of

thought and consideration, which would culminate in a clear

impulse or (as we say) an inspiration. In the execution he

was always heedful and reflective from the first, and he

spared no after-pains in clarifying and perfecting. He ab-

horred anything straggling, slipshod, profuse, or uncondensed.

He often recurred to his old poems, and was reluctant to

leave them merely as they were. A natural concomitant

of this state of mind was a great repugnance to the notion of

publishing, or of having published after his death, whatever

he regarded as juvenile, petty, or inadequate. As editor of

his Collected Works, I have had to regulate myself to a large

extent by these feelings of his, whether my own entirely

correspond with them or not. The amount of unpublished

work which he left behind him was by no means large; out

of the moderate bulk I have been careful to select only such

examples as I suppose that he would himself have approved

for the purpose, or would, at any rate, not gravely have

objected to. A few, which he might have objected to, figure

as Juvenilia. Some details regarding the new items will be

found among my notes. Some projects or arguments of

poems which he never executed are also printed among his

prose-writings. These particular projects had, I think, been

practically abandoned by him in all the later years of his

life; but there was one subject which he had seriously at

heart, and for which he had collected some materials, and he

would perhaps have put it into shape had he lived a year or

two longer—a ballad on the subject of Joan of Arc to match

The White Ship and The King's Tragedy .
I have not unfrequently heard my brother say that he
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considered himself more essentially a poet than a painter.

To vary the form of expression, he thought that he had

mastered the means of embodying poetical conceptions in the

verbal and rhythmical vehicle more thoroughly than in form

and design, perhaps more thoroughly than in colour.
William M. Rossetti.

London, April 1911.
I add here the dedications to Rossetti's volumes 1 a, 2 a,

2 b, and 3. The dedication to 1 b appears in its proper place.
Whatever is mine in this book is inscribed to my Wife.—

D.G.R. 1861.
2 a.— Poems , 1870 :
To William Michael Rossetti, these Poems, to so many of

which, so many years back, he gave the first brotherly hearing,

are now at last dedicated.
2 b.— Poems , 1881 :
Same dedication, adding the dates “1870—1881.”
To Theodore Watts, the Friend whom my verse won for me,

these few more pages are affectionately inscribed.
In the Poems, 1881, appeared the ensuing “Advertise-

ment”:

“‘Many poems in this volume were written between 1847 and

1853. Others are of recent date, and a few belong to the inter-

vening period. It has been thought unnecessary to specify the

earlier work, as nothing is included which the author believes to

be immature.’

“The above brief note was prefixed to these poems when first

published in 1870. They have now been for some time out of

print.

“The fifty sonnets of The House of Life , which first appeared

here, are now embodied with the full series in the volume entitled

Ballads and Sonnets .

“The fragment of The Bride's Prelude , now first printed, was

written very early, and is here associated with other work of the

same date; though its publication in an unfinished form needs

some indulgence.”

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CONTENTS
The pieces marked thus * are now printed for the first time;

those marked † have appeared in print before, but are now first in-

cluded in the Collected Works.
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PRINCIPAL POEMS
Sig. 1
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THE BLESSED DAMOZEL
  • The blessed damozel leaned out
  • From the gold bar of Heaven;
  • Her eyes were deeper than the depth
  • Of waters stilled at even;
  • She had three lilies in her hand,
  • And the stars in her hair were seven.
  • Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem,
  • No wrought flowers did adorn,
  • But a white rose of Mary's gift,
  • 10 For service meetly worn;
  • Her hair that lay along her back
  • Was yellow like ripe corn.
  • Herseemed she scarce had been a day
  • One of God's choristers;
  • The wonder was not yet quite gone
  • From that still look of hers;
  • Albeit, to them she left, her day
  • Had counted as ten years.
  • (To one, it is ten years of years.
  • 20 . . . Yet now, and in this place,
  • Surely she leaned o'er me—her hair
  • Fell all about my face. . .
  • Nothing: the autumn-fall of leaves.
  • The whole year sets apace.)
  • It was the rampart of God's house
  • That she was standing on;
  • By God built over the sheer depth
  • The which is Space begun;
  • So high, that looking downward thence
  • 30 She scarce could see the sun.
  • It lies in Heaven, across the flood
  • Of ether, as a bridge.
  • Beneath, the tides of day and night
  • With flame and darkness ridge
  • The void, as low as where this earth
  • Spins like a fretful midge.
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  • Around her, lovers, newly met
  • 'Mid deathless love's acclaims,
  • Spoke evermore among themselves
  • 40 Their heart-remembered names;
  • And the souls mounting up to God
  • Went by her like thin flames.
  • And still she bowed herself and stooped
  • Out of the circling charm;
  • Until her bosom must have made
  • The bar she leaned on warm,
  • And the lilies lay as if asleep
  • Along her bended arm.
  • From the fixed place of Heaven she saw
  • 50 Time like a pulse shake fierce
  • Through all the worlds. Her gaze still strove
  • Within the gulf to pierce
  • Its path; and now she spoke as when
  • The stars sang in their spheres.
  • The sun was gone now; the curled moon
  • Was like a little feather
  • Fluttering far down the gulf; and now
  • She spoke through the still weather.
  • Her voice was like the voice of the stars
  • 60 Had when they sang together.
  • (Ah sweet! Even now, in that bird's song,
  • Strove not her accents there,
  • Fain to be hearkened? When those bells
  • Possessed the mid-day air,
  • Strove not her steps to reach my side
  • Down all the echoing stair?)
  • “I wish that he were come to me,
  • For he will come,” she said.
  • “Have I not prayed in Heaven?—on earth,
  • 70 Lord, Lord, has he not pray'd?
  • Are not two prayers a perfect strength?
  • And shall I feel afraid?
  • “When round his head the aureole clings,
  • And he is clothed in white,
  • I'll take his hand and go with him
  • To the deep wells of light;
  • As unto a stream we will step down,
  • And bathe there in God's sight.
  • “We two will stand beside that shrine,
  • 80 Occult, withheld, untrod,
  • Whose lamps are stirred continually
  • With prayer sent up to God;
  • And see our old prayers, granted, melt
  • Each like a little cloud.
  • “We two will lie i' the shadow of
  • That living mystic tree
  • Within whose secret growth the Dove
  • Is sometimes felt to be,
  • While every leaf that His plumes touch
  • 90 Saith His Name audibly.
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  • “And I myself will teach to him,
  • I myself, lying so,
  • The songs I sing here; which his voice
  • Shall pause in, hushed and slow,
  • And find some knowledge at each pause,
  • Or some new thing to know.”
  • (Alas! We two, we two, thou say'st!
  • Yea, one wast thou with me
  • That once of old. But shall God lift
  • 100 To endless unity
  • The soul whose likeness with thy soul
  • Was but its love for thee?)
  • “We two,” she said, “will seek the groves
  • Where the lady Mary is,
  • With her five handmaidens, whose names
  • Are five sweet symphonies,
  • Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen,
  • Margaret and Rosalys.
  • “Circlewise sit they, with bound locks
  • 110 And foreheads garlanded;
  • Into the fine cloth white like flame
  • Weaving the golden thread,
  • To fashion the birth-robes for them
  • Who are just born, being dead.
  • “He shall fear, haply, and be dumb:
  • Then will I lay my cheek
  • To his, and tell about our love,
  • Not once abashed or weak:
  • And the dear Mother will approve
  • 120 My pride, and let me speak.
  • “Herself shall bring us, hand in hand,
  • To Him round whom all souls
  • Kneel, the clear-ranged unnumbered heads
  • Bowed with their aureoles:
  • And angels meeting us shall sing
  • To their citherns and citoles.
  • “There will I ask of Christ the Lord
  • Thus much for him and me:—
  • Only to live as once on earth
  • 130 With Love,—only to be,
  • As then awhile, for ever now
  • Together, I and he.”
  • She gazed and listened and then said,
  • Less sad of speech than mild,—
  • “All this is when he comes.” She ceased.
  • The light thrilled towards her, fill'd
  • With angels in strong level flight.
  • Her eyes prayed, and she smil'd.
  • (I saw her smile.) But soon their path
  • 140 Was vague in distant spheres:
  • And then she cast her arms along
  • The golden barriers,
  • And laid her face between her hands,
  • And wept. (I heard her tears.)
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DANTE AT VERONA
  • Yea, thou shalt learn how salt his food who fares
  • Upon another's bread,—how steep his path
  • Who treadeth up and down another's stairs.
( Div. Com. Parad. xvii.)
  • Behold, even I, even I am Beatrice.
( Div. Com. Purg. xxx.)
  • Of Florence and of Beatrice
  • Servant and singer from of old,
  • O'er Dante's heart in youth had toll'd
  • The knell that gave his Lady peace;
  • And now in manhood flew the dart
  • Wherewith his City pierced his heart.
  • Yet if his Lady's home above
  • Was Heaven, on earth she filled his soul;
  • And if his City held control
  • 10 To cast the body forth to rove,
  • The soul could soar from earth's vain throng,
  • And Heaven and Hell fulfil the song.
  • Follow his feet's appointed way;—
  • But little light we find that clears
  • The darkness of the exiled years.
  • Follow his spirit's journey:—nay,
  • What fires are blent, what winds are blown
  • On paths his feet may tread alone?
  • Yet of the twofold life he led
  • 20 In chainless thought and fettered will
  • Some glimpses reach us,—somewhat still
  • Of the steep stairs and bitter bread,—
  • Of the soul's quest whose stern avow
  • For years had made him haggard now.
  • Alas! the Sacred Song whereto
  • Both heaven and earth had set their hand
  • Not only at Fame's gate did stand
  • Knocking to claim the passage through,
  • But toiled to ope that heavier door
  • 30 Which Florence shut for evermore.
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  • Shall not his birth's baptismal Town
  • One last high presage yet fulfil,
  • And at that font in Florence still
  • His forehead take the laurel-crown?
  • O God! or shall dead souls deny
  • The undying soul its prophecy?
  • Aye, 'tis their hour. Not yet forgot
  • The bitter words he spoke that day
  • When for some great charge far away
  • 40 Her rulers his acceptance sought.
  • “And if I go, who stays?”—so rose
  • His scorn:—“and if I stay, who goes?”
  • “Lo! thou art gone now, and we stay”
  • (The curled lips mutter): “and no star
  • Is from thy mortal path so far
  • As streets where childhood knew the way.
  • To Heaven and Hell thy feet may win,
  • But thine own house they come not in.”
  • Therefore, the loftier rose the song
  • 50 To touch the secret things of God,
  • The deeper pierced the hate that trod
  • On base men's track who wrought the wrong;
  • Till the soul's effluence came to be
  • Its own exceeding agony.
  • Arriving only to depart,
  • From court to court, from land to land,
  • Like flame within the naked hand
  • His body bore his burning heart
  • That still on Florence strove to bring
  • 60 God's fire for a burnt offering.
  • Even such was Dante's mood, when now,
  • Mocked for long years with Fortune's sport,
  • He dwelt at yet another court,
  • There where Verona's knee did bow
  • And her voice hailed with all acclaim
  • Can Grande della Scala's name.
  • As that lord's kingly guest awhile
  • His life we follow; through the days
  • Which walked in exile's barren ways,—
  • 70 The nights which still beneath one smile
  • Heard through all spheres one song increase,—
  • “Even I, even I am Beatrice.”
  • At Can La Scala's court, no doubt,
  • Due reverence did his steps attend;
  • The ushers on his path would bend
  • At ingoing as at going out;
  • The penmen waited on his call
  • At council-board, the grooms in hall.
  • And pages hushed their laughter down,
  • 80 And gay squires stilled the merry stir,
  • When he passed up the dais-chamber
  • With set brows lordlier than a frown;
  • And tire-maids hidden among these
  • Drew close their loosened bodices.
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  • Perhaps the priests, (exact to span
  • All God's circumference,) if at whiles
  • They found him wandering in their aisles,
  • Grudged ghostly greeting to the man
  • By whom, though not of ghostly guild,
  • 90 With Heaven and Hell men's hearts were fill'd.
  • And the court-poets (he, forsooth,
  • A whole world's poet strayed to court!)
  • Had for his scorn their hate's retort.
  • He'd meet them flushed with easy youth,
  • Hot on their errands. Like noon-flies
  • They vexed him in the ears and eyes.
  • But at this court, peace still must wrench
  • Her chaplet from the teeth of war:
  • By day they held high watch afar,
  • 100 At night they cried across the trench;
  • And still, in Dante's path, the fierce
  • Gaunt soldiers wrangled o'er their spears.
  • But vain seemed all the strength to him,
  • As golden convoys sunk at sea
  • Whose wealth might root out penury:
  • Because it was not, limb with limb,
  • Knit like his heart-strings round the wall
  • Of Florence, that ill pride might fall.
  • Yet in the tiltyard, when the dust
  • 110 Cleared from the sundered press of knights
  • Ere yet again it swoops and smites,
  • He almost deemed his longing must
  • Find force to yield that multitude
  • And hurl that strength the way he would.
  • How should he move them,—fame and gain
  • On all hands calling them at strife?
  • He still might find but his one life
  • To give, by Florence counted vain;
  • One heart the false hearts made her doubt,
  • 120 One voice she heard once and cast out.
  • Oh! if his Florence could but come,
  • A lily-sceptred damsel fair,
  • As her own Giotto painted her
  • On many shields and gates at home,—
  • A lady crowned, at a soft pace
  • Riding the lists round to the dais:
  • Till where Can Grande rules the lists,
  • As young as Truth, as calm as Force,
  • She draws her rein now, while her horse
  • 130 Bows at the turn of the white wrists;
  • And when each knight within his stall
  • Gives ear, she speaks and tells them all:
  • All the foul tale,—truth sworn untrue
  • And falsehood's triumph. All the tale?
  • Great God! and must she not prevail
  • To fire them ere they heard it through,—
  • And hand achieve ere heart could rest
  • That high adventure of her quest?
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  • How would his Florence lead them forth,
  • 140 Her bridle ringing as she went;
  • And at the last within her tent,
  • 'Neath golden lilies worship-worth,
  • How queenly would she bend the while
  • And thank the victors with her smile!
  • Also her lips should turn his way
  • And murmur: “O thou tried and true,
  • With whom I wept the long years through!
  • What shall it profit if I say,
  • Thee I remember? Nay, through thee
  • 150 All ages shall remember me.”
  • Peace, Dante, peace! The task is long,
  • The time wears short to compass it.
  • Within thine heart such hopes may flit
  • And find a voice in deathless song:
  • But lo! as children of man's earth,
  • Those hopes are dead before their birth.
  • Fame tells us that Verona's court
  • Was a fair place. The feet might still
  • Wander for ever at their will
  • 160 In many ways of sweet resort;
  • And still in many a heart around
  • The Poet's name due honour found.
  • Watch we his steps. He comes upon
  • The women at their palm-playing.
  • The conduits round the gardens sing
  • And meet in scoops of milk-white stone,
  • Where wearied damsels rest and hold
  • Their hands in the wet spurt of gold.
  • One of whom, knowing well that he,
  • 170 By some found stern, was mild with them,
  • Would run and pluck his garment's hem,
  • Saying, “Messer Dante, pardon me,”—
  • Praying that they might hear the song
  • Which first of all he made, when young.
  • “Donne che avete”* . . . Thereunto
  • Thus would he murmur, having first
  • Drawn near the fountain, while she nurs'd
  • His hand against her side: a few
  • Sweet words, and scarcely those, half said:
  • 180 Then turned, and changed, and bowed his head.
  • For then the voice said in his heart,
  • “Even I, even I am Beatrice”;
  • And his whole life would yearn to cease:
  • Till having reached his room, apart
  • Beyond vast lengths of palace-floor,
  • He drew the arras round his door.
Transcribed Footnote (page 9):

* Donne che avete intelletto d'amore:—the first canzone of the Vita Nuova.

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  • At such times, Dante, thou hast set
  • Thy forehead to the painted pane
  • Full oft, I know; and if the rain
  • 190 Smote it outside, her fingers met
  • Thy brow; and if the sun fell there,
  • Her breath was on thy face and hair.
  • Then, weeping, I think certainly
  • Thou hast beheld, past sight of eyne,—
  • Within another room of thine
  • Where now thy body may not be
  • But where in thought thou still remain'st,—
  • A window often wept against:
  • The window thou, a youth, hast sought,
  • 200 Flushed in the limpid eventime,
  • Ending with daylight the day's rhyme
  • Of her; where oftenwhiles her thought
  • Held thee—the lamp untrimmed to write—
  • In joy through the blue lapse of night.
  • At Can La Scala's court, no doubt,
  • Guests seldom wept. It was brave sport,
  • No doubt, at Can La Scala's Court,
  • Within the palace and without;
  • Where music, set to madrigals,
  • 210 Loitered all day through groves and halls.
  • Because Can Grande of his life
  • Had not had six-and-twenty years
  • As yet. And when the chroniclers
  • Tell you of that Vicenza strife
  • And of strifes elsewhere,—you must not
  • Conceive for church-sooth he had got
  • Just nothing in his wits but war:
  • Though doubtless 'twas the young man's joy
  • (Grown with his growth from a mere boy,)
  • 220To mark his “Viva Cane!” scare
  • The foe's shut front, till it would reel
  • All blind with shaken points of steel.
  • But there were places—held too sweet
  • For eyes that had not the due veil
  • Of lashes and clear lids—as well
  • In favour as his saddle-seat:
  • Breath of low speech he scorned not there
  • Nor light cool fingers in his hair.
  • Yet if the child whom the sire's plan
  • 230 Made free of a deep treasure-chest
  • Scoffed it with ill-conditioned jest,—
  • We may be sure too that the man
  • Was not mere thews, nor all content
  • With lewdness swathed in sentiment.
  • So you may read and marvel not
  • That such a man as Dante—one
  • Who, while Can Grande's deeds were done,
  • Had drawn his robe round him and thought—
  • Now at the same guest-table far'd
  • 240 Where keen Uguccio wiped his beard.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 10):

* Uguccione della Faggiuola, Dante's former protector, was now his fellow-guest at Verona.

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  • Through leaves and trellis-work the sun
  • Left the wine cool within the glass,—
  • They feasting where no sun could pass:
  • And when the women, all as one,
  • Rose up with brightened cheeks to go,
  • It was a comely thing, we know.
  • But Dante recked not of the wine;
  • Whether the women stayed or went,
  • His visage held one stern intent:
  • 250 And when the music had its sign
  • To breathe upon them for more ease,
  • Sometimes he turned and bade it cease.
  • And as he spared not to rebuke
  • The mirth, so oft in council he
  • To bitter truth bore testimony:
  • And when the crafty balance shook
  • Well poised to make the wrong prevail,
  • Then Dante's hand would turn the scale.
  • And if some envoy from afar
  • 260 Sailed to Verona's sovereign port
  • For aid or peace, and all the court
  • Fawned on its lord, “the Mars of war,
  • Sole arbiter of life and death,”—
  • Be sure that Dante saved his breath.
  • And Can La Scala marked askance
  • These things, accepting them for shame
  • And scorn, till Dante's guestship came
  • To be a peevish sufferance:
  • His host sought ways to make his days
  • 270 Hateful; and such have many ways.
  • There was a Jester, a foul lout
  • Whom the court loved for graceless arts;
  • Sworn scholiast of the bestial parts
  • Of speech; a ribald mouth to shout
  • In Folly's horny tympanum
  • Such things as make the wise man dumb.
  • Much loved, him Dante loathed. And so,
  • One day when Dante felt perplexed
  • If any day that could come next
  • 280 Were worth the waiting for or no,
  • And mute he sat amid their din,—
  • Can Grande called the Jester in.
  • Rank words, with such, are wit's best wealth.
  • Lords mouthed approval; ladies kept
  • Twittering with clustered heads, except
  • Some few that took their trains by stealth
  • And went. Can Grande shook his hair
  • And smote his thighs and laughed i' the air.
  • Then, facing on his guest, he cried,—
  • 290 “Say, Messer Dante, how it is
  • I get out of a clown like this
  • More than your wisdom can provide.”
  • And Dante: “'Tis man's ancient whim
  • That still his like seems good to him.”
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  • Also a tale is told, how once,
  • At clearing tables after meat,
  • Piled for a jest at Dante's feet
  • Were found the dinner's well-picked bones;
  • So laid, to please the banquet's lord,
  • 300 By one who crouched beneath the board.
  • Then smiled Can Grande to the rest:—
  • “Our Dante's tuneful mouth indeed
  • Lacks not the gift on flesh to feed!”
  • “Fair host of mine,” replied the guest,
  • “So many bones you'd not descry
  • If so it chanced the dog were I.”*
  • But wherefore should we turn the grout
  • In a drained cup, or be at strife
  • From the worn garment of a life
  • 310 To rip the twisted ravel out?
  • Good needs expounding; but of ill
  • Each hath enough to guess his fill.
  • They named him Justicer-at-Law:
  • Each month to bear the tale in mind
  • Of hues a wench might wear unfin'd
  • And of the load an ox might draw;
  • To cavil in the weight of bread
  • And to see purse-thieves gibbeted.
  • And when his spirit wove the spell
  • 320 (From under even to over-noon
  • In converse with itself alone,)
  • As high as Heaven, as low as Hell,—
  • He would be summoned and must go:
  • For had not Gian stabbed Giacomo?
  • Therefore the bread he had to eat
  • Seemed brackish, less like corn than tares;
  • And the rush-strown accustomed stairs
  • Each day were steeper to his feet;
  • And when the night-vigil was done,
  • 330 His brows would ache to feel the sun.
  • Nevertheless, when from his kin
  • There came the tidings how at last
  • In Florence a decree was pass'd
  • Whereby all banished folk might win
  • Free pardon, so a fine were paid
  • And act of public penance made,—
  • This Dante writ in answer thus,
  • Words such as these: “That clearly they
  • In Florence must not have to say,—
  • 340The man abode aloof from us
  • Nigh fifteen years, yet lastly skulk'd
  • Hither to candleshrift and mulct.
Transcribed Footnote (page 12):

* “ Messere, voi non vedreste tant 'ossa se cane io fossi .” The point of the reproach

is difficult to render, depending as it does on the literal meaning of the name Cane.

Image of page 13 page: 13
  • “That he was one the Heavens forbid
  • To traffic in God's justice sold
  • By market-weight of earthly gold,
  • Or to bow down over the lid
  • Of steaming censers, and so be
  • Made clean of manhood's obloquy.
  • “That since no gate led, by God's will,
  • 350 To Florence, but the one whereat
  • The priests and money-changers sat,
  • He still would wander; for that still,
  • Even through the body's prison-bars,
  • His soul possessed the sun and stars.”
  • Such were his words. It is indeed
  • For ever well our singers should
  • Utter good words and know them good
  • Not through song only; with close heed
  • Lest, having spent for the work's sake
  • 360 Six days, the man be left to make.
  • Months o'er Verona, till the feast
  • Was come for Florence the Free Town:
  • And at the shrine of Baptist John
  • The exiles, girt with many a priest
  • And carrying candles as they went,
  • Were held to mercy of the saint.
  • On the high seats in sober state,—
  • Gold neck-chains range o'er range below
  • Gold screen-work where the lilies grow,—
  • 370 The Heads of the Republic sate,
  • Marking the humbled face go by
  • Each one of his house-enemy.
  • And as each proscript rose and stood
  • From kneeling in the ashen dust
  • On the shrine-steps, some magnate thrust
  • A beard into the velvet hood
  • Of his front colleague's gown, to see
  • The cinders stuck in the bare knee.
  • Tosinghi passed, Manelli passed,
  • 380 Rinucci passed, each in his place;
  • But not an Alighieri's face
  • Went by that day from first to last
  • In the Republic's triumph; nor
  • A foot came home to Dante's door.
  • (Respublica—a public thing:
  • A shameful shameless prostitute,
  • Whose lust with one lord may not suit,
  • So takes by turn its revelling
  • A night with each, till each at morn
  • 390 Is stripped and beaten forth forlorn,
  • And leaves her, cursing her. If she,
  • Indeed, have not some spice-draught, hid
  • In scent under a silver lid,
  • To drench his open throat with—he
  • Once hard asleep; and thrust him not
  • At dawn beneath the stairs to rot.
Image of page 14 page: 14
  • Such this Republic!—not the Maid
  • He yearned for; she who yet should stand
  • With Heaven's accepted hand in hand,
  • 400 Invulnerable and unbetray'd:
  • To whom, even as to God, should be
  • Obeisance one with Liberty.)
  • Years filled out their twelve moons, and ceased
  • One in another; and alway
  • There were the whole twelve hours each day
  • And each night as the years increased;
  • And rising moon and setting sun
  • Beheld that Dante's work was done.
  • What of his work for Florence? Well
  • 410 It was, he knew, and well must be.
  • Yet evermore her hate's decree
  • Dwelt in his thought intolerable:—
  • His body to be burned,*—his soul
  • To beat its wings at hope's vain goal.
  • What of his work for Beatrice?
  • Now well-nigh was the third song writ,—
  • The stars a third time sealing it
  • With sudden music of pure peace:
  • For echoing thrice the threefold song,
  • 420 The unnumbered stars the tone prolong.†
  • Each hour, as then the Vision pass'd,
  • He heard the utter harmony
  • Of the nine trembling spheres, till she
  • Bowed her eyes towards him in the last,
  • So that all ended with her eyes,
  • Hell, Purgatory, Paradise.
  • “It is my trust, as the years fall,
  • To write more worthily of her
  • Who now, being made God's minister,
  • 430 Looks on His visage and knows all.”
  • Such was the hope that love dar'd blend
  • With grief's slow fires, to make an end
  • Of the “New Life,” his youth's dear book:
  • Adding thereunto: “In such trust
  • I labour, and believe I must
  • Accomplish this which my soul took
  • In charge, if God, my Lord and hers,
  • Leave my life with me a few years.”
  • The trust which he had borne in youth
  • 440 Was all at length accomplished. He
  • At length had written worthily—
  • Yea even of her; no rhymes uncouth
  • 'Twixt tongue and tongue; but by God's aid
  • The first words Italy had said.
Transcribed Footnote (page 14):

* Such was the last sentence passed by Florence against Dante, as a recalcitrant exile.

Transcribed Footnote (page 14):

† E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.— Inferno.

Puro e disposto a salire alle stelle.— Purgatorio.

L'amor che muove il sole e l'altre stelle.— Paradiso.

Image of page 15 page: 15
  • Ah! haply now the heavenly guide
  • Was not the last form seen by him:
  • But there that Beatrice stood slim
  • And bowed in passing at his side,
  • For whom in youth his heart made moan
  • 450 Then when the city sat alone.*
  • Clearly herself: the same whom he
  • Met, not past girlhood, in the street,
  • Low-bosomed and with hidden feet;
  • And then as woman perfectly,
  • In years that followed, many an once,—
  • And now at last among the suns
  • In that high vision. But indeed
  • It may be memory might recall
  • Last to him then the first of all,—
  • 460 The child his boyhood bore in heed
  • Nine years. At length the voice brought peace,—
  • “Even I, even I am Beatrice.”
  • All this, being there, we had not seen.
  • Seen only was the shadow wrought
  • On the strong features bound in thought;
  • The vagueness gaining gait and mien;
  • The white streaks gathering clear to view
  • In the burnt beard the women knew.
  • For a tale tells that on his track,
  • 470 As through Verona's streets he went,
  • This saying certain women sent:—
  • “Lo, he that strolls to Hell and back
  • At will! Behold him, how Hell's reek
  • Has crisped his beard and singed his cheek.”
  • “Whereat” (Boccaccio's words) “he smiled
  • For pride in fame.” It might be so:
  • Nevertheless we cannot know
  • If haply he were not beguiled
  • To bitterer mirth, who scarce could tell
  • 480 If he indeed were back from Hell.
  • So the day came, after a space,
  • When Dante felt assured that there
  • The sunshine must lie sicklier
  • Even than in any other place,
  • Save only Florence. When that day
  • Had come, he rose and went his way.
  • He went and turned not. From his shoes
  • It may be that he shook the dust,
  • As every righteous dealer must
  • 490 Once and again ere life can close:
  • And unaccomplished destiny
  • Struck cold his forehead, it may be.
Transcribed Footnote (page 15):

* Quomodo sedet sola civitas!—The words quoted by Dante in the Vita Nuova when

he speaks of the death of Beatrice.

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  • No book keeps record how the Prince
  • Sunned himself out of Dante's reach,
  • Nor how the Jester stank in speech:
  • While courtiers, used to cringe and wince,
  • Poets and harlots, all the throng,
  • Let loose their scandal and their song.
  • No book keeps record if the seat
  • 500 Which Dante held at his host's board
  • Were sat in next by clerk or lord,—
  • If leman lolled with dainty feet
  • At ease, or hostage brooded there,
  • Or priest lacked silence for his prayer.
  • Eat and wash hands, Can Grande;—scarce
  • We know their deeds now: hands which fed
  • Our Dante with that bitter bread;
  • And thou the watch-dog of those stairs
  • Which, of all paths his feet knew well,
  • 510 Were steeper found than Heaven or Hell.
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Sig. 2
THE BRIDE'S PRELUDE
  • “Sister,” said busy Amelotte
  • To listless Aloÿse;
  • “Along your wedding-road the wheat
  • Bends as to hear your horse's feet,
  • And the noonday stands still for heat.”
  • Amelotte laughed into the air
  • With eyes that sought the sun:
  • But where the walls in long brocade
  • Were screened, as one who is afraid
  • 10 Sat Aloÿse within the shade.
  • And even in shade was gleam enough
  • To shut out full repose
  • From the bride's 'tiring-chamber, which
  • Was like the inner altar-niche
  • Whose dimness worship has made rich.
  • Within the window's heaped recess
  • The light was counterchanged
  • In blent reflexes manifold
  • From perfume-caskets of wrought gold
  • 20 And gems the bride's hair could not hold,
  • All thrust together: and with these
  • A slim-curved lute, which now,
  • At Amelotte's sudden passing there,
  • Was swept in somewise unaware,
  • And shook to music the close air.
  • Against the haloed lattice-panes
  • The bridesmaid sunned her breast;
  • Then to the glass turned tall and free,
  • And braced and shifted daintily
  • 30 Her loin-belt through her côte-hardie.
  • The belt was silver, and the clasp
  • Of lozenged arm-bearings;
  • A world of mirrored tints minute
  • The rippling sunshine wrought into 't,
  • That flushed her hand and warmed her foot.
  • At least an hour had Aloÿse—
  • Her jewels in her hair—
  • Her white gown, as became a bride,
  • Quartered in silver at each side—
  • 40 Sat thus aloof, as if to hide.
Image of page 18 page: 18
  • Over her bosom, that lay still,
  • The vest was rich in grain,
  • With close pearls wholly overset:
  • Around her throat the fastenings met
  • Of chevesayle and mantelet.
  • Her arms were laid along her lap
  • With the hands open: life
  • Itself did seem at fault in her:
  • Beneath the drooping brows, the stir
  • 50 Of thought made noonday heavier.
  • Long sat she silent; and then raised
  • Her head, with such a gasp
  • As while she summoned breath to speak
  • Fanned high that furnace in the cheek
  • But sucked the heart-pulse cold and weak.
  • (Oh gather round her now, all ye
  • Past seasons of her fear,—
  • Sick springs, and summers deadly cold!
  • To flight your hovering wings unfold,
  • 60 For now your secret shall be told.
  • Ye many sunlights, barbed with darts
  • Of dread detecting flame,—
  • Gaunt moonlights that like sentinels
  • Went past with iron clank of bells,—
  • Draw round and render up your spells!)
  • “Sister,” said Aloÿse, “I had
  • A thing to tell thee of
  • Long since, and could not. But do thou
  • Kneel first in prayer awhile, and bow
  • 70 Thine heart, and I will tell thee now.”
  • Amelotte wondered with her eyes;
  • But her heart said in her:
  • “Dear Aloÿse would have me pray
  • Because the awe she feels to-day
  • Must need more prayers than she can say.”
  • So Amelotte put by the folds
  • That covered up her feet,
  • And knelt,—beyond the arras'd gloom
  • And the hot window's dull perfume,—
  • 80 Where day was stillest in the room.
  • “Queen Mary, hear,” she said, “and say
  • To Jesus the Lord Christ,
  • This bride's new joy, which He confers,
  • New joy to many ministers,
  • And many griefs are bound in hers.”
  • The bride turned in her chair, and hid
  • Her face against the back,
  • And took her pearl-girt elbows in
  • Her hands, and could not yet begin,
  • 90 But shuddering, uttered, “Urscelyn!”
Image of page 19 page: 19
  • Most weak she was; for as she pressed
  • Her hand against her throat,
  • Along the arras she let trail
  • Her face, as if all heart did fail,
  • And sat with shut eyes, dumb and pale.
  • Amelotte still was on her knees
  • As she had kneeled to pray.
  • Deeming her sister swooned, she thought,
  • At first, some succour to have brought;
  • 100 But Aloÿse rocked, as one distraught.
  • She would have pushed the lattice wide
  • To gain what breeze might be;
  • But marking that no leaf once beat
  • The outside casement, it seemed meet
  • Not to bring in more scent and heat.
  • So she said only: “Aloÿse,
  • Sister, when happened it
  • At any time that the bride came
  • To ill, or spoke in fear of shame,
  • 110 When speaking first the bridegroom's name?”
  • A bird had out its song and ceased
  • Ere the bride spoke. At length
  • She said: “The name is as the thing:—
  • Sin hath no second christening,
  • And shame is all that shame can bring.
  • “In divers places many an while
  • I would have told thee this;
  • But faintness took me, or a fit
  • Like fever. God would not permit
  • 120 That I should change thine eyes with it.
  • “Yet once I spoke, hadst thou but heard:—
  • That time we wandered out
  • All the sun's hours, but missed our way
  • When evening darkened, and so lay
  • The whole night covered up in hay.
  • “At last my face was hidden: so,
  • Having God's hint, I paused
  • Not long; but drew myself more near
  • Where thou wast laid, and shook off fear,
  • 130 And whispered quick into thine ear
  • “Something of the whole tale. At first
  • I lay and bit my hair
  • For the sore silence thou didst keep:
  • Till, as thy breath came long and deep,
  • I knew that thou hadst been asleep.
  • “The moon was covered, but the stars
  • Lasted till morning broke.
  • Awake, thou told'st me that thy dream
  • Had been of me,—that all did seem
  • 140 At jar,—but that it was a dream.
Image of page 20 page: 20
  • “I knew God's hand and might not speak.
  • After that night I kept
  • Silence and let the record swell:
  • Till now there is much more to tell
  • Which must be told out ill or well.”
  • She paused then, weary, with dry lips
  • Apart. From the outside
  • By fits there boomed a dull report
  • From where i' the hanging tennis-court
  • 150 The bridegroom's retinue made sport.
  • The room lay still in dusty glare,
  • Having no sound through it
  • Except the chirp of a caged bird
  • That came and ceased: and if she stirred,
  • Amelotte's raiment could be heard.
  • Quoth Amelotte: “The night this chanced
  • Was a late summer night
  • Last year! What secret, for Christ's love,
  • Keep'st thou since then? Mary above!
  • 160 What thing is this thou speakest of?
  • “Mary and Christ! Lest when 'tis told
  • I should be prone to wrath,—
  • This prayer beforehand! How she errs
  • Soe'er, take count of grief like hers,
  • Whereof the days are turned to years!”
  • She bowed her neck, and having said,
  • Kept on her knees to hear;
  • And then, because strained thought demands
  • Quiet before it understands,
  • 170 Darkened her eyesight with her hands.
  • So when at last her sister spoke,
  • She did not see the pain
  • O' the mouth nor the ashamèd eyes,
  • But marked the breath that came in sighs
  • And the half-pausing for replies.
  • This was the bride's sad prelude-strain:—
  • “I' the convent where a girl
  • I dwelt till near my womanhood,
  • I had but preachings of the rood
  • 180 And Aves told in solitude
  • “To spend my heart on: and my hand
  • Had but the weary skill
  • To eke out upon silken cloth
  • Christ's visage, or the long bright growth
  • Of Mary's hair, or Satan wroth.
  • “So when at last I went, and thou,
  • A child not known before,
  • Didst come to take the place I left,—
  • My limbs, after such lifelong theft
  • 190 Of life, could be but little deft
Image of page 21 page: 21
  • “In all that ministers delight
  • To noble women: I
  • Had learned no word of youth's discourse,
  • Nor gazed on games of warriors,
  • Nor trained a hound, nor ruled a horse.
  • “Besides, the daily life i' the sun
  • Made me at first hold back.
  • To thee this came at once; to me
  • It crept with pauses timidly;
  • 200 I am not blithe and strong like thee.
  • “Yet my feet liked the dances well,
  • The songs went to my voice,
  • The music made me shake and weep;
  • And often, all night long, my sleep
  • Gave dreams I had been fain to keep.
  • “But though I loved not holy things,
  • To hear them scorned brought pain,—
  • They were my childhood; and these dames
  • Were merely perjured in saints' names
  • 210 And fixed upon saints' days for games.
  • “And sometimes when my father rode
  • To hunt with his loud friends,
  • I dared not bring him to be quaff'd,
  • As my wont was, his stirrup-draught,
  • Because they jested so and laughed.
  • “At last one day my brothers said,
  • ‘The girl must not grow thus,—
  • Bring her a jennet,—she shall ride.’
  • They helped my mounting, and I tried
  • 220 To laugh with them and keep their side,
  • “But brakes were rough and bents were steep
  • Upon our path that day:
  • My palfrey threw me; and I went
  • Upon men's shoulders home, sore spent,
  • While the chase followed up the scent.
  • “Our shrift-father (and he alone
  • Of all the household there
  • Had skill in leechcraft) was away
  • When I reached home. I tossed, and lay
  • 230 Sullen with anguish the whole day.
  • “For the day passed ere some one brought
  • To mind that in the hunt
  • Rode a young lord she named, long bred
  • Among the priests, whose art (she said)
  • Might chance to stand me in much stead.
  • “I bade them seek and summon him:
  • But long ere this, the chase
  • Had scattered, and he was not found.
  • I lay in the same weary stound,
  • 240 Therefore, until the night came round.
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Note: There are three identical smudges, caused by inked quads, on this page: line 255 (between “bore” and “our”), line 260 (between “as” and “mine”) and line 265 (between “her” and “mind”)
  • “It was dead night and near on twelve
  • When the horse-tramp at length
  • Beat up the echoes of the court:
  • By then, my feverish breath was short
  • With pain the sense could scarce support.
  • “My fond nurse sitting near my feet
  • Rose softly,—her lamp's flame
  • Held in her hand, lest it should make
  • My heated lids, in passing, ache;
  • 250 And she passed softly, for my sake.
  • “Returning soon, she brought the youth
  • They spoke of. Meek he seemed,
  • But good knights held him of stout heart.
  • He was akin to us in part,
  • And bore our shield, but barred athwart.
  • “I now remembered to have seen
  • His face, and heard him praised
  • For letter-lore and medicine,
  • Seeing his youth was nurtured in
  • 260 Priests' knowledge, as mine own had been.”
  • The bride's voice did not weaken here,
  • Yet by her sudden pause
  • She seemed to look for questioning;
  • Or else (small need though) 'twas to bring
  • Well to her mind the bygone thing.
  • Her thought, long stagnant, stirred by speech,
  • Gave her a sick recoil;
  • As, dip thy fingers through the green
  • That masks a pool,—where they have been
  • 270 The naked depth is black between.
  • Amelotte kept her knees; her face
  • Was shut within her hands,
  • As it had been throughout the tale;
  • Her forehead's whiteness might avail
  • Nothing to say if she were pale.
  • Although the lattice had dropped loose,
  • There was no wind; the heat
  • Being so at rest that Amelotte
  • Heard far beneath the plunge and float
  • 280 Of a hound swimming in the moat.
  • Some minutes since, two rooks had toiled
  • Home to the nests that crowned
  • Ancestral ash-trees. Through the glare
  • Beating again, they seemed to tear
  • With that thick caw the woof o' the air.
  • But else, 'twas at the dead of noon
  • Absolute silence; all,
  • From the raised bridge and guarded sconce
  • To green-clad places of pleasaùnce
  • 290 Where the long lake was white with swans.
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  • Amelotte spoke not any word
  • Nor moved she once; but felt
  • Between her hands in narrow space
  • Her own hot breath upon her face,
  • And kept in silence the same place.
  • Aloÿse did not hear at all
  • The sounds without. She heard
  • The inward voice (past help obey'd)
  • Which might not slacken nor be stay'd,
  • 300 But urged her till the whole were said.
  • Therefore she spoke again: “That night
  • But little could be done:
  • My foot, held in my nurse's hands,
  • He swathed up heedfully in bands,
  • And for my rest gave close commands.
  • “I slept till noon, but an ill sleep
  • Of dreams: through all that day
  • My side was stiff and caught the breath;
  • Next day, such pain as sickeneth
  • 310 Took me, and I was nigh to death.
  • “Life strove, Death claimed me for his own
  • Through days and nights: but now
  • 'Twas the good father tended me,
  • Having returned. Still, I did see
  • The youth I spoke of constantly.
  • “For he would with my brothers come
  • To stay beside my couch,
  • And fix my eyes against his own,
  • Noting my pulse; or else alone,
  • 320 To sit at gaze while I made moan.
  • “(Some nights I knew he kept the watch,
  • Because my women laid
  • The rushes thick for his steel shoes.)
  • Through many days this pain did use
  • The life God would not let me lose.
  • “At length, with my good nurse to aid,
  • I could walk forth again:
  • And still, as one who broods or grieves,
  • At noons I'd meet him and at eves,
  • 330 With idle feet that drove the leaves.
  • “The day when I first walked alone
  • Was thinned in grass and leaf,
  • And yet a goodly day o' the year:
  • The last bird's cry upon mine ear
  • Left my brain weak, it was so clear.
  • “The tears were sharp within mine eyes.
  • I sat down, being glad,
  • And wept; but stayed the sudden flow
  • Anon, for footsteps that fell slow;
  • 340 'Twas that youth passed me, bowing low.
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  • “He passed me without speech; but when,
  • At least an hour gone by,
  • Rethreading the same covert, he
  • Saw I was still beneath the tree,
  • He spoke and sat him down with me.
  • “Little we said; nor one heart heard
  • Even what was said within;
  • And, faltering some farewell, I soon
  • Rose up; but then i' the autumn noon
  • 350 My feeble brain whirled like a swoon.
  • “He made me sit. ‘Cousin, I grieve
  • Your sickness stays by you.’
  • ‘I would,’ said I, ‘that you did err
  • So grieving. I am wearier
  • Than death, of the sickening dying year.’
  • “He answered: ‘If your weariness
  • Accepts a remedy,
  • I hold one and can give it you.’
  • I gazed: ‘What ministers thereto,
  • 360 Be sure,’ I said, “that I will do.’
  • “He went on quickly:—'Twas a cure
  • He had not ever named
  • Unto our kin lest they should stint
  • Their favour, for some foolish hint
  • Of wizardry or magic in't:
  • “But that if he were let to come
  • Within my bower that night,
  • (My women still attending me,
  • He said, while he remain'd there,) he
  • 370 Could teach me the cure privily.
  • “I bade him come that night. He came;
  • But little in his speech
  • Was cure or sickness spoken of,
  • Only a passionate fierce love
  • That clamoured upon God above.
  • “My women wondered, leaning close
  • Aloof. At mine own heart
  • I think great wonder was not stirr'd.
  • I dared not listen, yet I heard
  • 380 His tangled speech, word within word.
  • “He craved my pardon first,—all else
  • Wild tumult. In the end
  • He remained silent at my feet
  • Fumbling the rushes. Strange quick heat
  • Made all the blood of my life meet.
  • “And lo! I loved him. I but said,
  • If he would leave me then,
  • His hope some future might forecast.
  • His hot lips stung my hand: at last
  • 390 My damsels led him forth in haste.”
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  • The bride took breath to pause; and turned
  • Her gaze where Amelotte
  • Knelt,—the gold hair upon her back
  • Quite still in all its threads,—the track
  • Of her still shadow sharp and black.
  • That listening without sight had grown
  • To stealthy dread; and now
  • That the one sound she had to mark
  • Left her alone too, she was stark
  • 400 Afraid, as children in the dark.
  • Her fingers felt her temples beat;
  • Then came that brain-sickness
  • Which thinks to scream, and murmureth;
  • And pent between her hands, the breath
  • Was damp against her face like death.
  • Her arms both fell at once; but when
  • She gasped upon the light,
  • Her sense returned. She would have pray'd
  • To change whatever words still stay'd
  • 410 Behind, but felt there was no aid.
  • So she rose up, and having gone
  • Within the window's arch
  • Once more, she sat there, all intent
  • On torturing doubts, and once more bent
  • To hear, in mute bewilderment.
  • But Aloÿse still paused. Thereon
  • Amelotte gathered voice
  • In somewise from the torpid fear
  • Coiled round her spirit. Low but clear
  • 420 She said: “Speak, sister; for I hear.”
  • But Aloÿse threw up her neck
  • And called the name of God:—
  • “Judge, God, 'twixt her and me to-day!
  • She knows how hard this is to say,
  • Yet will not have one word away.”
  • Her sister was quite silent. Then
  • Afresh:—“Not she, dear Lord!
  • Thou be my judge, on Thee I call!”
  • She ceased,—her forehead smote the wall:
  • 430 “Is there a God,” she said “at all”?
  • Amelotte shuddered at the soul,
  • But did not speak. The pause
  • Was long this time. At length the bride
  • Pressed her hand hard against her side,
  • And trembling between shame and pride
  • Said by fierce effort: “From that night
  • Often at nights we met:
  • That night, his passion could but rave:
  • The next, what grace his lips did crave
  • 440 I knew not, but I know I gave.”
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  • Where Amelotte was sitting, all
  • The light and warmth of day
  • Were so upon her without shade
  • That the thing seemed by sunshine made
  • Most foul and wanton to be said.
  • She would have questioned more, and known
  • The whole truth at its worst,
  • But held her silent, in mere shame
  • Of day. 'Twas only these words came:—
  • 450 “Sister, thou hast not said his name.”
  • “Sister,” quoth Aloÿse, “thou know'st
  • His name. I said that he
  • Was in a manner of our kin.
  • Waiting the title he might win,
  • They called him the Lord Urscelyn.”
  • The bridegroom's name, to Amelotte
  • Daily familiar,—heard
  • Thus in this dreadful history,—
  • Was dreadful to her; as might be
  • 460 Thine own voice speaking unto thee.
  • The day's mid-hour was almost full;
  • Upon the dial-plate
  • The angel's sword stood near at One.
  • An hour's remaining yet; the sun
  • Will not decrease till all be done.
  • Through the bride's lattice there crept in
  • At whiles (from where the train
  • Of minstrels, till the marriage-call,
  • Loitered at windows of the wall,)
  • 470 Stray lute-notes, sweet and musical.
  • They clung in the green growths and moss
  • Against the outside stone;
  • Low like dirge-wail or requiem
  • They murmured, lost 'twixt leaf and stem:
  • There was no wind to carry them.
  • Amelotte gathered herself back
  • Into the wide recess
  • That the sun flooded: it o'erspread
  • Like flame the hair upon her head
  • 480 And fringed her face with burning red.
  • All things seemed shaken and at change:
  • A silent place o' the hills
  • She knew, into her spirit came:
  • Within herself she said its name
  • And wondered was it still the same.
  • The bride (whom silence goaded) now
  • Said strongly,—her despair
  • By stubborn will kept underneath:—
  • “Sister, 'twere well thou didst not breathe
  • 490 That curse of thine. Give me my wreath.”
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  • “Sister,” said Amelotte, “abide
  • In peace. Be God thy judge,
  • As thou hast said—not I. For me,
  • I merely will thank God that he
  • Whom thou hast lovèd loveth thee.”
  • Then Aloÿse lay back, and laughed
  • With wan lips bitterly,
  • Saying, “Nay, thank thou God for this,—
  • That never any soul like his
  • 500 Shall have its portion where love is.”
  • Weary of wonder, Amelotte
  • Sat silent: she would ask
  • No more, though all was unexplained:
  • She was too weak; the ache still pained
  • Her eyes,—her forehead's pulse remained.
  • The silence lengthened. Aloÿse
  • Was fain to turn her face
  • Apart, to where the arras told
  • Two Testaments, the New and Old,
  • 510 In shapes and meanings manifold.
  • One solace that was gained, she hid.
  • Her sister, from whose curse
  • Her heart recoiled, had blessed instead:
  • Yet would not her pride have it said
  • How much the blessing comforted.
  • Only, on looking round again
  • After some while, the face
  • Which from the arras turned away
  • Was more at peace and less at bay
  • 520 With shame than it had been that day.
  • She spoke right on, as if no pause
  • Had come between her speech:
  • “That year from warmth grew bleak and pass'd,”
  • She said; “the days from first to last
  • How slow,—woe's me! the nights how fast!
  • “From first to last it was not known:
  • My nurse, and of my train
  • Some four or five, alone could tell
  • What terror kept inscrutable:
  • 530 There was good need to guard it well.
  • “Not the guilt only made the shame,
  • But he was without land
  • And born amiss. He had but come
  • To train his youth here at our home,
  • And, being man, depart therefrom.
  • ‘Of the whole time each single day
  • Brought fear and great unrest:
  • It seemed that all would not avail
  • Some once,—that my close watch would fail,
  • 540 And some sign, somehow, tell the tale.
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  • “The noble maidens that I knew,
  • My fellows, oftentimes
  • Midway in talk or sport, would look
  • A wonder which my fears mistook,
  • To see how I turned faint and shook.
  • “They had a game of cards, where each
  • By painted arms might find
  • What knight she should be given to.
  • Ever with trembling hand I threw
  • 550 Lest I should learn the thing I knew.
  • “And once it came. And Aure d'Honvaulx
  • Held up the bended shield
  • And laughed: ‘Gramercy for our share!—
  • If to our bridal we but fare
  • To smutch the blazon that we bear!’
  • “But proud Denise de Villenbois
  • Kissed me, and gave her wench
  • The card, and said: ‘If in these bowers
  • You women play at paramours,
  • 560 You must not mix your game with ours.’
  • “And one upcast it from her hand:
  • ‘Lo! see how high he'll soar!’
  • But then their laugh was bitterest;
  • For the wind veered at fate's behest
  • And blew it back into my breast.
  • “Oh! if I met him in the day
  • Or heard his voice,—at meals
  • Or at the Mass or through the hall,—
  • A look turned towards me would appal
  • 570 My heart by seeming to know all.
  • “Yet I grew curious of my shame,
  • And sometimes in the church,
  • On hearing such a sin rebuked,
  • Have held my girdle-glass unhooked
  • To see how such a woman looked.
  • “But if at night he did not come,
  • I lay all deadly cold
  • To think they might have smitten sore
  • And slain him, and as the night wore,
  • 580 His corpse be lying at my door.
  • “And entering or going forth,
  • Our proud shield o'er the gate
  • Seemed to arraign my shrinking eyes.
  • With tremors and unspoken lies
  • The year went past me in this wise.
  • “About the spring of the next year
  • An ailing fell on me;
  • (I had been stronger till the spring;)
  • 'Twas mine old sickness gathering,
  • 590 I thought; but 'twas another thing.
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  • “I had such yearnings as brought tears,
  • And a wan dizziness:
  • Motion, like feeling, grew intense;
  • Sight was a haunting evidence
  • And sound a pang that snatched the sense.
  • “It now was hard on that great ill
  • Which lost our wealth from us
  • And all our lands. Accursed be
  • The peevish fools of liberty
  • 600 Who will not let themselves be free!
  • “The Prince was fled into the west:
  • A price was on his blood,
  • But he was safe. To us his friends
  • He left that ruin which attends
  • The strife against God's secret ends.
  • “The league dropped all asunder,—lord,
  • Gentle and serf. Our house
  • Was marked to fall. And a day came
  • When half the wealth that propped our name
  • 610 Went from us in a wind of flame.
  • “Six hours I lay upon the wall
  • And saw it burn. But when
  • It clogged the day in a black bed
  • Of louring vapour, I was led
  • Down to the postern, and we fled.
  • “But ere we fled, there was a voice
  • Which I heard speak, and say
  • That many of our friends, to shun
  • Our fate, had left us and were gone,
  • 620 And that Lord Urscelyn was one.
  • “That name, as was its wont, made sight
  • And hearing whirl. I gave
  • No heed but only to the name:
  • I held my senses, dreading them,
  • And was at strife to look the same.
  • “We rode and rode. As the speed grew,
  • The growth of some vague curse
  • Swarmed in my brain. It seemed to me
  • Numbed by the swiftness, but would be—
  • 630 That still—clear knowledge certainly.
  • “Night lapsed. At dawn the sea was there
  • And the sea-wind: afar
  • The ravening surge was hoarse and loud,
  • And underneath the dim dawn-cloud
  • Each stalking wave shook like a shroud.
  • “From my drawn litter I looked out
  • Unto the swarthy sea,
  • And knew. That voice, which late had cross'd
  • Mine ears, seemed with the foam uptoss'd:
  • 640 I knew that Urscelyn was lost.
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  • “Then I spake all: I turned on one
  • And on the other, and spake:
  • My curse laughed in me to behold
  • Their eyes: I sat up, stricken cold,
  • Mad of my voice till all was told.
  • “Oh! of my brothers, Hugues was mute,
  • And Gilles was wild and loud,
  • And Raoul strained abroad his face,
  • As if his gnashing wrath could trace
  • 650 Even there the prey that it must chase.
  • “And round me murmured all our train,
  • Hoarse as the hoarse-tongued sea;
  • Till Hugues from silence louring woke,
  • And cried: ‘What ails the foolish folk?
  • Know ye not frenzy's lightning-stroke?’
  • “But my stern father came to them
  • And quelled them with his look,
  • Silent and deadly pale. Anon
  • I knew that we were hastening on,
  • 660 My litter closed and the light gone.
  • “And I remember all that day
  • The barren bitter wind
  • Without, and the sea's moaning there
  • That I first moaned with unaware,
  • And when I knew, shook down my hair.
  • “Few followed us or faced our flight:
  • Once only I could hear,
  • Far in the front, loud scornful words,
  • And cries I knew of hostile lords,
  • 670 And crash of spears and grind of swords.
  • “It was soon ended. On that day
  • Before the light had changed
  • We reached our refuge; miles of rock
  • Bulwarked for war; whose strength might mock
  • Sky, sea, or man, to storm or shock.
  • “Listless and feebly conscious, I
  • Lay far within the night
  • Awake. The many pains incurred
  • That day,—the whole, said, seen or heard,—
  • 680 Stayed by in me as things deferred.
  • “Not long. At dawn I slept. In dreams
  • All was passed through afresh
  • From end to end. As the morn heaved
  • Towards noon, I, waking sore aggrieved,
  • That I might die, cursed God, and lived.
  • “Many days went, and I saw none
  • Except my women. They
  • Calmed their wan faces, loving me;
  • And when they wept, lest I should see,
  • 690 Would chaunt a desolate melody.
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  • “Panic unthreatened shook my blood
  • Each sunset, all the slow
  • Subsiding of the turbid light.
  • I would rise, sister, as I might,
  • And bathe my forehead through the night
  • “To elude madness. The stark walls
  • Made chill the mirk: and when
  • We oped our curtains, to resume
  • Sun-sickness after long sick gloom,
  • 700 The withering sea-wind walked the room.
  • “Through the gaunt windows the great gales
  • Bore in the tattered clumps
  • Of waif-weed and the tamarisk-boughs;
  • And sea-mews, 'mid the storm's carouse,
  • Were flung, wild-clamouring, in the house.
  • “My hounds I had not; and my hawk,
  • Which they had saved for me,
  • Wanting the sun and rain to beat
  • His wings, soon lay with gathered feet;
  • 710 And my flowers faded, lacking heat.
  • “Such still were griefs: for grief was still
  • A separate sense, untouched
  • Of that despair which had become
  • My life. Great anguish could benumb
  • My soul,—my heart was quarrelsome.
  • “Time crept. Upon a day at length
  • My kinsfolk sat with me:
  • That which they asked was bare and plain:
  • I answered: the whole bitter strain
  • 720 Was again said, and heard again.
  • “Fierce Raoul snatched his sword, and turned
  • The point against my breast.
  • I bared it, smiling: ‘To the heart
  • Strike home,’ I said; ‘another dart
  • Wreaks hourly there a deadlier smart.’
  • “'Twas then my sire struck down the sword,
  • And said with shaken lips:
  • ‘She from whom all of you receive
  • Your life, so smiled; and I forgive.’
  • 730 Thus, for my mother's sake, I live.
  • “But I, a mother even as she,
  • Turned shuddering to the wall:
  • For I said: ‘Great God! and what would I do,
  • When to the sword, with the thing I knew,
  • I offered not one life but two!’
  • “Then I fell back from them, and lay
  • Outwearied. My tired sense
  • Soon filmed and settled, and like stone
  • I slept; till something made me moan,
  • 740 And I woke up at night alone.
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  • “I woke at midnight, cold and dazed;
  • Because I found myself
  • Seated upright, with bosom bare,
  • Upon my bed, combing my hair,
  • Ready to go, I knew not where.
  • “It dawned light day,—the last of those
  • Long months of longing days.
  • That noon, the change was wrought on me
  • In somewise,—nought to hear or see,—
  • 750 Only a trance and agony.”
  • The bride's voice failed her, from no will
  • To pause. The bridesmaid leaned,
  • And where the window-panes were white,
  • Looked for the day: she knew not quite
  • If there were either day or night.
  • It seemed to Aloÿse that the whole
  • Day's weight lay back on her
  • Like lead. The hours that did remain
  • Beat their dry wings upon her brain
  • 760 Once in mid-flight, and passed again.
  • There hung a cage of burnt perfumes
  • In the recess: but these,
  • For some hours, weak against the sun,
  • Had simmered in white ash. From One
  • The second quarter was begun.
  • They had not heard the stroke. The air,
  • Though altered with no wind,
  • Breathed now by pauses, so to say:
  • Each breath was time that went away,—
  • 770 Each pause a minute of the day.
  • I' the almonry, the almoner,
  • Hard by, had just dispensed
  • Church-dole and march-dole. High and wide
  • Now rose the shout of thanks, which cried
  • On God that He should bless the bride.
  • Its echo thrilled within their feet,
  • And in the furthest rooms
  • Was heard, where maidens flushed and gay
  • Wove with stooped necks the wreaths alway
  • 780 Fair for the virgin's marriage-day.
  • The mother leaned along, in thought
  • After her child; till tears,
  • Bitter, not like a wedded girl's,
  • Fell down her breast along her curls,
  • And ran in the close work of pearls.
  • The speech ached at her heart. She said:
  • “Sweet Mary, do thou plead
  • This hour with thy most blessed Son
  • To let these shameful words atone,
  • 790 That I may die when I have done.”
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Sig. 3
  • The thought ached at her soul. Yet now:—
  • “Itself—that life” (she said,)
  • “Out of my weary life—when sense
  • Unclosed, was gone. What evil men's
  • Most evil hands had borne it thence
  • “I knew, and cursed them. Still in sleep
  • I have my child; and pray
  • To know if it indeed appear
  • As in my dream's perpetual sphere,
  • 800 That I—death reached—may seek it there.
  • “Sleeping, I wept; though until dark
  • A fever dried mine eyes
  • Kept open; save when a tear might
  • Be forced from the mere ache of sight.
  • And I nursed hatred day and night.
  • “Aye, and I sought revenge by spells;
  • And vainly many a time
  • Have laid my face into the lap
  • Of a wise woman, and heard clap
  • 810 Her thunder, the fiend's juggling trap.
  • “At length I feared to curse them, lest
  • From evil lips the curse
  • Should be a blessing; and would sit
  • Rocking myself and stifling it
  • With babbled jargon of no wit.
  • “But this was not at first: the days
  • And weeks made frenzied months
  • Before this came. My curses, pil'd
  • Then with each hour unreconcil'd,
  • 820 Still wait for those who took my child.”
  • She stopped, grown fainter. “Amelotte,
  • Surely,” she said, “this sun
  • Sheds judgment-fire from the fierce south:
  • It does not let me breathe: the drouth
  • Is like sand spread within my mouth.”
  • The bridesmaid rose. I' the outer glare
  • Gleamed her pale cheeks, and eyes
  • Sore troubled; and aweary weigh'd
  • Her brows just lifted out of shade;
  • 830 And the light jarred within her head.
  • 'Mid flowers fair-heaped there stood a bowl
  • With water. She therein
  • Through eddying bubbles slid a cup,
  • And offered it, being risen up,
  • Close to her sister's mouth, to sup.
  • The freshness dwelt upon her sense,
  • Yet did not the bride drink;
  • But she dipped in her hand anon
  • And cooled her temples; and all wan
  • 840 With lids that held their ache, went on.
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  • “Through those dark watches of my woe,
  • Time, an ill plant, had waxed
  • Apace. That year was finished. Dumb
  • And blind, life's wheel with earth's had come
  • Whirled round: and we might seek our home.
  • “Our wealth was rendered back, with wealth
  • Snatched from our foes. The house
  • Had more than its old strength and fame:
  • But still 'neath the fair outward claim
  • 850 I rankled,—a fierce core of shame.
  • “It chilled me from their eyes and lips
  • Upon a night of those
  • First days of triumph, as I gazed
  • Listless and sick, or scarcely raised
  • My face to mark the sports they praised.
  • “The endless changes of the dance
  • Bewildered me: the tones
  • Of lute and cithern struggled tow'rds
  • Some sense; and still in the last chords
  • 860 The music seemed to sing wild words.
  • “My shame possessed me in the light
  • And pageant, till I swooned.
  • But from that hour I put my shame
  • From me, and cast it over them
  • By God's command and in God's name
  • “For my child's bitter sake. O thou
  • Once felt against my heart
  • With longing of the eyes,—a pain
  • Since to my heart for ever,—then
  • 870 Beheld not, and not felt again!”
  • She scarcely paused, continuing:—
  • “That year drooped weak in March;
  • And April, finding the streams dry,
  • Choked, with no rain, in dust: the sky
  • Shall not be fainter this July.
  • “Men sickened; beasts lay without strength;
  • The year died in the land.
  • But I, already desolate,
  • Said merely, sitting down to wait,—
  • 880 ‘The seasons change and Time wears late.’
  • “For I had my hard secret told,
  • In secret, to a priest;
  • With him I communed; and he said
  • The world's soul, for its sins, was sped,
  • And the sun's courses numberèd.
  • “The year slid like a corpse afloat:
  • None trafficked,—who had bread
  • Did eat. That year our legions, come
  • Thinned from the place of war, at home
  • 890 Found busier death, more burdensome.
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Note: The end-punctuation marks in line 891 below (immediately following the word “them”), line 905 (immediately following the word “know'st”), and line 911 (immediately following the word “house,”) are badly type-damaged. It is unclear whether the marks are commas or periods.
  • “Tidings and rumours came with them,
  • The first for months. The chiefs
  • Sat daily at our board, and in
  • Their speech were names of friend and kin:
  • One day they spoke of Urscelyn.
  • “The words were light, among the rest:
  • Quick glance my brothers sent
  • To sift the speech; and I, struck through,
  • Sat sick and giddy in full view:
  • 900 Yet did none gaze, so many knew.
  • “Because in the beginning, much
  • Had caught abroad, through them
  • That heard my clamour on the coast:
  • But two were hanged; and then the most
  • Held silence wisdom, as thou know'st.
  • “That year the convent yielded thee
  • Back to our home; and thou
  • Then knew'st not how I shuddered cold
  • To kiss thee, seeming to enfold
  • 910 To my changed heart myself of old.
  • “Then there was showing thee the house,
  • So many rooms and doors;
  • Thinking the while how thou wouldst start
  • If once I flung the doors apart
  • Of one dull chamber in my heart.
  • “And yet I longed to open it;
  • And often in that year
  • Of plague and want, when side by side
  • We've knelt to pray with them that died,
  • 920 My prayer was, ‘Show her what I hide!’”
End of Part I
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JENNY

Vengeance of Jenny's case! Fie on her! Never name her, child! —(Mrs. Quickly.)

  • Lazy laughing languid Jenny,
  • Fond of a kiss and fond of a guinea,
  • Whose head upon my knee to-night
  • Rests for a while, as if grown light
  • With all our dances and the sound
  • To which the wild tunes spun you round:
  • Fair Jenny mine, the thoughtless queen
  • Of kisses which the blush between
  • Could hardly make much daintier;
  • 10 Whose eyes are as blue skies, whose hair
  • Is countless gold incomparable:
  • Fresh flower, scarce touched with signs that tell
  • Of Love's exuberant hotbed:—Nay,
  • Poor flower left torn since yesterday
  • Until to-morrow leave you bare;
  • Poor handful of bright spring-water
  • Flung in the whirlpool's shrieking face;
  • Poor shameful Jenny, full of grace
  • Thus with your head upon my knee;—
  • 20 Whose person or whose purse may be
  • The lodestar of your reverie?
  • This room of yours, my Jenny, looks
  • A change from mine so full of books,
  • Whose serried ranks hold fast, forsooth,
  • So many captive hours of youth,—
  • The hours they thieve from day and night
  • To make one's cherished work come right,
  • And leave it wrong for all their theft,
  • Even as to-night my work was left:
  • 30 Until I vowed that since my brain
  • And eyes of dancing seemed so fain,
  • My feet should have some dancing too:—
  • And thus it was I met with you.
  • Well, I suppose 'twas hard to part,
  • For here I am. And now, sweetheart,
  • You seem too tired to get to bed.
  • It was a careless life I led
  • When rooms like this were scarce so strange
  • Not long ago. What breeds the change,—
  • 40 The many aims or the few years?
  • Because to-night it all appears
  • Something I do not know again.
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  • The cloud's not danced out of my brain—
  • The cloud that made it turn and swim
  • While hour by hour the books grew dim.
  • Why, Jenny, as I watch you there,—
  • For all your wealth of loosened hair,
  • Your silk ungirdled and unlac'd
  • And warm sweets open to the waist,
  • 50 All golden in the lamplight's gleam,—
  • You know not what a book you seem,
  • Half-read by lightning in a dream!
  • How should you know, my Jenny? Nay,
  • And I should be ashamed to say:—
  • Poor beauty, so well worth a kiss!
  • But while my thought runs on like this
  • With wasteful whims more than enough,
  • I wonder what you're thinking of.
  • If of myself you think at all,
  • 60 What is the thought?—conjectural
  • On sorry matters best unsolved?—
  • Or inly is each grace revolved
  • To fit me with a lure?—or (sad
  • To think!) perhaps you're merely glad
  • That I'm not drunk or ruffianly
  • And let you rest upon my knee.
  • For sometimes, were the truth confess'd,
  • You're thankful for a little rest,—
  • Glad from the crush to rest within,
  • 70 From the heart-sickness and the din
  • Where envy's voice at virtue's pitch
  • Mocks you because your gown is rich;
  • And from the pale girl's dumb rebuke,
  • Whose ill-clad grace and toil-worn look
  • Proclaim the strength that keeps her weak,
  • And other nights than yours bespeak;
  • And from the wise unchildish elf,
  • To schoolmate lesser than himself
  • Pointing you out, what thing you are:—
  • 80 Yes, from the daily jeer and jar,
  • From shame and shame's outbraving too,
  • Is rest not sometimes sweet to you?—
  • But most from the hatefulness of man,
  • Who spares not to end what he began,
  • Whose acts are ill and his speech ill,
  • Who, having used you at his will,
  • Thrusts you aside, as when I dine
  • I serve the dishes and the wine.
  • Well, handsome Jenny mine, sit up:
  • 90 I'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
  • And leave you merry, 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!
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  • 100 Behold the lilies of the field,
  • They toil not neither do they spin;
  • (So doth the ancient text begin,—
  • Not of such rest as one of these
  • Can share.) 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 bounteous husbandman,
  • Ere yet, in days of hankering breath,
  • 110 The 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, and those
  • Their purfled buds that should unclose?
  • Even so; the leaves are curled apart,
  • Still red as from the broken heart,
  • 120 And here's the naked stem of thorns.
  • Nay, 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 rise unsought
  • Haply at times a passing thought
  • Of the old days which seem to be
  • Much older than any history
  • That is written in any book;
  • 130 When she would lie in fields and look
  • Along the ground through the blown 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,
  • 140 When Saturday night is market-night
  • Everywhere, be it dry or wet,
  • And market-night in the Haymarket.
  • Our learned London children know,
  • Poor Jenny, all your pride and woe;
  • Have seen your lifted silken skirt
  • Advertise dainties through the dirt;
  • Have seen your coach-wheels splash rebuke
  • On virtue; and have learned your look
  • When, wealth and health slipped past, you stare
  • 150 Along the streets alone, and there,
  • Round 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.
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Note: Ink smudge on page 39, line 201 (between “a” and “kind”).
  • 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
  • Being opened halfway shuts again,
  • 160 So might the pages of her brain
  • Be parted 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 those eddies clot,
  • 170 And night and day remember not.
  • Why, Jenny, you're asleep at last!—
  • Asleep, poor Jenny, hard and fast,—
  • So young and soft and tired; so fair,
  • With chin thus nestled in your 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
  • 180 Or 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 sweet eyes rich in youth
  • Are like her lips that tell the truth,
  • 190 My 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.
  • 200 For 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 fall'n! How dare to think
  • Of the first common kindred link?
  • Yet, Jenny, till the world shall burn
  • 210 It seems that all things take their turn;
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  • And 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 scorn'd!
  • Shall no man hold his pride forewarn'd
  • Till in the end, the Day of Days,
  • At Judgment, one of his own race,
  • As frail and lost as you, shall rise,—
  • His daughter, with his mother's eyes?
  • 220 How Jenny's clock ticks on the shelf!
  • Might not the dial scorn itself
  • That has such hours to register?
  • Yet as to me, even so to her
  • Are golden sun and silver moon,
  • In daily largesse of earth's boon,
  • Counted for life-coins to one tune.
  • And if, as blindfold fates are toss'd,
  • Through some one man this life be lost,
  • Shall soul not somehow pay for soul?
  • 230 Fair shines the gilded aureole
  • In which our highest painters place
  • Some living woman's simple face.
  • And the stilled features thus descried
  • As Jenny's long throat droops aside,—
  • The shadows where the cheeks are thin,
  • And pure wide curve from ear to chin,—
  • With Raffael's, Leonardo's hand
  • To show them to men's souls, might stand,
  • Whole ages long, the whole world through,
  • 240 For preachings of what God can do.
  • What 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.
  • 250 If but a woman's heart might see
  • Such 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
  • 260 As might make lady's cheek indeed
  • More 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 shameful knowledge, flows
  • Through leaves no chaste hand may unclose:
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  • Yet still it keeps such faded show
  • Of when 'twas gathered long ago,
  • That the crushed petals' lovely grain,
  • 270 The sweetness of the sanguine stain,
  • Seen 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:—
  • Even so unto her sex is she.
  • Yet, Jenny, looking long at you,
  • The woman almost fades from view.
  • A cipher of man's changeless sum
  • Of lust, past, present, and to come,
  • 280 Is left. A riddle that one shrinks
  • To challenge from the scornful sphinx.
  • Like a toad within a stone
  • Seated while Time crumbles on;
  • Which sits there since the earth was curs'd
  • For Man's transgression 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;
  • 290 Which always—whitherso the stone
  • Be flung—sits there, deaf, blind, alone;—
  • Aye, and shall not be driven out
  • Till that which shuts him round about
  • Break at the very Master's stroke,
  • And the dust thereof vanish as smoke,
  • And the seed of Man vanish as dust:—
  • Even so within this world is Lust.
  • Come, come, what use in thoughts like this?
  • Poor little Jenny, good to kiss,—
  • 300 You'd not believe by what strange roads
  • Thought travels, when your beauty goads
  • A man to-night to think of toads!
  • 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 the old streets come peering through
  • Another night that London knew;
  • And all as ghostlike as the lamps.
  • 310 So on the wings of day decamps
  • My last night's frolic. Glooms begin
  • To shiver off as lights creep in
  • Past the gauze curtains half drawn-to,
  • And the lamp's doubled shade grows blue,—
  • Your lamp, my Jenny, kept alight,
  • Like a wise virgin's, all one night!
  • And in the alcove coolly spread
  • Glimmers with dawn your empty bed;
  • And yonder your fair face I see
  • 320 Reflected lying on my knee,
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  • Where teems with first foreshadowings
  • Your pier-glass scrawled with diamond rings:
  • And on your bosom all night worn
  • Yesterday's rose now droops forlorn,
  • But dies not yet this summer morn.
  • And now without, as if some word
  • Had called upon them that they heard,
  • The London sparrows far and nigh
  • Clamour together suddenly;
  • 330 And Jenny's cage-bird grown awake
  • Here in their song his part must take,
  • Because here too the day doth break.
  • And somehow in myself the dawn
  • Among stirred clouds and veils withdrawn
  • Strikes greyly on her. Let her sleep.
  • But will it wake her if I heap
  • These cushions thus beneath her head
  • Where my knee was? No,—there's your bed,
  • My Jenny, while you dream. And there
  • 340 I lay among your golden hair,
  • Perhaps the subject of your dreams,
  • These golden coins.
  • For still one deems
  • That Jenny's flattering sleep confers
  • New magic on 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,
  • Nor flagrant man-swine whets his tusk;
  • 350 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 (divine
  • For her) the concourse of the Park.
  • And though in the discounted dark
  • 360 Her functions there and here are one,
  • Beneath the lamps and in the sun
  • There reigns at least the acknowledged 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 silver-shrined in shadowy grove:
  • Aye, or let offerings nicely plac'd
  • But hide Priapus to the waist,
  • 370 And whoso looks on him shall see
  • An eligible deity.
  • Why, Jenny, waking here alone
  • May help you to remember one,
  • Though all the memory's long outworn
  • Of many a double-pillowed morn.
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  • 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.
  • 380 Jenny, my love rang true! for still
  • Love at first sight is vague, until
  • That tinkling makes him audible.
  • And must I mock you to the last,
  • Ashamed of my own shame,—aghast
  • Because some thoughts not born amiss
  • Rose at a poor fair face like this?
  • Well, of such thoughts so much I know:
  • In my life, as in hers, they show,
  • By a far gleam which I may near,
  • 390 A dark path I can strive to clear.
  • Only one kiss. Good-bye, my dear.
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A LAST CONFESSION

( Regno Lombardo-Veneto, 1848)

  • Our Lombard country-girls along the coast
  • Wear daggers in their garters: for they know
  • That they might hate another girl to death
  • Or meet a German lover. Such a knife
  • I bought her, with a hilt of horn and pearl.
  • Father, you cannot know of all my thoughts
  • That day in going to meet her,—that last day
  • For the last time, she said;—of all the love
  • And all the hopeless hope that she might change
  • 10 And go back with me. Ah! and everywhere,
  • At places we both knew along the road,
  • Some fresh shape of herself as once she was
  • Grew present at my side; until it seemed—
  • So close they gathered round me—they would all
  • Be with me when I reached the spot at last,
  • To plead my cause with her against herself
  • So changed. O Father, if you knew all this
  • You cannot know, then you would know too, Father,
  • And only then, if God can pardon me.
  • 20 What can be told I'll tell, if you will hear.
  • I passed a village-fair upon my road,
  • And thought, being empty-handed, I would take
  • Some little present: such might prove, I said,
  • Either a pledge between us, or (God help me!)
  • A parting gift. And there it was I bought
  • The knife I spoke of, such as women wear.
  • That day, some three hours afterwards, I found
  • For certain, it must be a parting gift.
  • And, standing silent now at last, I looked
  • 30 Into her scornful face; and heard the sea
  • Still trying hard to din into my ears
  • Some speech it knew which still might change her heart,
  • If only it could make me understand.
  • One moment thus. Another, and her face
  • Seemed further off than the last line of sea,
  • So that I thought, if now she were to speak
  • I could not hear her. Then again I knew
  • All, as we stood together on the sand
  • At Iglio, in the first thin shade o' the hills.
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Note: Line 59 contains a typo: “fiftul” is printed instead of “fitful”.
  • 40 “Take it,” I said, and held it out to her,
  • While the hilt glanced within my trembling hold;
  • “Take it and keep it for my sake,” I said.
  • Her neck unbent not, neither did her eyes
  • Move, nor her foot left beating of the sand;
  • Only she put it by from her and laughed.
  • Father, you hear my speech and not her laugh;
  • But God heard that. Will God remember all?
  • It was another laugh than the sweet sound
  • Which rose from her sweet childish heart, that day
  • 50 Eleven years before, when first I found her
  • Alone upon the hill-side; and her curls
  • Shook down in the warm grass as she looked up
  • Out of her curls in my eyes bent to hers.
  • She might have served a painter to pourtray
  • That heavenly child which in the latter days
  • Shall walk between the lion and the lamb.
  • I had been for nights in hiding, worn and sick
  • And hardly fed; and so her words at first
  • Seemed fiftul like the talking of the trees
  • 60 And voices in the air that knew my name.
  • And I remember that I sat me down
  • Upon the slope with her, and thought the world
  • Must be all over or had never been,
  • We seemed there so alone. And soon she told me
  • Her parents both were gone away from her.
  • I thought perhaps she meant that they had died;
  • But when I asked her this, she looked again
  • Into my face and said that yestereve
  • They kissed her long, and wept and made her weep,
  • 70 And gave her all the bread they had with them,
  • And then had gone together up the hill
  • Where we were sitting now, and had walked on
  • Into the great red light; “and so,” she said,
  • “I have come up here too; and when this evening
  • They step out of the light as they stepped in,
  • I shall be here to kiss them.” And she laughed.
  • Then I bethought me suddenly of the famine;
  • And how the church-steps throughout all the town,
  • When last I had been there a month ago,
  • 80 Swarmed with starved folk; and how the bread was weighed
  • By Austrians armed; and women that I knew
  • For wives and mothers walked the public street,
  • Saying aloud that if their husbands feared
  • To snatch the children's food, themselves would stay
  • Till they had earned it there. So then this child
  • Was piteous to me; for all told me then
  • Her parents must have left her to God's chance,
  • To man's or to the Church's charity,
  • Because of the great famine, rather than
  • 90 To watch her growing thin between their knees.
  • With that, God took my mother's voice and spoke,
  • And sights and sounds came back and things long since,
  • And all my childhood found me on the hills;
  • And so I took her with me.
  • I was young.
  • Scarce man then, Father: but the cause which gave
  • The wounds I die of now had brought me then
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  • Some wounds already; and I lived alone,
  • As any hiding hunted man must live.
  • It was no easy thing to keep a child
  • 100 In safety; for herself it was not safe,
  • And doubled my own danger: but I knew
  • That God would help me.
  • Yet a little while
  • Pardon me, Father, if I pause. I think
  • I have been speaking to you of some matters
  • There was no need to speak of, have I not?
  • You do not know how clearly those things stood
  • Within my mind, which I have spoken of,
  • Nor how they strove for utterance. Life all past
  • Is like the sky when the sun sets in it,
  • 110 Clearest where furthest off.
  • I told you how
  • She scorned my parting gift and laughed. And yet
  • A woman's laugh's another thing sometimes:
  • I think they laugh in Heaven. I know last night
  • I dreamed I saw into the garden of God,
  • Where women walked whose painted images
  • I have seen with candles round them in the church.
  • They bent this way and that, one to another,
  • Playing: and over the long golden hair
  • Of each there floated like a ring of fire
  • 120 Which when she stooped stooped with her, and when she rose
  • Rose with her. Then a breeze flew in among them,
  • As if a window had been opened in heaven
  • For God to give His blessing from, before
  • This world of ours should set; (for in my dream
  • I thought our world was setting, and the sun
  • Flared, a spent taper;) and beneath that gust
  • The rings of light quivered like forest-leaves.
  • Then all the blessed maidens who were there
  • Stood up together, as it were a voice
  • 130 That called them; and they threw their tresses back,
  • And smote their palms, and all laughed up at once,
  • For the strong heavenly joy they had in them
  • To hear God bless the world. Wherewith I woke:
  • And looking round, I saw as usual
  • That she was standing there with her long locks
  • Pressed to her side; and her laugh ended theirs.
  • For always when I see her now, she laughs.
  • And yet her childish laughter haunts me too,
  • The life of this dead terror; as in days
  • 140 When she, a child, dwelt with me. I must tell
  • Something of those days yet before the end.
  • I brought her from the city—one such day
  • When she was still a merry loving child,—
  • The earliest gift I mind my giving her;
  • A little image of a flying Love
  • Made of our coloured glass-ware, in his hands
  • A dart of gilded metal and a torch.
  • And him she kissed and me, and fain would know
  • Why were his poor eyes blindfold, why the wings
  • 150 And why the arrow. What I knew I told
  • Of Venus and of Cupid,—strange old tales.
  • And when she heard that he could rule the loves
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  • Of men and women, still she shook her head
  • And wondered; and, “Nay, nay,” she murmured still,
  • “So strong, and he a younger child than I!”
  • And then she'd have me fix him on the wall
  • Fronting her little bed; and then again
  • She needs must fix him there herself, because
  • I gave him to her and she loved him so,
  • 160 And he should make her love me better yet,
  • If women loved the more, the more they grew.
  • But the fit place upon the wall was high
  • For her, and so I held her in my arms:
  • And each time that the heavy pruning-hook
  • I gave her for a hammer slipped away
  • As it would often, still she laughed and laughed
  • And kissed and kissed me. But amid her mirth,
  • Just as she hung the image on the nail,
  • It slipped and all its fragments strewed the ground:
  • 170 And as it fell she screamed, for in her hand
  • The dart had entered deeply and drawn blood.
  • And so her laughter turned to tears: and “Oh!”
  • I said, the while I bandaged the small hand,—
  • “That I should be the first to make you bleed,
  • Who love and love and love you!”—kissing still
  • The fingers till I got her safe to bed.
  • And still she sobbed,—“not for the pain at all,”
  • She said, “but for the Love, the poor good Love
  • You gave me.” So she cried herself to sleep.
  • 180 Another later thing comes back to me.
  • 'Twas in those hardest foulest days of all,
  • When still from his shut palace, sitting clean
  • Above the splash of blood, old Metternich
  • (May his soul die, and never-dying worms
  • Feast on its pain for ever!) used to thin
  • His year's doomed hundreds daintily, each month
  • Thirties and fifties. This time, as I think,
  • Was when his thrift forbad the poor to take
  • That evil brackish salt which the dry rocks
  • 190 Keep all through winter when the sea draws in.
  • The first I heard of it was a chance shot
  • In the street here and there, and on the stones
  • A stumbling clatter as of horse hemmed round.
  • Then, when she saw me hurry out of doors,
  • My gun slung at my shoulder and my knife
  • Stuck in my girdle, she smoothed down my hair
  • And laughed to see me look so brave, and leaped
  • Up to my neck and kissed me. She was still
  • A child; and yet that kiss was on my lips
  • 200 So hot all day where the smoke shut us in.
  • For now, being always with her, the first love
  • I had—the father's, brother's love—was changed,
  • I think, in somewise; like a holy thought
  • Which is a prayer before one knows of it.
  • The first time I perceived this, I remember,
  • Was once when after hunting I came home
  • Weary, and she brought food and fruit for me,
  • And sat down at my feet upon the floor
  • Leaning against my side. But when I felt
  • 210 Her sweet head reach from that low seat of hers
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  • So high as to be laid upon my heart,
  • I turned and looked upon my darling there
  • And marked for the first time how tall she was;
  • And my heart beat with so much violence
  • Under her cheek, I thought she could not choose
  • But wonder at it soon and ask me why;
  • And so I bade her rise and eat with me.
  • And when, remembering all and counting back
  • The time, I made out fourteen years for her
  • 220 And told her so, she gazed at me with eyes
  • As of the sky and sea on a grey day,
  • And drew her long hands through her hair, and asked me
  • If she was not a woman; and then laughed:
  • And as she stooped in laughing, I could see
  • Beneath the growing throat the breasts half-globed
  • Like folded lilies deepset in the stream.
  • Yes, let me think of her as then; for so
  • Her image, Father, is not like the sights
  • Which come when you are gone. She had a mouth
  • 230 Made to bring death to life,—the underlip
  • Sucked in, as if it strove to kiss itself.
  • Her face was pearly pale, as when one stoops
  • Over wan water; and the dark crisped hair
  • And the hair's shadow made it paler still:—
  • Deep-serried locks, the dimness of the cloud
  • Where the moon's gaze is set in eddying gloom.
  • Her body bore her neck as the tree's stem
  • Bears the top branch; and as the branch sustains
  • The flower of the year's pride, her high neck bore
  • 240 That face made wonderful with night and day.
  • Her voice was swift, yet ever the last words
  • Fell lingeringly; and rounded finger-tips
  • She had, that clung a little where they touched
  • And then were gone o' the instant. Her great eyes,
  • That sometimes turned half dizzily beneath
  • The passionate lids, as faint, when she would speak,
  • Had also in them hidden springs of mirth,
  • Which under the dark lashes evermore
  • Shook to her laugh, as when a bird flies low
  • 250 Between the water and the willow-leaves,
  • And the shade quivers till he wins the light.
  • I was a moody comrade to her then,
  • For all the love I bore her. Italy,
  • The weeping desolate mother, long has claimed
  • Her sons' strong arms to lean on, and their hands
  • To lop the poisonous thicket from her path,
  • Cleaving her way to light. And from her need
  • Had grown the fashion of my whole poor life
  • Which I was proud to yield her, as my father
  • 260 Had yielded his. And this had come to be
  • A game to play, a love to clasp, a hate
  • To wreak, all things together that a man
  • Needs for his blood to ripen; till at times
  • All else seemed shadows, and I wondered still
  • To see such life pass muster and be deemed
  • Time's bodily substance. In those hours, no doubt,
  • To the young girl my eyes were like my soul,—
  • Dark wells of death-in-life that yearned for day.
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    Sig. 4
  • And though she ruled me always, I remember
  • 270 That once when I was thus and she still kept
  • Leaping about the place and laughing, I
  • Did almost chide her; whereupon she knelt
  • And putting her two hands into my breast
  • Sang me a song. Are these tears in my eyes?
  • 'Tis long since I have wept for anything.
  • I thought that song forgotten out of mind;
  • And now, just as I spoke of it, it came
  • All back. It is but a rude thing, ill rhymed,
  • Such as a blind man chaunts and his dog hears
  • 280 Holding the platter, when the children run
  • To merrier sport and leave him. Thus it goes:—
  • La bella donna*
  • Piangendo disse:
  • “Come son fisse
  • Le stelle in cielo!
  • Quel fiato anelo
  • Dello stanco sole,
  • Quanto m' assonna!
  • E la luna, macchiata
  • 290Come uno specchio
  • Logoro e vecchio,—
  • Faccia affannata,
  • Che cosa vuole?
  • “Chè stelle, luna, e sole,
  • Ciascun m' annoja
  • E m' annojano insieme;
  • Non me ne preme
  • Nè ci prendo gioja.
  • E veramente,
  • 300 Che le spalle sien franche
  • E la braccia bianche
Transcribed Footnote (page 49):
Note: The English poem is printed in two columns, divided by a horizontal line.
  • *She wept, sweet lady,
  • And said in weeping:
  • “What spell is keeping
  • The stars so steady?
  • Why does the power
  • Of the sun's noon-hour
  • To sleep so move me?
  • And the moon in heaven,
  • Stained where she passes
  • 10 As a worn-out glass is,—
  • Wearily driven,
  • Why walks she above me?
  • “Stars, moon, and sun too,
  • I'm tired of either
  • And all together!
  • Whom speak they unto
  • That I should listen?
  • For very surely,
  • Though my arms and shoulders
  • 20 Dazzle beholders,
  • And my eyes glisten,
  • All's nothing purely!
  • What are words said for
  • At all about them,
  • If he they are made for
  • Can do without them?”
  • She laughed, sweet lady,
  • And said in laughing:
  • “His hand clings half in


  • Column Break


  • 30 My own already!
  • Oh! do you love me?
  • Oh! speak of passion
  • In no new fashion,
  • No loud inveighings,
  • But the old sayings
  • You once said of me.
  • “You said: ‘As summer,
  • Through boughs grown brittle,
  • Comes back a little
  • 40 Ere frosts benumb her,—
  • So bring'st thou to me
  • All leaves and flowers,
  • Though autumn's gloomy
  • To-day in the bowers.’
  • “Oh! does he love me,
  • When my voice teaches
  • The very speeches
  • He then spoke of me?
  • Alas! what flavour
  • 50 Still with me lingers?”
  • (But she laughed as my kisses
  • Glowed in her fingers
  • With love's old blisses.)
  • “Oh! what one favour
  • Remains to woo him,
  • Whose whole poor savour
  • Belongs not to him?”
Image of page 50 page: 50
  • E il seno caldo e tondo,
  • Non mi fa niente.
  • Che cosa al mondo
  • Posso più far di questi
  • Se non piacciono a te, come dicesti?”
  • La donna rise
  • E riprese ridendo:—
  • “Questa mano che prendo
  • 310 È dunque mia?
  • Tu m' ami dunque?
  • Dimmelo ancora,
  • Non in modo qualunque,
  • Ma le parole
  • Belle e precise
  • Che dicesti pria.
  • Siccome suole
  • La state talora
  • (Dicesti) un qualche istante
  • 320 Tornare innanzi inverno,
  • Così tu fai ch' io scerno
  • Le foglie tutte quante,
  • Ben ch' io certo tenessi
  • Per passato l' autunno.’
  • “Eccolo il mio alunno!
  • Io debbo insegnargli
  • Quei cari detti istessi
  • Ch' ei mi disse una volta!
  • Oimè! Che cosa dargli,”
  • 330 (Ma ridea piano piano
  • Dei baci in sulla mano,)
  • “Ch' ei non m'abbia da lungo tempo tolta?”
  • That I should sing upon this bed!—with you
  • To listen, and such words still left to say!
  • Yet was it I that sang? The voice seemed hers,
  • As on the very day she sang to me;
  • When, having done, she took out of my hand
  • Something that I had played with all the while
  • And laid it down beyond my reach; and so
  • 340 Turning my face round till it fronted hers,—
  • “Weeping or laughing, which was best?” she said.
  • But these are foolish tales. How should I show
  • The heart that glowed then with love's heat, each day
  • More and more brightly?—when for long years now
  • The very flame that flew about the heart,
  • And gave it fiery wings, has come to be
  • The lapping blaze of hell's environment
  • Whose tongues all bid the molten heart despair.
  • Yet one more thing comes back on me to-night
  • 350 Which I may tell you: for it bore my soul
  • Dread firstlings of the brood that rend it now.
  • It chanced that in our last year's wanderings
  • We dwelt at Monza, far away from home,
  • If home we had: and in the Duomo there
  • I sometimes entered with her when she prayed.
  • An image of Our Lady stands there, wrought
  • Image of page 51 page: 51
  • In marble by some great Italian hand
  • In the great days when she and Italy
  • Sat on one throne together: and to her
  • 360 And to none else my loved one told her heart.
  • She was a woman then; and as she knelt,—
  • Her sweet brow in the sweet brow's shadow there,—
  • They seemed two kindred forms whereby our land
  • (Whose work still serves the world for miracle)
  • Made manifest herself in womanhood.
  • Father, the day I speak of was the first
  • For weeks that I had borne her company
  • Into the Duomo; and those weeks had been
  • Much troubled, for then first the glimpses came
  • 370 Of some impenetrable restlessness
  • Growing in her to make her changed and cold.
  • And as we entered there that day, I bent
  • My eyes on the fair Image, and I said
  • Within my heart, “Oh turn her heart to me!”
  • And so I left her to her prayers, and went
  • To gaze upon the pride of Monza's shrine,
  • Where in the sacristy the light still falls
  • Upon the Iron Crown of Italy,
  • On whose crowned heads the day has closed, nor yet
  • 380 The daybreak gilds another head to crown.
  • But coming back, I wondered when I saw
  • That the sweet Lady of her prayers now stood
  • Alone without her; until further off,
  • Before some new Madonna gaily decked,
  • Tinselled and gewgawed, a slight German toy,
  • I saw her kneel, still praying. At my step
  • She rose, and side by side we left the church.
  • I was much moved, and sharply questioned her
  • Of her transferred devotion; but she seemed
  • 390 Stubborn and heedless; till she lightly laughed
  • And said: “The old Madonna? Aye indeed,
  • She had my old thoughts,—this one has my new.”
  • Then silent to the soul I held my way:
  • And from the fountains of the public place
  • Unto the pigeon-haunted pinnacles,
  • Bright wings and water winnowed the bright air;
  • And stately with her laugh's subsiding smile
  • She went, with clear-swayed waist and towering neck
  • And hands held light before her; and the face
  • 400 Which long had made a day in my life's night
  • Was night in day to me; as all men's eyes
  • Turned on her beauty, and she seemed to tread
  • Beyond my heart to the world made for her.
  • Ah there! my wounds will snatch my sense again:
  • The pain comes billowing on like a full cloud
  • Of thunder, and the flash that breaks from it
  • Leaves my brain burning. That's the wound he gave,
  • The Austrian whose white coat I still made match
  • With his white face, only the two grew red
  • 410 As suits his trade. The devil makes them wear
  • White for a livery, that the blood may show
  • Braver that brings them to him. So he looks
  • Sheer o'er the field and knows his own at once.
  • Give me a draught of water in that cup;
  • My voice feels thick; perhaps you do not hear;
  • Image of page 52 page: 52
  • But you must hear. If you mistake my words
  • And so absolve me, I am sure the blessing
  • Will burn my soul. If you mistake my words
  • And so absolve me, Father, the great sin
  • 420 Is yours, not mine: mark this: your soul shall burn
  • With mine for it. I have seen pictures where
  • Souls burned with Latin shriekings in their mouths:
  • Shall my end be as theirs? Nay, but I know
  • 'Tis you shall shriek in Latin. Some bell rings,
  • Rings through my brain: it strikes the hour in hell.
  • You see I cannot, Father; I have tried,
  • But cannot, as you see. These twenty times
  • Beginning, I have come to the same point
  • And stopped. Beyond, there are but broken words
  • 430 Which will not let you understand my tale.
  • It is that then we have her with us here,
  • As when she wrung her hair out in my dream
  • To-night, till all the darkness reeked of it.
  • Her hair is always wet, for she has kept
  • Its tresses wrapped about her side for years;
  • And when she wrung them round over the floor,
  • I heard the blood between her fingers hiss;
  • So that I sat up in my bed and screamed
  • Once and again; and once to once, she laughed.
  • 440 Look that you turn not now,—she's at your back:
  • Gather your robe up, Father, and keep close,
  • Or she'll sit down on it and send you mad.
  • At Iglio in the first thin shade o' the hills
  • The sand is black and red. The black was black
  • When what was spilt that day sank into it,
  • And the red scarcely darkened. There I stood
  • This night with her, and saw the sand the same.

  • What would you have me tell you? Father, father,
  • How shall I make you know? You have not known
  • 450 The dreadful soul of woman, who one day
  • Forgets the old and takes the new to heart,
  • Forgets what man remembers, and therewith
  • Forgets the man. Nor can I clearly tell
  • How the change happened between her and me.
  • Her eyes looked on me from an emptied heart
  • When most my heart was full of her; and still
  • In every corner of myself I sought
  • To find what service failed her; and no less
  • Than in the good time past, there all was hers.
  • 460 What do you love? Your Heaven? Conceive it spread
  • For one first year of all eternity
  • All round you with all joys and gifts of God;
  • And then when most your soul is blent with it
  • And all yields song together,—then it stands
  • O' the sudden like a pool that once gave back
  • Your image, but now drowns it and is clear
  • Again,—or like a sun bewitched, that burns
  • Your shadow from you, and still shines in sight.
  • How could you bear it? Would you not cry out,
  • 470 Among those eyes grown blind to you, those ears
  • That hear no more your voice you hear the same,—
  • “God! what is left but hell for company,
  • Image of page 53 page: 53
  • But hell, hell, hell?”—until the name so breathed
  • Whirled with hot wind and sucked you down in fire?
  • Even so I stood the day her empty heart
  • Left her place empty in our home, while yet
  • I knew not why she went nor where she went
  • Nor how to reach her: so I stood the day
  • When to my prayers at last one sight of her
  • 480 Was granted, and I looked on heaven made pale
  • With scorn, and heard heaven mock me in that laugh.
  • O sweet, long sweet! Was that some ghost of you,
  • Even as your ghost that haunts me now,—twin shapes
  • Of fear and hatred? May I find you yet
  • Mine when death wakes? Ah! be it even in flame,
  • We may have sweetness yet, if you but say
  • As once in childish sorrow: “Not my pain,
  • My pain was nothing: oh your poor poor love,
  • Your broken love!”
  • My Father, have I not
  • 490 Yet told you the last things of that last day
  • On which I went to meet her by the sea?
  • O God, O God! but I must tell you all.
  • Midway upon my journey, when I stopped
  • To buy the dagger at the village fair,
  • I saw two cursed rats about the place
  • I knew for spies—blood-sellers both. That day
  • Was not yet over; for three hours to come
  • I prized my life: and so I looked around
  • For safety. A poor painted mountebank
  • 500 Was playing tricks and shouting in a crowd.
  • I knew he must have heard my name, so I
  • Pushed past and whispered to him who I was,
  • And of my danger. Straight he hustled me
  • Into his booth, as it were in the trick,
  • And brought me out next minute with my face
  • All smeared in patches and a zany's gown;
  • And there I handed him his cups and balls
  • And swung the sand-bags round to clear the ring
  • For half an hour. The spies came once and looked;
  • 510 And while they stopped, and made all sights and sounds
  • Sharp to my startled senses, I remember
  • A woman laughed above me. I looked up
  • And saw where a brown-shouldered harlot leaned
  • Half through a tavern window thick with vine.
  • Some man had come behind her in the room
  • And caught her by her arms, and she had turned
  • With that coarse empty laugh on him, as now
  • He munched her neck with kisses, while the vine
  • Crawled in her back.
  • And three hours afterwards,
  • 520 When she that I had run all risks to meet
  • Laughed as I told you, my life burned to death
  • Within me, for I thought it like the laugh
  • Heard at the fair. She had not left me long;
  • But all she might have changed to, or might change to,
  • (I know nought since—she never speaks a word—)
  • Seemed in that laugh. Have I not told you yet,
  • Not told you all this time what happened, Father,
  • When I had offered her the little knife,
  • Image of page 54 page: 54
  • And bade her keep it for my sake that loved her,
  • 530 And she had laughed? Have I not told you yet?
  • “Take it,” I said to her the second time,
  • “Take it and keep it.” And then came a fire
  • That burnt my hand; and then the fire was blood,
  • And sea and sky were blood and fire, and all
  • The day was one red blindness; till it seemed,
  • Within the whirling brain's eclipse, that she
  • Or I or all things bled or burned to death.
  • And then I found her laid against my feet
  • And knew that I had stabbed her, and saw still
  • 540 Her look in falling. For she took the knife
  • Deep in her heart, even as I bade her then,
  • And fell; and her stiff bodice scooped the sand
  • Into her bosom.
  • And she keeps it, see,
  • Do you not see she keeps it?—there, beneath
  • Wet fingers and wet tresses, in her heart.
  • For look you, when she stirs her hand, it shows
  • The little hilt of horn and pearl,—even such
  • A dagger as our women of the coast
  • Twist in their garters.
  • Father, I have done:
  • 550 And from her side now she unwinds the thick
  • Dark hair; all round her side it is wet through,
  • But, like the sand at Iglio, does not change.
  • Now you may see the dagger clearly. Father,
  • I have told all: tell me at once what hope
  • Can reach me still. For now she draws it out
  • Slowly, and only smiles as yet: look, Father,
  • She scarcely smiles: but I shall hear her laugh
  • Soon, when she shows the crimson steel to God.
Image of page 55 page: 55
THE BURDEN OF NINEVEH
  • In our Museum galleries
  • To-day I lingered o'er the prize
  • Dead Greece vouchsafes to living eyes,—
  • Her Art for ever in fresh wise
  • From hour to hour rejoicing me.
  • Sighing I turned at last to win
  • Once more the London dirt and din;
  • And as I made the swing-door spin
  • And issued, they were hoisting in
  • 10 A wingèd beast from Nineveh.
  • A human face the creature wore,
  • And hoofs behind and hoofs before,
  • And flanks with dark runes fretted o'er.
  • 'Twas bull, 'twas mitred Minotaur,
  • A dead disbowelled mystery:
  • The mummy of a buried faith
  • Stark from the charnel without scathe,
  • Its wings stood for the light to bathe,—
  • Such fossil cerements as might swathe
  • 20 The very corpse of Nineveh.
  • The print of its first rush-wrapping,
  • Wound ere it dried, still ribbed the thing.
  • What song did the brown maidens sing,
  • From purple mouths alternating,
  • When that was woven languidly?
  • What vows, what rites, what prayers preferr'd,
  • What songs has the strange image heard?
  • In what blind vigil stood interr'd
  • For ages, till an English word
  • 30 Broke silence first at Nineveh?
  • Oh when upon each sculptured court,
  • Where even the wind might not resort,—
  • O'er which Time passed, of like import
  • With the wild Arab boys at sport,—
  • A living face looked in to see:—
  • Oh seemed it not—the spell once broke—
  • As though the carven warriors woke,
  • As though the shaft the string forsook,
  • The cymbals clashed, the chariots shook,
  • 40 And there was life in Nineveh?
Image of page 56 page: 56
  • On London stones our sun anew
  • The beast's recovered shadow threw.
  • (No shade that plague of darkness knew,
  • No light, no shade, while older grew
  • By ages the old earth and sea.)
  • Lo thou! could all thy priests have shown
  • Such proof to make thy godhead known?
  • From their dead Past thou liv'st alone;
  • And still thy shadow is thine own,
  • 50 Even as of yore in Nineveh.
  • That day whereof we keep record,
  • When near thy city-gates the Lord
  • Sheltered His Jonah with a gourd,
  • This sun, (I said) here present, pour'd
  • Even thus this shadow that I see.
  • This shadow has been shed the same
  • From sun and moon,—from lamps which came
  • For prayer,—from fifteen days of flame,
  • The last, while smouldered to a name
  • 60 Sardanapalus' Nineveh.
  • Within thy shadow, haply, once
  • Sennacherib has knelt, whose sons
  • Smote him between the altar-stones:
  • Or pale Semiramis her zones
  • Of gold, her incense brought to thee,
  • In love for grace, in war for aid: . . .
  • Ay, and who else? . . . till 'neath thy shade
  • Within his trenches newly made
  • Last year the Christian knelt and pray'd—
  • 70 Not to thy strength—in Nineveh.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 56):

* During the excavations, the Tiyari workmen held their services in the shadow of the great bulls.—( Layard'sNineveh,” chap. ix.)

  • Now, thou poor god, within this hall
  • Where the blank windows blind the wall
  • From pedestal to pedestal,
  • The kind of light shall on thee fall
  • Which London takes the day to be:
  • While school-foundations in the act
  • Of holiday, three files compact,
  • Shall learn to view thee as a fact
  • Connected with that zealous tract:
  • 80 “Rome,—Babylon and Nineveh.”
  • Deemed they of this, those worshippers,
  • When, in some mythic chain of verse
  • Which man shall not again rehearse,
  • The faces of thy ministers
  • Yearned pale with bitter ecstasy?
  • Greece, Egypt, Rome,—did any god
  • Before whose feet men knelt unshod
  • Deem that in this unblest abode
  • Another scarce more unknown god
  • 90 Should house with him, from Nineveh?
Image of page 57 page: 57
  • Ah! in what quarries lay the stone
  • From which this pillared pile has grown,
  • Unto man's need how long unknown,
  • Since those thy temples, court and cone,
  • Rose far in desert history?
  • Ah! what is here that does not lie
  • All strange to thine awakened eye?
  • Ah! what is here can testify
  • (Save that dumb presence of the sky)
  • 100 Unto thy day and Nineveh?
  • Why, of those mummies in the room
  • Above, there might indeed have come
  • One out of Egypt to thy home,
  • An alien. Nay, but were not some
  • Of these thine own “antiquity”?
  • And now,—they and their gods and thou
  • All relics here together,—now
  • Whose profit? whether bull or cow,
  • Isis or Ibis, who or how,
  • 110 Whether of Thebes or Nineveh?
  • The consecrated metals found,
  • And ivory tablets, underground,
  • Winged teraphim and creatures crown'd.
  • When air and daylight filled the mound,
  • Fell into dust immediately.
  • And even as these, the images
  • Of awe and worship,—even as these,—
  • So, smitten with the sun's increase,
  • Her glory mouldered and did cease
  • 120 From immemorial Nineveh.
  • The day her builders made their halt,
  • Those cities of the lake of salt
  • Stood firmly 'stablished without fault,
  • Made proud with pillars of basalt,
  • With sardonyx and porphyry.
  • The day that Jonah bore abroad
  • To Nineveh the voice of God,
  • A brackish lake lay in his road,
  • Where erst Pride fixed her sure abode,
  • 130 As then in royal Nineveh.
  • The day when he, Pride's lord and Man's,
  • Showed all the kingdoms at a glance
  • To Him before whose countenance
  • The years recede, the years advance,
  • And said, Fall down and worship me:—
  • 'Mid all the pomp beneath that look,
  • Then stirred there, haply, some rebuke,
  • Where to the wind the Salt Pools shook,
  • And in those tracts, of life forsook,
  • 140 That knew thee not, O Nineveh!
  • Delicate harlot! On thy throne
  • Thou with a world beneath thee prone
  • In state for ages sat'st alone;
  • And needs were years and lustres flown
  • Ere strength of man could vanquish thee:
  • Image of page 58 page: 58
  • Whom even thy victor foes must bring,
  • Still royal, among maids that sing
  • As with doves' voices, taboring
  • Upon their breasts, unto the King,—
  • 150 A kingly conquest, Nineveh!
  • . . . Here woke my thought. The wind's slow sway
  • Had waxed; and like the human play
  • Of scorn that smiling spreads away,
  • The sunshine shivered off the day:
  • The callous wind, it seemed to me,
  • Swept up the shadow from the ground:
  • And pale as whom the Fates astound,
  • The god forlorn stood winged and crown'd:
  • Within I knew the cry lay bound
  • 160 Of the dumb soul of Nineveh.
  • And as I turned, my sense half shut
  • Still saw the crowds of kerb and rut
  • Go past as marshalled to the strut
  • Of ranks in gypsum quaintly cut.
  • It seemed in one same pageantry
  • They followed forms which had been erst;
  • To pass, till on my sight should burst
  • That future of the best or worst
  • When some may question which was first,
  • 170 Of London or of Nineveh.
  • For as that Bull-god once did stand
  • And watched the burial-clouds of sand,
  • Till these at last without a hand
  • Rose o'er his eyes, another land,
  • And blinded him with destiny:—
  • So may he stand again; till now,
  • In ships of unknown sail and prow,
  • Some tribe of the Australian plough
  • Bear him afar,—a relic now
  • 180 Of London, not of Nineveh!
  • Or it may chance indeed that when
  • Man's age is hoary among men,—
  • His centuries threescore and ten,—
  • His furthest childhood shall seem then
  • More clear than later times may be:
  • Who, finding in this desert place
  • This form, shall hold us for some race
  • That walked not in Christ's lowly ways,
  • But bowed its pride and vowed its praise
  • 190 Unto the God of Nineveh.
  • The smile rose first,—anon drew nigh
  • The thought: . . . Those heavy wings spread high,
  • So sure of flight, which do not fly;
  • That set gaze never on the sky;
  • Those scriptured flanks it cannot see;
  • Its crown, a brow-contracting load;
  • Its planted feet which trust the sod: . . .
  • (So grew the image as I trod:)
  • O Nineveh, was this thy God,—
  • 200 Thine also, mighty Nineveh?
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THE STAFF AND SCRIP
  • “Who rules these lands?” the Pilgrim said.
  • “Stranger, Queen Blanchelys.”
  • “And who has thus harried them?” he said.
  • “It was Duke Luke did this:
  • God's ban be his!”
  • The Pilgrim said: “Where is your house?
  • I'll rest there, with your will.”
  • “You've but to climb these blackened boughs
  • And you'll see it over the hill,
  • 10 For it burns still.”
  • “Which road, to seek your Queen?” said he.
  • “Nay, nay, but with some wound
  • You'll fly back hither, it may be,
  • And by your blood i' the ground
  • My place be found.”
  • “Friend, stay in peace. God keep your head,
  • And mine, where I will go;
  • For He is here and there,” he said.
  • He passed the hill-side, slow.
  • 20 And stood below.
  • The Queen sat idle by her loom;
  • She heard the arras stir,
  • And looked up sadly: through the room
  • The sweetness sickened her
  • Of musk and myrrh.
  • Her women, standing two and two,
  • In silence combed the fleece.
  • The Pilgrim said, “Peace be with you,
  • Lady;” and bent his knees.
  • 30 She answered, “Peace.”
  • Her eyes were like the wave within;
  • Like water-reed the poise
  • Of her soft body, dainty thin;
  • And like the water's noise
  • Her plaintive voice.
  • For him, the stream had never well'd
  • In desert tracts malign
  • So sweet; nor had he ever felt
  • So faint in the sunshine
  • 40 Of Palestine.
Image of page 60 page: 60
  • Right so, he knew that he saw weep
  • Each night through every dream
  • The Queen's own face, confused in sleep
  • With visages supreme
  • Not known to him.
  • “Lady,” he said, “your lands lie burnt
  • And waste: to meet your foe
  • All fear: this I have seen and learnt.
  • Say that it shall be so,
  • 50 And I will go.”
  • She gazed at him. “Your cause is just,
  • For I have heard the same,”
  • He said: “God's strength shall be my trust.
  • Fall it to good or grame,
  • 'Tis in His name.”
  • “Sir, you are thanked. My cause is dead.
  • Why should you toil to break
  • A grave, and fall therein?” she said.
  • He did not pause but spake:
  • 60 “For my vow's sake.”
  • “Can such vows be, Sir—to God's ear,
  • Not to God's will?” “My vow
  • Remains: God heard me there as here,”
  • He said with reverent brow,
  • “Both then and now.”
  • They gazed together, he and she,
  • The minute while he spoke;
  • And when he ceased, she suddenly
  • Looked round upon her folk
  • 70 As though she woke.
  • “Fight, Sir,” she said; “my prayers in pain
  • Shall be your fellowship.”
  • He whispered one among her train,—
  • “To-morrow bid her keep
  • This staff and scrip.”
  • She sent him a sharp sword, whose belt
  • About his body there
  • As sweet as her own arms he felt.
  • He kissed its blade, all bare,
  • 80 Instead of her.
  • She sent him a green banner wrought
  • With one white lily stem,
  • To bind his lance with when he fought.
  • He writ upon the same
  • And kissed her name.
  • She sent him a white shield, whereon
  • She bade that he should trace
  • His will. He blent fair hues that shone,
  • And in a golden space
  • 90 He kissed her face.
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  • Born of the day that died, that eve
  • Now dying sank to rest;
  • As he, in likewise taking leave,
  • Once with a heaving breast
  • Looked to the west.
  • And there the sunset skies unseal'd,
  • Like lands he never knew,
  • Beyond to-morrow's battle-field
  • Lay open out of view
  • 100 To ride into.
  • Next day till dark the women pray'd:
  • Nor any might know there
  • How the fight went: the Queen has bade
  • That there do come to her
  • No messenger.
  • The Queen is pale, her maidens ail;
  • And to the organ-tones
  • They sing but faintly, who sang well
  • The matin-orisons,
  • 110 The lauds and nones.
  • Lo, Father, is thine ear inclin'd,
  • And hath thine angel pass'd?
  • For these thy watchers now are blind
  • With vigil, and at last
  • Dizzy with fast.
  • Weak now to them the voice o' the priest
  • As any trance affords;
  • And when each anthem failed and ceas'd,
  • It seemed that the last chords
  • 120 Still sang the words.
  • “Oh what is the light that shines so red?
  • 'Tis long since the sun set;”
  • Quoth the youngest to the eldest maid:
  • “'Twas dim but now, and yet
  • The light is great.”
  • Quoth the other: “'Tis our sight is dazed
  • That we see flame i' the air.”
  • But the Queen held her brows and gazed,
  • And said, “It is the glare
  • 130 Of torches there.”
  • “Oh what are the sounds that rise and spread?
  • All day it was so still;”
  • Quoth the youngest to the eldest maid:
  • “Unto the furthest hill
  • The air they fill.”
  • Quoth the other: “'Tis our sense is blurr'd
  • With all the chants gone by.”
  • But the Queen held her breath and heard,
  • And said, “It is the cry
  • 140 Of Victory.”
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  • The first of all the rout was sound,
  • The next were dust and flame,
  • And then the horses shook the ground:
  • And in the thick of them
  • A still band came.
  • “Oh what do ye bring out of the fight,
  • Thus hid beneath these boughs?”
  • “Thy conquering guest returns to-night,
  • And yet shall not carouse,
  • 150 Queen, in thy house.”
  • “Uncover ye his face,” she said.
  • “O changed in little space!”
  • She cried, “O pale that was so red!
  • O God, O God of grace!
  • Cover his face.”
  • His sword was broken in his hand
  • Where he had kissed the blade.
  • “O soft steel that could not withstand!
  • O my hard heart unstayed,
  • 160 That prayed and prayed!”
  • His bloodied banner crossed his mouth
  • Where he had kissed her name.
  • “O east, and west, and north, and south,
  • Fair flew my web, for shame,
  • To guide Death's aim!”
  • The tints were shredded from his shield
  • Where he had kissed her face.
  • “Oh, of all gifts that I could yield,
  • Death only keeps its place,
  • 170 My gift and grace!”
  • Then stepped a damsel to her side,
  • And spoke, and needs must weep:
  • “For his sake, lady, if he died,
  • He prayed of thee to keep
  • This staff and scrip.”
  • That night they hung above her bed,
  • Till morning wet with tears.
  • Year after year above her head
  • Her bed his token wears,
  • 180 Five years, ten years.
  • That night the passion of her grief
  • Shook them as there they hung.
  • Each year the wind that shed the leaf
  • Shook them and in its tongue
  • A message flung.
  • And once she woke with a clear mind
  • That letters writ to calm
  • Her soul lay in the scrip; to find
  • Only a torpid balm
  • 190 And dust of palm.
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  • They shook far off with palace sport
  • When joust and dance were rife;
  • And the hunt shook them from the court;
  • For hers, in peace or strife,
  • Was a Queen's life.
  • A Queen's death now: as now they shake
  • To gusts in chapel dim,—
  • Hung where she sleeps, not seen to wake,
  • (Carved lovely white and slim),
  • 200 With them by him.
  • Stand up to-day, still armed, with her,
  • Good knight, before His brow
  • Who then as now was here and there,
  • Who had in mind thy vow
  • Then even as now.
  • The lists are set in Heaven to-day,
  • The bright pavilions shine;
  • Fair hangs thy shield, and none gainsay;
  • The trumpets sound in sign
  • 210 That she is thine.
  • Not tithed with days' and years' decease
  • He pays thy wage He owed,
  • But with imperishable peace
  • Here in His own abode
  • Thy jealous God.
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SISTER HELEN
  • “Why did you melt your waxen man,
  • Sister Helen?
  • To-day is the third since you began.”
  • “The time was long, yet the time ran,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Three days to-day, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “But if you have done your work aright,
  • Sister Helen,
  • 10You'll let me play, for you said I might.”
  • “Be very still in your play to-night,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Third night, to-night, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “You said it must melt ere vesper-bell,
  • Sister Helen;
  • If now it be molten, all is well.”
  • “Even so,—nay, peace! you cannot tell,
  • Little brother.”
  • 20 ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • O what is this, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “Oh the waxen knave was plump to-day,
  • Sister Helen;
  • How like dead folk he has dropped away!”
  • “Nay now, of the dead what can you say,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What of the dead, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “See, see, the sunken pile of wood,
  • 30 Sister Helen,
  • Shines through the thinned wax red as blood!”
  • “Nay now, when looked you yet on blood,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • How pale she is, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Now close your eyes, for they're sick and sore,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And I'll play without the gallery door.”
  • “Aye, let me rest,—I'll lie on the floor,
  • 40 Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What rest to-night, between Hell and Heaven?)
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Sig. 5
  • “Here high up in the balcony,
  • Sister Helen,
  • The moon flies face to face with me.”
  • “Aye, look and say whatever you see,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What sight to-night, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • 50“Outside it's merry in the wind's wake,
  • Sister Helen;
  • In the shaken trees the chill stars shake.”
  • “Hush, heard you a horse-tread as you spake,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What sound to-night, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “I hear a horse-tread, and I see,
  • Sister Helen,
  • Three horsemen that ride terribly.”
  • 60“Little brother, whence come the three,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Whence should they come, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “They come by the hill-verge from Boyne Bar,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And one draws nigh, but two are afar.”
  • “Look, look, do you know them who they are,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • 70 Who should they be, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “Oh, it's Keith of Eastholm rides so fast,
  • Sister Helen,
  • For I know the white mane on the blast.”
  • “The hour has come, has come at last,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Her hour at last, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “He has made a sign and called Halloo!
  • Sister Helen,
  • 80And he says that he would speak with you.”
  • “Oh tell him I fear the frozen dew,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Why laughs she thus, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “The wind is loud, but I hear him cry,
  • Sister Helen,
  • That Keith of Ewern's like to die.”
  • “And he and thou, and thou and I,
  • Little brother.”
  • 90 ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • And they and we, between Hell and Heaven!)
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  • “Three days ago, on his marriage-morn,
  • Sister Helen,
  • He sickened, and lies since then forlorn.”
  • “For bridegroom's side is the bride a thorn,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Cold bridal cheer, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Three days and nights he has lain abed,
  • 100 Sister Helen,
  • And he prays in torment to be dead.”
  • “The thing may chance, if he have prayed,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • If he have prayed, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “But he has not ceased to cry to-day,
  • Sister Helen,
  • That you should take your curse away.”
  • My prayer was heard,—he need but pray,
  • 110 Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Shall God not hear, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “But he says, till you take back your ban,
  • Sister Helen,
  • His soul would pass, yet never can.”
  • “Nay, then shall I slay a living man,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • A living soul, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • 120“But he calls for ever on your name,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And says that he melts before a flame.”
  • “My heart for his pleasure fared the same
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Fire at the heart, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Here's Keith of Westholm riding fast,
  • Sister Helen,
  • For I know the white plume on the blast.”
  • 130“The hour, the sweet hour I forecast,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Is the hour sweet, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “He stops to speak, and he stills his horse,
  • Sister Helen;
  • But his words are drowned in the wind's course.”
  • “Nay hear, nay hear, you must hear perforce,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • 140 What word now heard, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “Oh he says that Keith of Ewern's cry,
  • Sister Helen,
  • Is ever to see you ere he die.”
  • “In all that his soul sees, there am I,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • The soul's one sight, between Hell and Heaven!)
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  • “He sends a ring and a broken coin,
  • Sister Helen,
  • 150And bids you mind the banks of Boyne.”
  • “What else he broke will he ever join,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • No, never joined, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “He yields you these and craves full fain,
  • Sister Helen,
  • You pardon him in his mortal pain.”
  • “What else he took will he give again,
  • Little brother?”
  • 160 ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Not twice to give, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “He calls your name in an agony,
  • Sister Helen,
  • That even dead Love must weep to see.”
  • “Hate, born of Love, is blind as he,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Love turned to hate, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Oh it's Keith of Keith now that rides fast,
  • 170 Sister Helen,
  • For I know the white hair on the blast.”
  • “The short short hour will soon be past,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Will soon be past, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “He looks at me and he tries to speak,
  • Sister Helen,
  • But oh! his voice is sad and weak!”
  • “What here should the mighty Baron seek,
  • 180 Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Is this the end, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “Oh his son still cries, if you forgive,
  • Sister Helen,
  • The body dies but the soul shall live.”
  • “Fire shall forgive me as I forgive,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • As she forgives, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • 190“Oh he prays you, as his heart would rive,
  • Sister Helen,
  • To save his dear son's soul alive.”
  • “Fire cannot slay it, it shall thrive,
  • Little brother!
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Alas, alas, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “He cries to you, kneeling in the road,
  • Sister Helen,
  • To go with him for the love of God!”
  • 200“The way is long to his son's abode,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • The way is long, between Hell and Heaven!)
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  • “A lady's here, by a dark steed brought,
  • Sister Helen,
  • So darkly clad, I saw her not.”
  • “See her now or never see aught,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • 210 What more to see, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “Her hood falls back, and the moon shines fair,
  • Sister Helen,
  • On the Lady of Ewern's golden hair.”
  • “Blest hour of my power and her despair,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Hour blest and bann'd, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Pale, pale her cheeks, that in pride did glow,
  • Sister Helen,
  • 220'Neath the bridal-wreath three days ago.”
  • “One morn for pride and three days for woe,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Three days, three nights, between Hell and Heaven! )
  • “Her clasped hands stretch from her bending head,
  • Sister Helen;
  • With the loud wind's wail her sobs are wed.”
  • “What wedding-strains hath her bridal-bed,
  • Little brother?”
  • 230 ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What strain but death's, between Hell and Heaven?)
  • “She may not speak, she sinks in a swoon,
  • Sister Helen,—
  • She lifts her lips and gasps on the moon.”
  • “Oh! might I but hear her soul's blithe tune,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Her woe's dumb cry, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “They've caught her to Westholm's saddle-bow,
  • 240 Sister Helen,
  • And her moonlit hair gleams white in its flow.”
  • “Let it turn whiter than winter snow,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Woe-withered gold, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “O Sister Helen, you heard the bell,
  • Sister Helen!
  • More loud than the vesper-chime it fell.”
  • “No vesper-chime, but a dying knell,
  • 250 Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • His dying knell, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Alas! but I fear the heavy sound,
  • Sister Helen;
  • Is it in the sky or in the ground?”
  • “Say, have they turned their horses round,
  • Little brother?”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • What would she more, between Hell and Heaven?)
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  • 260 “They have raised the old man from his knee,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And they ride in silence hastily.”
  • “More fast the naked soul doth flee,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • The naked soul, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Flank to flank are the three steeds gone,
  • Sister Helen,
  • But the lady's dark steed goes alone.”
  • 270 “And lonely her bridegroom's soul hath flown,
  • Little brother.”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • The lonely ghost, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Oh the wind is sad in the iron chill,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And weary sad they look by the hill.”
  • “But he and I are sadder still,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • 280 Most sad of all, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “See, see, the wax has dropped from its place,
  • Sister Helen,
  • And the flames are winning up apace!”
  • “Yet here they burn but for a space,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Here for a space, between Hell and Heaven!)
  • “Ah! what white thing at the door has cross'd?
  • Sister Helen?
  • 290 Ah! what is this that sighs in the frost?”
  • “A soul that's lost as mine is lost,
  • Little brother!”
  • ( O Mother, Mary Mother,
  • Lost, lost, all lost, between Hell and Heaven!)
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LOVE'S NOCTURN
  • Master of the murmuring courts
  • Where the shapes of sleep convene!—
  • Lo! my spirit here exhorts
  • All the powers of thy demesne
  • For their aid to woo my queen.
  • What reports
  • Yield thy jealous courts unseen?
  • Vaporous, unaccountable,
  • Dreamworld lies forlorn of light,
  • 10Hollow like a breathing shell.
  • Ah! that from all dreams I might
  • Choose one dream and guide its flight!
  • I know well
  • What her sleep should tell to-night.
  • There the dreams are multitudes:
  • Some that will not wait for sleep,
  • Deep within the August woods;
  • Some that hum while rest may steep
  • Weary labour laid a-heap;
  • 20 Interludes,
  • Some, of grievous moods that weep.
  • Poets' fancies all are there:
  • There the elf-girls flood with wings
  • Valleys full of plaintive air;
  • There breathe perfumes; there in rings
  • Whirl the foam-bewildered springs;
  • Siren there
  • Winds her dizzy hair and sings.
  • Thence the one dream mutually
  • 30 Dreamed in bridal unison,
  • Less than waking ecstasy;
  • Half-formed visions that make moan
  • In the house of birth alone;
  • And what we
  • At death's wicket see, unknown.
  • But for mine own sleep, it lies
  • In one gracious form's control,
  • Fair with honourable eyes,
  • Lamps of a translucent soul:
  • 40 O their glance is loftiest dole,
  • Sweet and wise,
  • Wherein Love descries his goal.
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  • Reft of her, my dreams are all
  • Clammy trance that fears the sky:
  • Changing footpaths shift and fall;
  • From polluted coverts nigh,
  • Miserable phantoms sigh;
  • Quakes the pall,
  • And the funeral goes by.
  • 50Master, is it soothly said
  • That, as echoes of man's speech
  • Far in secret clefts are made,
  • So do all men's bodies reach
  • Shadows o'er thy sunken beach,—
  • Shape or shade
  • In those halls pourtrayed of each?
  • Ah! might I, by thy good grace
  • Groping in the windy stair,
  • (Darkness and the breath of space
  • 60 Like loud waters everywhere,)
  • Meeting mine own image there
  • Face to face,
  • Send it from that place to her!
  • Nay, not I; but oh! do thou,
  • Master, from thy shadowkind
  • Call my body's phantom now:
  • Bid it bear its face declin'd
  • Till its flight her slumbers find,
  • And her brow
  • 70Feel its presence bow like wind.
  • Where in groves the gracile Spring
  • Trembles, with mute orison
  • Confidently strengthening,
  • Water's voice and wind's as one
  • Shed an echo in the sun.
  • Soft as Spring,
  • Master, bid it sing and moan.
  • Song shall tell how glad and strong
  • Is the night she soothes alway;
  • 80Moan shall grieve with that parched tongue
  • Of the brazen hours of day:
  • Sounds as of the springtide they,
  • Moan and song,
  • While the chill months long for May.
  • Not the prayers which with all leave
  • The world's fluent woes prefer,—
  • Not the praise the world doth give,
  • Dulcet fulsome whisperer;—
  • Let it yield my love to her,
  • 90 And achieve
  • Strength that shall not grieve or err.
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  • Wheresoe'er my dreams befall,
  • Both at night-watch, (let it say,)
  • And where round the sundial
  • The reluctant hours of day,
  • Heartless, hopeless of their way,
  • Rest and call;—
  • There her glance doth fall and stay.
  • Suddenly her face is there:
  • 100 So do mounting vapours wreathe
  • Subtle-scented transports where
  • The black firwood sets its teeth.
  • Part the boughs and look beneath,—
  • Lilies share
  • Secret waters there, and breathe.
  • Master, bid my shadow bend
  • Whispering thus till birth of light,
  • Lest new shapes that sleep may send
  • Scatter all its work to flight;—
  • 110 Master, master of the night,
  • Bid it spend
  • Speech, song, prayer, and end aright.
  • Yet, ah me! if at her head
  • There another phantom lean
  • Murmuring o'er the fragrant bed,—
  • Ah! and if my spirit's queen
  • Smile those alien prayers between,—
  • Ah! poor shade!
  • Shall it strive, or fade unseen?
  • 120How should love's own messenger
  • Strive with love and be love's foe?
  • Master, nay! If thus, in her,
  • Sleep a wedded heart should show,—
  • Silent let mine image go,
  • Its old share
  • Of thy spell-bound air to know.
  • Like a vapour wan and mute,
  • Like a flame, so let it pass;
  • One low sigh across her lute,
  • 130 One dull breath against her glass;
  • And to my sad soul, alas!
  • One salute
  • Cold as when Death's foot shall pass.
  • Then, too, let all hopes of mine,
  • All vain hopes by night and day,
  • Slowly at thy summoning sign
  • Rise up pallid and obey.
  • Dreams, if this is thus, were they:—
  • Be they thine,
  • 140 And to dreamworld pine away.
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  • Yet from old time, life, not death,
  • Master, in thy rule is rife:
  • Lo! through thee, with mingling breath,
  • Adam woke beside his wife.
  • O Love, bring me so, for strife,
  • Force and faith,
  • Bring me so not death but life!
  • Yea, to Love himself is pour'd
  • This frail song of hope and fear.
  • 150 Thou art Love, of one accord
  • With kind Sleep to bring her near,
  • Still-eyed, deep-eyed, ah how dear!
  • Master, Lord,
  • In her name implor'd, O hear!
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THE HOUSE OF LIFE:

A SONNET-SEQUENCE

Part I

YOUTH AND CHANGE

Part II

CHANGE AND FATE
Transcribed Note (page 74):

(The present full series of The House of Life consists of sonnets only. It will be evident

that many among those now first added are still the work of earlier years.—1881.)

  • A Sonnet is a moment's monument,—
  • Memorial from the Soul's eternity
  • To one dead deathless hour. Look that it be,
  • Whether for lustral rite or dire portent,
  • Of its own arduous fulness reverent:
  • Carve it in ivory or in ebony,
  • As Day or Night may rule; and let Time see
  • Its flowering crest impearled and orient.
  • A Sonnet is a coin: its face reveals
  • 10 The soul,—its converse, to what Power 'tis due:—
  • Whether for tribute to the august appeals
  • Of Life, or dower in Love's high retinue,
  • It serve; or, 'mid the dark wharf's cavernous breath,
  • In Charon's palm it pay the toll to Death.
Part I.— YOUTH AND CHANGE
SONNET I

LOVE ENTHRONED
  • I marked all kindred Powers the heart finds fair:—
  • Truth, with awed lips; and Hope, with eyes upcast;
  • And Fame, whose loud wings fan the ashen Past
  • To signal-fires, Oblivion's flight to scare;
  • And Youth, with still some single golden hair
  • Unto his shoulder clinging, since the last
  • Embrace wherein two sweet arms held him fast;
  • And Life, still wreathing flowers for Death to wear.
  • Love's throne was not with these; but far above
  • 10 All passionate wind of welcome and farewell
  • He sat in breathless bowers they dream not of;
  • Though Truth foreknow Love's heart, and Hope foretell,
  • And Fame be for Love's sake desirable,
  • And Youth be dear, and Life be sweet to Love.
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SONNET II

BRIDAL BIRTH
  • As when desire, long darkling, dawns, and first
  • The mother looks upon the newborn child,
  • Even so my Lady stood at gaze and smiled
  • When her soul knew at length the Love it nurs'd.
  • Born with her life, creature of poignant thirst
  • And exquisite hunger, at her heart Love lay
  • Quickening in darkness, till a voice that day
  • Cried on him, and the bonds of birth were burst.
  • Now, shadowed by his wings, our faces yearn
  • 10 Together, as his full-grown feet now range
  • The grove, and his warm hands our couch prepare:
  • Till to his song our bodiless souls in turn
  • Be born his children, when Death's nuptial change
  • Leaves us for light the halo of his hair.
SONNET III

LOVE'S TESTAMENT
  • O thou who at Love's hour ecstatically
  • Unto my heart dost evermore present,
  • Clothed with his fire, thy heart his testament;
  • Whom I have neared and felt thy breath to be
  • The inmost incense of his sanctuary;
  • Who without speech hast owned him, and, intent
  • Upon his will, thy life with mine hast blent,
  • And murmured, “I am thine, thou'rt one with me!”
  • O what from thee the grace, to me the prize,
  • 10 And what to Love the glory,—when the whole
  • Of the deep stair thou tread'st to the dim shoal
  • And weary water of the place of sighs,
  • And there dost work deliverance, as thine eyes
  • Draw up my prisoned spirit to thy soul!
SONNET IV

LOVESIGHT
  • When do I see thee most, beloved one?
  • When in the light the spirits of mine eyes
  • Before thy face, their altar, solemnize
  • The worship of that Love through thee made known?
  • Or when in the dusk hours, (we two alone,)
  • Close-kissed and eloquent of still replies
  • Thy twilight-hidden glimmering visage lies,
  • And my soul only sees thy soul its own?
  • O love, my love! if I no more should see
  • 10Thyself, nor on the earth the shadow of thee,
  • Nor image of thine eyes in any spring,—
  • How then should sound upon Life's darkening slope
  • The ground-whirl of the perished leaves of Hope,
  • The wind of Death's imperishable wing?
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SONNET V

HEART'S HOPE
  • By what word's power, the key of paths untrod,
  • Shall I the difficult deeps of Love explore,
  • Till parted waves of Song yield up the shore
  • Even as that sea which Israel crossed dryshod?
  • For lo! in some poor rhythmic period,
  • Lady, I fain would tell how evermore
  • Thy soul I know not from thy body, nor
  • Thee from myself, neither our love from God.
  • Yea, in God's name, and Love's, and thine, would I
  • 10 Draw from one loving heart such evidence
  • As to all hearts all things shall signify;
  • Tender as dawn's first hill-fire, and intense
  • As instantaneous penetrating sense,
  • In Spring's birth-hour, of other Springs gone by.
SONNET VI

THE KISS
  • What smouldering senses in death's sick delay
  • Or seizure of malign vicissitude
  • Can rob this body of honour, or denude
  • This soul of wedding-raiment worn to-day?
  • For lo! even now my lady's lips did play
  • With these my lips such consonant interlude
  • As laurelled Orpheus longed for when he wooed
  • The half-drawn hungering face with that last lay.
  • I was a child beneath her touch,—a man
  • 10 When breast to breast we clung, even I and she,—
  • A spirit when her spirit looked through me,—
  • A god when all our life-breath met to fan
  • Our life-blood, till love's emulous ardours ran,
  • Fire within fire, desire in deity.
SONNET VI a

NUPTIAL SLEEP
  • At length their long kiss severed, with sweet smart:
  • And as the last slow sudden drops are shed
  • From sparkling eaves when all the storm has fled,
  • So singly flagged the pulses of each heart.
  • Their bosoms sundered, with the opening start
  • Of married flowers to either side outspread
  • From the knit stem; yet still their mouths, burnt red,
  • Fawned on each other where they lay apart.
  • Sleep sank them lower than the tide of dreams,
  • 10 And their dreams watched them sink, and slid away.
  • Slowly their souls swam up again, through gleams
  • Of watered light and dull drowned waifs of day;
  • Till from some wonder of new woods and streams
  • He woke, and wondered more: for there she lay.
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SONNET VII

SUPREME SURRENDER
  • To all the spirits of Love that wander by
  • Along his love-sown harvest-field of sleep
  • My lady lies apparent; and the deep
  • Calls to the deep; and no man sees but I.
  • The bliss so long afar, at length so nigh,
  • Rests there attained. Methinks proud Love must weep
  • When Fate's control doth from his harvest reap
  • The sacred hour for which the years did sigh.
  • First touched, the hand now warm around my neck
  • 10 Taught memory long to mock desire: and lo!
  • Across my breast the abandoned hair doth flow,
  • Where one shorn tress long stirred the longing ache:
  • And next the heart that trembled for its sake
  • Lies the queen-heart in sovereign overthrow.
SONNET VIII

LOVE'S LOVERS
  • Some ladies love the jewels in Love's zone,
  • And gold-tipped darts he hath for painless play
  • In idle scornful hours he flings away;
  • And some that listen to his lute's soft tone
  • Do love to vaunt the silver praise their own;
  • Some prize his blindfold sight; and there be they
  • Who kissed his wings which brought him yesterday
  • And thank his wings to-day that he is flown.
  • My lady only loves the heart of Love:
  • 10 Therefore Love's heart, my lady, hath for thee
  • His bower of unimagined flower and tree:
  • There kneels he now, and all-anhungered of
  • Thine eyes grey-lit in shadowing hair above,
  • Seals with thy mouth his immortality.
SONNET IX

PASSION AND WORSHIP
  • One flame-winged brought a white-winged harp-player
  • Even where my lady and I lay all alone;
  • Saying: “Behold, this minstrel is unknown;
  • Bid him depart, for I am minstrel here:
  • Only my strains are to Love's dear ones dear.”
  • Then said I: “Through thine hautboy's rapturous tone
  • Unto my lady still this harp makes moan,
  • And still she deems the cadence deep and clear.”
  • Then said my lady: “Thou art Passion of Love,
  • 10 And this Love's Worship: both he plights to me.
  • Thy mastering music walks the sunlit sea:
  • But where wan water trembles in the grove
  • And the wan moon is all the light thereof,
  • This harp still makes my name its voluntary.”
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SONNET X

THE PORTRAIT
  • O Lord of all compassionate control,
  • O Love! let this my lady's picture glow
  • Under my hand to praise her name, and show
  • Even of her inner self the perfect whole:
  • That he who seeks her beauty's furthest goal,
  • Beyond the light that the sweet glances throw
  • And refluent wave of the sweet smile, may know
  • The very sky and sea-line of her soul.
  • Lo! it is done. Above the enthroning throat
  • 10 The mouth's mould testifies of voice and kiss,
  • The shadowed eyes remember and foresee.
  • Her face is made her shrine. Let all men note
  • That in all years (O Love, thy gift is this!)
  • They that would look on her must come to me.
SONNET XI

THE LOVE-LETTER
  • 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.
SONNET XII

THE LOVERS' WALK
  • Sweet twining hedgeflowers wind-stirred in no wise
  • On this June day; and hand that clings in hand:—
  • Still glades; and meeting faces scarcely fann'd:—
  • An osier-odoured stream that draws the skies
  • Deep to its heart; and mirrored eyes in eyes:—
  • Fresh hourly wonder o'er the Summer land
  • Of light and cloud; and two souls softly spann'd
  • With one o'erarching heaven of smiles and sighs:—
  • Even such their path, whose bodies lean unto
  • 10 Each other's visible sweetness amorously,—
  • Whose passionate hearts lean by Love's high decree
  • Together on his heart for ever true,
  • As the cloud-foaming firmamental blue
  • Rests on the blue line of a foamless sea.
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SONNET XIII

YOUTH'S ANTIPHONY
  • “I love you, sweet: how can you ever learn
  • How much I love you?” “You I love even so,
  • And so I learn it.” “Sweet, you cannot know
  • How fair you are.” “If fair enough to earn
  • Your love, so much is all my love's concern.”
  • “My love grows hourly, sweet.” “Mine too doth grow,
  • Yet love seemed full so many hours ago!”
  • Thus lovers speak, till kisses claim their turn.
  • Ah! happy they to whom such words as these
  • 10 In youth have served for speech the whole day long,
  • Hour after hour, remote from the world's throng,
  • Work, contest, fame, all life's confederate pleas,—
  • What while Love breathed in sighs and silences
  • Through two blent souls one rapturous undersong.
SONNET XIV

YOUTH'S SPRING-TRIBUTE
  • On this sweet bank your head thrice sweet and dear
  • I lay, and spread your hair on either side,
  • And see the newborn woodflowers bashful-eyed
  • Look through the golden tresses here and there.
  • On these debateable borders of the year
  • Spring's foot half falters; scarce she yet may know
  • The leafless blackthorn-blossom from the snow;
  • And through her bowers the wind's way still is clear.
  • But April's sun strikes down the glades to-day;
  • 10 So shut your eyes upturned, and feel my kiss
  • Creep, as the Spring now thrills through every spray,
  • Up your warm throat to your warm lips: for this
  • Is even the hour of Love's sworn suitservice,
  • With whom cold hearts are counted castaway.
SONNET XV

THE BIRTH-BOND
  • Have you not noted, in some family
  • Where two were born of a first marriage-bed,
  • How still they own their gracious bond, though fed
  • And nursed on the forgotten breast and knee?—
  • How to their father's children they shall be
  • In act and thought of one goodwill; but each
  • Shall for the other have, in silence speech,
  • And in a word complete community?
  • Even so, when first I saw you, seemed it, love,
  • 10 That among souls allied to mine was yet
  • One nearer kindred than life hinted of.
  • O born with me somewhere that men forget,
  • And though in years of sight and sound unmet,
  • Known for my soul's birth-partner well enough!
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SONNET XVI

A DAY OF LOVE
  • Those envied places which do know her well,
  • And are so scornful of this lonely place,
  • Even now for once are emptied of her grace:
  • Nowhere but here she is: and while Love's spell
  • From his predominant presence doth compel
  • All alien hours, an outworn populace,
  • The hours of Love fill full the echoing space
  • With sweet confederate music favourable.
  • Now many memories make solicitous
  • 10 The delicate love-lines of her mouth, till, lit
  • With quivering fire, the words take wing from it;
  • As here between our kisses we sit thus
  • Speaking of things remembered, and so sit
  • Speechless while things forgotten call to us.
SONNET XVII

BEAUTY'S PAGEANT
  • What dawn-pulse at the heart of heaven, or last
  • Incarnate flower of culminating day,—
  • What marshalled marvels on the skirts of May,
  • Or song full-quired, sweet June's encomiast;
  • What glory of change by Nature's hand amass'd
  • Can vie with all those moods of varying grace
  • Which o'er one loveliest woman's form and face
  • Within this hour, within this room, have pass'd?
  • Love's very vesture and elect disguise
  • 10 Was each fine movement,—wonder new-begot
  • Of lily or swan or swan-stemmed galiot;
  • Joy to his sight who now the sadlier sighs,
  • Parted again; and sorrow yet for eyes
  • Unborn, that read these words and saw her not.
SONNET XVIII

GENIUS IN BEAUTY
  • Beauty like hers is genius. Not the call
  • Of Homer's or of Dante's heart sublime,—
  • Not Michael's hand furrowing the zones of time,—
  • Is more with compassed mysteries musical;
  • Nay, not in Spring's or Summer's sweet footfall
  • More gathered gifts exuberant Life bequeaths
  • Than doth this sovereign face, whose love-spell breathes
  • Even from its shadowed contour on the wall.
  • As many men are poets in their youth,
  • 10 But for one sweet-strung soul the wires prolong
  • Even through all change the indomitable song;
  • So in like wise the envenomed years, whose tooth
  • Rends shallower grace with ruin void of ruth,
  • Upon this beauty's power shall wreak no wrong.
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SONNET XIX

SILENT NOON
  • Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass,—
  • The finger-points look through like rosy blooms:
  • Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms
  • 'Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.
  • All round our nest, far as the eye can pass,
  • Are golden kingcup-fields with silver edge
  • Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn-hedge.
  • 'Tis visible silence, still as the hour-glass.
  • Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragon-fly
  • 10Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky:—
  • So this wing'd hour is dropt to us from above.
  • Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower,
  • This close-companioned inarticulate hour
  • When twofold silence was the song of love.
SONNET XX

GRACIOUS MOONLIGHT
  • Even as the moon grows queenlier in mid-space
  • When the sky darkens, and her cloud-rapt car
  • Thrills with intenser radiance from afar,—
  • So lambent, lady, beams thy sovereign grace
  • When the drear soul desires thee. Of that face
  • What shall be said,—which, like a governing star,
  • Gathers and garners from all things that are
  • Their silent penetrative loveliness?
  • O'er water-daisies and wild waifs of Spring,
  • 10 There where the iris rears its gold-crowned sheaf
  • With flowering rush and sceptred arrow-leaf,
  • So have I marked Queen Dian, in bright ring
  • Of cloud above and wave below, take wing
  • And chase night's gloom, as thou the spirit's grief.
SONNET XXI

LOVE-SWEETNESS
  • Sweet dimness of her loosened hair's downfall
  • About thy face; her sweet hands round thy head
  • In gracious fostering union garlanded;
  • Her tremulous smiles; her glances' sweet recall
  • Of love; her murmuring sighs memorial;
  • Her mouth's culled sweetness by thy kisses shed
  • On cheeks and neck and eyelids, and so led
  • Back to her mouth which answers there for all:—
  • What sweeter than these things, except the thing
  • 10 In lacking which all these would lose their sweet:—
  • The confident heart's still fervour: the swift beat
  • And soft subsidence of the spirit's wing,
  • Then when it feels, in cloud-girt wayfaring,
  • The breath of kindred plumes against its feet?
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SONNET XXII

HEART'S HAVEN
  • Sometimes she is a child within mine arms,
  • Cowering beneath dark wings that love must chase,—
  • With still tears showering and averted face,
  • Inexplicably filled with faint alarms:
  • And oft from mine own spirit's hurtling harms
  • I crave the refuge of her deep embrace,—
  • Against all ills the fortified strong place
  • And sweet reserve of sovereign counter-charms.
  • And Love, our light at night and shade at noon,
  • 10 Lulls us to rest with songs, and turns away
  • All shafts of shelterless tumultuous day.
  • Like the moon's growth, his face gleams through his tune;
  • And as soft waters warble to the moon,
  • Our answering spirits chime one roundelay.
SONNET XXIII

LOVE'S BAUBLES
  • I stood where Love in brimming armfuls bore
  • Slight wanton flowers and foolish toys of fruit:
  • And round him ladies thronged in warm pursuit,
  • Fingered and lipped and proffered the strange store.
  • And from one hand the petal and the core
  • Savoured of sleep; and cluster and curled shoot
  • Seemed from another hand like shame's salute,—
  • Gifts that I felt my cheek was blushing for.
  • At last Love bade my Lady give the same:
  • 10 And as I looked, the dew was light thereon;
  • And as I took them, at her touch they shone
  • With inmost heaven-hue of the heart of flame.
  • And then Love said: “Lo! when the hand is hers,
  • Follies of love are love's true ministers.”
SONNET XXIV

PRIDE OF YOUTH
  • Even as a child, of sorrow that we give
  • The dead, but little in his heart can find,
  • Since without need of thought to his clear mind
  • Their turn it is to die and his to live:—
  • Even so the winged New Love smiles to receive
  • Along his eddying plumes the auroral wind,
  • Nor, forward glorying, casts one look behind
  • Where night-rack shrouds the Old Love fugitive.
  • There is a change in every hour's recall,
  • 10 And the last cowslip in the fields we see
  • On the same day with the first corn-poppy.
  • Alas for hourly change! Alas for all
  • The loves that from his hand proud Youth lets fall,
  • Even as the beads of a told rosary!
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SONNET XXV

WINGED HOURS
  • Each hour until we meet is as a bird
  • That wings from far his gradual way along
  • The rustling covert of my soul,—his song
  • Still loudlier trilled through leaves more deeply stirr'd:
  • But at the hour of meeting, a clear word
  • Is every note he sings, in Love's own tongue;
  • Yet, Love, thou know'st the sweet strain suffers wrong
  • Full oft through our contending joys unheard.
  • What of that hour at last, when for her sake
  • 10 No wing may fly to me nor song may flow;
  • When, wandering round my life unleaved, I know
  • The bloodied feathers scattered in the brake,
  • And think how she, far from me, with like eyes
  • Sees through the untuneful bough the wingless skies?
SONNET XXVI

MID-RAPTURE
  • Thou lovely and beloved, thou my love;
  • Whose kiss seems still the first; whose summoning eyes,
  • Even now, as for our love-world's new sunrise,
  • Shed very dawn; whose voice, attuned above
  • All modulation of the deep-bowered dove,
  • Is like a hand laid softly on the soul;
  • Whose hand is like a sweet voice to control
  • Those worn tired brows it hath the keeping of:—
  • What word can answer to thy word,—what gaze
  • 10 To thine, which now absorbs within its sphere
  • My worshipping face, till I am mirrored there
  • Light-circled in a heaven of deep-drawn rays?
  • What clasp, what kiss mine inmost heart can prove,
  • O lovely and beloved, O my love?
SONNET XXVII

HEART'S COMPASS
  • Sometimes thou seem'st not as thyself alone,
  • But as the meaning of all things that are;
  • A breathless wonder, shadowing forth afar
  • Some heavenly solstice hushed and halcyon;
  • Whose unstirred lips are music's visible tone;
  • Whose eyes the sun-gate of the soul unbar,
  • Being of its furthest fires oracular;—
  • The evident heart of all life sown and mown.
  • Even such Love is; and is not thy name Love?
  • 10 Yea, by thy hand the Love-god rends apart
  • All gathering clouds of Night's ambiguous art;
  • Flings them far down, and sets thine eyes above;
  • And simply, as some gage of flower or glove,
  • Stakes with a smile the world against thy heart.
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SONNET XXVIII

SOUL-LIGHT
  • What other woman could be loved like you,
  • Or how of you should love possess his fill?
  • After the fulness of all rapture, still,—
  • As at the end of some deep avenue
  • A tender glamour of day,—there comes to view
  • Far in your eyes a yet more hungering thrill,—
  • Such fire as Love's soul-winnowing hands distil
  • Even from his inmost ark of light and dew.
  • And as the traveller triumphs with the sun,
  • 10 Glorying in heat's mid-height, yet startide brings
  • Wonder new-born, and still fresh transport springs
  • From limpid lambent hours of day begun;—
  • Even so, through eyes and voice, your soul doth move
  • My soul with changeful light of infinite love.
SONNET XXIX

THE MOONSTAR
  • Lady, I thank thee for thy loveliness,
  • Because my lady is more lovely still.
  • Glorying I gaze, and yield with glad goodwill
  • To thee thy tribute; by whose sweet-spun dress
  • Of delicate life Love labours to assess
  • My lady's absolute queendom; saying, “Lo!
  • How high this beauty is, which yet doth show
  • But as that beauty's sovereign votaress.”
  • Lady, I saw thee with her, side by side;
  • 10 And as, when night's fair fires their queen surround,
  • An emulous star too near the moon will ride,—
  • Even so thy rays within her luminous bound
  • Were traced no more; and by the light so drown'd,
  • Lady, not thou but she was glorified.
SONNET XXX

LAST FIRE
  • Love, through your spirit and mine what summer eve
  • Now glows with glory of all things possess'd,
  • Since this day's sun of rapture filled the west
  • And the light sweetened as the fire took leave?
  • Awhile now softlier let your bosom heave,
  • As in Love's harbour, even that loving breast,
  • All care takes refuge while we sink to rest,
  • And mutual dreams the bygone bliss retrieve.
  • Many the days that Winter keeps in store,
  • 10 Sunless throughout, or whose brief sun-glimpses
  • Scarce shed the heaped snow through the naked trees,
  • This day at least was Summer's paramour,
  • Sun-coloured to the imperishable core
  • With sweet well-being of love and full heart's ease.
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SONNET XXXI

HER GIFTS
  • High grace, the dower of queens; and therewithal
  • Some wood-born wonder's sweet simplicity;
  • A glance like water brimming with the sky
  • Or hyacinth-light where forest-shadows fall;
  • Such thrilling pallor of cheek as doth enthral
  • The heart; a mouth whose passionate forms imply
  • All music and all silence held thereby;
  • Deep golden locks, her sovereign coronal;
  • A round reared neck, meet column of Love's shrine
  • 10 To cling to when the heart takes sanctuary;
  • Hands which for ever at Love's bidding be,
  • And soft-stirred feet still answering to his sign:—
  • These are her gifts, as tongue may tell them o'er.
  • Breathe low her name, my soul; for that means more.
SONNET XXXII

EQUAL TROTH
  • Not by one measure mayst thou mete our love;
  • For how should I be loved as I love thee?—
  • I, graceless, joyless, lacking absolutely
  • All gifts that with thy queenship best behove;—
  • Thou, throned in every heart's elect alcove,
  • And crowned with garlands culled from every tree,
  • Which for no head but thine, by Love's decree,
  • All beauties and all mysteries interwove.
  • But here thine eyes and lips yield soft rebuke:—
  • 10“Then only” (say'st thou) “could I love thee less,
  • When thou couldst doubt my love's equality.”
  • Peace, sweet! If not to sum but worth we look,—
  • Thy heart's transcendence, not my heart's excess,—
  • Then more a thousandfold thou lov'st than I.
SONNET XXXIII

VENUS VICTRIX
  • Could Juno's self more sovereign presence wear
  • Than thou, 'mid other ladies throned in grace?—
  • Or Pallas, when thou bend'st with soul-stilled face
  • O'er poet's page gold-shadowed in thy hair?
  • Dost thou than Venus seem less heavenly fair
  • When o'er the sea of love's tumultuous trance
  • Hovers thy smile, and mingles with thy glance
  • That sweet voice like the last wave murmuring there?
  • Before such triune loveliness divine
  • 10 Awestruck I ask, which goddess here most claims
  • The prize that, howsoe'er adjudged, is thine?
  • Then Love breathes low the sweetest of thy names;
  • And Venus Victrix to my heart doth bring
  • Herself, the Helen of her guerdoning.
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SONNET XXXIV

THE DARK GLASS
  • Not I myself know all my love for thee:
  • How should I reach so far, who cannot weigh
  • To-morrow's dower by gage of yesterday?
  • Shall birth and death, and all dark names that be
  • As doors and windows bared to some loud sea,
  • Lash deaf mine ears and blind my face with spray;
  • And shall my sense pierce love,—the last relay
  • And ultimate outpost of eternity?
  • Lo! what am I to Love, the lord of all?
  • 10 One murmuring shell he gathers from the sand,—
  • One little heart-flame sheltered in his hand.
  • Yet through thine eyes he grants me clearest call
  • And veriest touch of powers primordial
  • That any hour-girt life may understand.
SONNET XXXV

THE LAMP'S SHRINE
  • Sometimes I fain would find in thee some fault,
  • That I might love thee still in spite of it:
  • Yet how should our Lord Love curtail one whit
  • Thy perfect praise whom most he would exalt?
  • Alas! he can but make my heart's low vault
  • Even in men's sight unworthier, being lit
  • By thee, who thereby show'st more exquisite
  • Like fiery chrysoprase in deep basalt.
  • Yet will I nowise shrink; but at Love's shrine
  • 10 Myself within the beams his brow doth dart
  • Will set the flashing jewel of thy heart
  • In that dull chamber where it deigns to shine:
  • For lo! in honour of thine excellencies
  • My heart takes pride to show how poor it is.
SONNET XXXVI

LIFE-IN-LOVE
  • Not in thy body is thy life at all,
  • But in this lady's lips and hands and eyes;
  • Through these she yields thee life that vivifies
  • What else were sorrow's servant and death's thrall.
  • Look on thyself without her, and recall
  • The waste remembrance and forlorn surmise
  • That lived but in a dead-drawn breath of sighs
  • O'er vanished hours and hours eventual.
  • Even so much life hath the poor tress of hair
  • 10 Which, stored apart, is all love hath to show
  • For heart-beats and for fire-heats long ago;
  • Even so much life endures unknown, even where,
  • 'Mid change the changeless night environeth,
  • Lies all that golden hair undimmed in death.
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SONNET XXXVII

THE LOVE-MOON
  • “When that dead face, bowered in the furthest years,
  • Which once was all the life years held for thee,
  • Can now scarce bid the tides of memory
  • Cast on thy soul a little spray of tears,—
  • How canst thou gaze into these eyes of hers
  • Whom now thy heart delights in, and not see
  • Within each orb Love's philtred euphrasy
  • Make them of buried troth remembrancers?”
  • “Nay, pitiful Love, nay, loving Pity! Well
  • 10 Thou knowest that in these twain I have confess'd
  • Two very voices of thy summoning bell.
  • Nay, Master, shall not Death make manifest
  • In these the culminant changes which approve
  • The love-moon that must light my soul to Love?”
SONNET XXXVIII

THE MORROW'S MESSAGE
  • “Thou Ghost,” I said, “and is thy name To-day?—
  • Yesterday's son, with such an abject brow!—
  • And can To-morrow be more pale than thou?”
  • While yet I spoke, the silence answered: “Yea,
  • Henceforth our issue is all grieved and grey,
  • And each beforehand makes such poor avow
  • As of old leaves beneath the budding bough
  • Or night-drift that the sundawn shreds away.”
  • Then cried I: “Mother of many malisons,
  • 10 O Earth, receive me to thy dusty bed!”
  • But therewithal the tremulous silence said:
  • “Lo! Love yet bids thy lady greet thee once:—
  • Yea, twice,—whereby thy life is still the sun's;
  • And thrice,—whereby the shadow of death is dead.”
SONNET XXXIX

SLEEPLESS DREAMS
  • Girt in dark growths, yet glimmering with one star,
  • O night desirous as the nights of youth!
  • Why should my heart within thy spell, forsooth,
  • Now beat, as the bride's finger-pulses are
  • Quickened within the girdling golden bar?
  • What wings are these that fan my pillow smooth?
  • And why does Sleep, waved back by Joy and Ruth,
  • Tread softly round and gaze at me from far?
  • Nay, night deep-leaved! And would Love feign in thee
  • 10 Some shadowy palpitating grove that bears
  • Rest for man's eyes and music for his ears?
  • O lonely night! art thou not known to me,
  • A thicket hung with masks of mockery
  • And watered with the wasteful warmth of tears?
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SONNET XL

SEVERED SELVES
  • Two separate divided silences,
  • Which, brought together, would find loving voice;
  • Two glances which together would rejoice
  • In love, now lost like stars beyond dark trees;
  • Two hands apart whose touch alone gives ease;
  • Two bosoms which, heart-shrined with mutual flame,
  • Would, meeting in one clasp, be made the same;
  • Two souls, the shores wave-mocked of sundering seas:—
  • Such are we now. Ah! may our hope forecast
  • 10 Indeed one hour again, when on this stream
  • Of darkened love once more the light shall gleam?—
  • An hour how slow to come, how quickly past,—
  • Which blooms and fades, and only leaves at last,
  • Faint as shed flowers, the attenuated dream.
SONNET XLI

THROUGH DEATH TO LOVE
  • Like labour-laden moonclouds faint to flee
  • From winds that sweep the winter-bitten wold,—
  • Like multiform circumfluence manifold
  • Of night's flood-tide,—like terrors that agree
  • Of hoarse-tongued fire and inarticulate sea,—
  • Even such, within some glass dimmed by our breath,
  • Our hearts discern wild images of Death,
  • Shadows and shoals that edge eternity.
  • Howbeit athwart Death's imminent shade doth soar
  • 10 One Power, than flow of stream or flight of dove
  • Sweeter to glide around, to brood above.
  • Tell me, my heart,—what angel-greeted door
  • Or threshold of wing-winnowed threshing-floor
  • Hath guest fire-fledged as thine, whose lord is Love?
SONNET XLII

HOPE OVERTAKEN
  • I deemed thy garments, O my Hope, were grey,
  • So far I viewed thee. Now the space between
  • Is passed at length; and garmented in green
  • Even as in days of yore thou stand'st to-day.
  • Ah God! and but for lingering dull dismay,
  • On all that road our footsteps erst had been
  • Even thus commingled, and our shadows seen
  • Blent on the hedgerows and the water-way.
  • O Hope of mine whose eyes are living love,
  • 10 No eyes but hers,—O Love and Hope the same!—
  • Lean close to me, for now the sinking sun
  • That warmed our feet scarce gilds our hair above.
  • O hers thy voice and very hers thy name!
  • Alas, cling round me, for the day is done!
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SONNET XLIII

LOVE AND HOPE
  • Bless love and hope. Full many a withered year
  • Whirled past us, eddying to its chill doomsday;
  • And clasped together where the blown leaves lay
  • We long have knelt and wept full many a tear.
  • Yet lo! one hour at last, the Spring's compeer,
  • Flutes softly to us from some green byeway:
  • Those years, those tears are dead, but only they:—
  • Bless love and hope, true soul; for we are here.
  • Cling heart to heart; nor of this hour demand
  • 10 Whether in very truth, when we are dead,
  • Our hearts shall wake to know Love's golden head
  • Sole sunshine of the imperishable land;
  • Or but discern, through night's unfeatured scope,
  • Scorn-fired at length the illusive eyes of Hope.
SONNET XLIV

CLOUD AND WIND
  • Love, should I fear death most for you or me?
  • Yet if you die, can I not follow you,
  • Forcing the straits of change? Alas! but who
  • Shall wrest a bond from night's inveteracy,
  • Ere yet my hazardous soul put forth, to be
  • Her warrant against all her haste might rue?—
  • Ah! in your eyes so reached what dumb adieu,
  • What unsunned gyres of waste eternity?
  • And if I die the first, shall death be then
  • 10 A lampless watchtower whence I see you weep?—
  • Or (woe is me!) a bed wherein my sleep
  • Ne'er notes (as death's dear cup at last you drain),
  • The hour when you too learn that all is vain
  • And that Hope sows what Love shall never reap?
SONNET XLV

SECRET PARTING
  • Because our talk was of the cloud-control
  • And moon-track of the journeying face of Fate,
  • Her tremulous kisses faltered at love's gate
  • And her eyes dreamed against a distant goal:
  • But soon, remembering her how brief the whole
  • Of joy, which its own hours annihilate,
  • Her set gaze gathered, thirstier than of late,
  • And as she kissed, her mouth became her soul.
  • Thence in what ways we wandered, and how strove
  • 10 To build with fire-tried vows the piteous home
  • Which memory haunts and whither sleep may roam,—
  • They only know for whom the roof of Love
  • Is the still-seated secret of the grove,
  • Nor spire may rise nor bell be heard therefrom.
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SONNET XLVI

PARTED LOVE
  • What shall be said of this embattled day
  • And armèd occupation of this night
  • By all thy foes beleaguered,—now when sight
  • Nor sound denotes the loved one far away?
  • Of these thy vanquished hours what shalt thou say,—
  • As every sense to which she dealt delight
  • Now labours lonely o'er the stark noon-height
  • To reach the sunset's desolate disarray?
  • Stand still, fond fettered wretch! while Memory's art
  • 10 Parades the Past before thy face, and lures
  • Thy spirit to her passionate portraitures:
  • Till the tempestuous tide-gates flung apart
  • Flood with wild will the hollows of thy heart,
  • And thy heart rends thee, and thy body endures.
SONNET XLVII

BROKEN MUSIC
  • The mother will not turn, who thinks she hears
  • Her nursling's speech first grow articulate;
  • But breathless with averted eyes elate
  • She sits, with open lips and open ears,
  • That it may call her twice. 'Mid doubts and fears
  • Thus oft my soul has hearkened; till the song,
  • A central moan for days, at length found tongue,
  • And the sweet music welled and the sweet tears.
  • But now, whatever while the soul is fain
  • 10 To list that wonted murmur, as it were
  • The speech-bound sea-shell's low importunate strain,—
  • No breath of song, thy voice alone is there,
  • O bitterly beloved! and all her gain
  • Is but the pang of unpermitted prayer.
SONNET XLVIII

DEATH-IN-LOVE
  • There came an image in Life's retinue
  • That had Love's wings and bore his gonfalon:
  • Fair was the web, and nobly wrought thereon,
  • O soul-sequestered face, thy form and hue!
  • Bewildering sounds, such as Spring wakens to,
  • Shook in its folds; and through my heart its power
  • Sped trackless as the immemorable hour
  • When birth's dark portal groaned and all was new.
  • But a veiled woman followed, and she caught
  • 10 The banner round its staff, to furl and cling,—
  • Then plucked a feather from the bearer's wing
  • And held it to his lips that stirred it not,
  • And said to me, “Behold, there is no breath:
  • I and this Love are one, and I am Death.”
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SONNETS XLIX, L, LI, LII

WILLOWWOOD
I
  • I sat with Love upon a woodside well,
  • Leaning across the water, I and he;
  • Nor ever did he speak nor looked at me,
  • But touched his lute wherein was audible
  • The certain secret thing he had to tell:
  • Only our mirrored eyes met silently
  • In the low wave; and that sound came to be
  • The passionate voice I knew; and my tears fell.
  • And at their fall, his eyes beneath grew hers;
  • 10And with his foot and with his wing-feathers
  • He swept the spring that watered my heart's drouth.
  • Then the dark ripples spread to waving hair,
  • And as I stooped, her own lips rising there
  • Bubbled with brimming kisses at my mouth.
II
  • And now Love sang: but his was such a song,
  • So meshed with half-remembrance hard to free,
  • As souls disused in death's sterility
  • May sing when the new birthday tarries long.
  • And I was made aware of a dumb throng
  • That stood aloof, one form by every tree,
  • All mournful forms, for each was I or she,
  • The shades of those our days that had no tongue.
  • They looked on us, and knew us and were known;
  • 10 While fast together, alive from the abyss,
  • Clung the soul-wrung implacable close kiss;
  • And pity of self through all made broken moan
  • Which said “For once, for once, for once alone!”
  • And still Love sang, and what he sang was this:—
III
  • “O ye, all ye that walk in Willowwood,
  • That walk with hollow faces burning white;
  • What fathom-depth of soul-struck widowhood,
  • What long, what longer hours, one lifelong night,
  • Ere ye again, who so in vain have wooed
  • Your last hope lost, who so in vain invite
  • Your lips to that their unforgotten food,
  • Ere ye, ere ye again shall see the light!
  • Alas! the bitter banks in Willowwood,
  • 10 With tear-spurge wan, with blood-wort burning red:
  • Alas! if ever such a pillow could
  • Steep deep the soul in sleep till she were dead,—
  • Better all life forget her than this thing,
  • That Willowwood should hold her wandering!”
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IV
  • So sang he: and as meeting rose and rose
  • Together cling through the wind's wellaway
  • Nor change at once, yet near the end of day
  • The leaves drop loosened where the heart-stain glows,—
  • So when the song died did the kiss unclose;
  • And her face fell back drowned, and was as grey
  • As its grey eyes; and if it ever may
  • Meet mine again I know not if Love knows.
  • Only I know that I leaned low and drank
  • 10A long draught from the water where she sank,
  • Her breath and all her tears and all her soul:
  • And as I leaned, I know I felt Love's face
  • Pressed on my neck with moan of pity and grace,
  • Till both our heads were in his aureole.
SONNET LIII

WITHOUT HER
  • What of her glass without her? The blank grey
  • There where the pool is blind of the moon's face.
  • Her dress without her? The tossed empty space
  • Of cloud-rack whence the moon has passed away.
  • Her paths without her? Day's appointed sway
  • Usurped by desolate night. Her pillowed place
  • Without her? Tears, ah me! for love's good grace,
  • And cold forgetfulness of night or day.
  • What of the heart without her? Nay, poor heart,
  • 10 Of thee what word remains ere speech be still?
  • A wayfarer by barren ways and chill,
  • Steep ways and weary, without her thou art,
  • Where the long cloud, the long wood's counterpart,
  • Sheds doubled darkness up the labouring hill.
SONNET LIV

LOVE'S FATALITY
  • Sweet Love,—but oh! most dread Desire of Love
  • Life-thwarted. Linked in gyves I saw them stand,
  • Love shackled with Vain-longing, hand to hand:
  • And one was eyed as the blue vault above:
  • But hope tempestuous like a fire-cloud hove
  • I' the other's gaze, even as in his whose wand
  • Vainly all night with spell-wrought power has spann'd
  • The unyielding caves of some deep treasure-trove.
  • Also his lips, two writhen flakes of flame,
  • 10 Made moan: “Alas O Love, thus leashed with me!
  • Wing-footed thou, wing-shouldered, once born free:
  • And I, thy cowering self, in chains grown tame,—
  • Bound to thy body and soul, named with thy name,—
  • Life's iron heart, even Love's Fatality.”
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Note: The twelfth line of the poem “I. Herself” contains an ink smudge just after the emdash.
SONNET LV

STILLBORN LOVE
  • The hour which might have been yet might not be,
  • Which man's and woman's heart conceived and bore
  • Yet whereof life was barren,—on what shore
  • Bides it the breaking of Time's weary sea?
  • Bondchild of all consummate joys set free,
  • It somewhere sighs and serves, and mute before
  • The house of Love, hears through the echoing door
  • His hours elect in choral consonancy.
  • But lo! what wedded souls now hand in hand
  • 10Together tread at last the immortal strand
  • With eyes where burning memory lights love home?
  • Lo! how the little outcast hour has turned
  • And leaped to them and in their faces yearned:—
  • “I am your child: O parents, ye have come!”
SONNETS LVI, LVII, LVIII

TRUE WOMAN
I. HERSELF
  • To be a sweetness more desired than Spring;
  • A bodily beauty more acceptable
  • Than the wild rose-tree's arch that crowns the fell;
  • To be an essence more environing
  • Than wine's drained juice; a music ravishing
  • More than the passionate pulse of Philomel;—
  • To be all this 'neath one soft bosom's swell
  • That is the flower of life:—how strange a thing!
  • How strange a thing to be what Man can know
  • 10 But as a sacred secret! Heaven's own screen
  • Hides her soul's purest depth and loveliest glow;
  • Closely withheld, as all things most unseen,—
  • The wave-bowered pearl,—the heart-shaped seal of green
  • That flecks the snowdrop underneath the snow.
II. HER LOVE
  • She loves him; for her infinite soul is Love,
  • And he her lodestar. Passion in her is
  • A glass facing his fire, where the bright bliss
  • Is mirrored, and the heat returned. Yet move
  • That glass, a stranger's amorous flame to prove,
  • And it shall turn, by instant contraries,
  • Ice to the moon; while her pure fire to his
  • For whom it burns, clings close i' the heart's alcove.
  • Lo! they are one. With wifely breast to breast
  • 10 And circling arms, she welcomes all command
  • Of love,—her soul to answering ardours fann'd:
  • Yet as morn springs or twilight sinks to rest,
  • Ah! who shall say she deems not loveliest
  • The hour of sisterly sweet hand-in-hand?
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III. HER HEAVEN
  • If to grow old in Heaven is to grow young,
  • (As the Seer saw and said,) then blest were he
  • With youth for evermore, whose heaven should be
  • True Woman, she whom these weak notes have sung.
  • Here and hereafter,—choir-strains of her tongue,—
  • Sky-spaces of her eyes,—sweet signs that flee
  • About her soul's immediate sanctuary,—
  • Were Paradise all uttermost worlds among.
  • The sunrise blooms and withers on the hill
  • 10 Like any hillflower; and the noblest troth
  • Dies here to dust. Yet shall Heaven's promise clothe
  • Even yet those lovers who have cherished still
  • This test for love:—in every kiss sealed fast
  • To feel the first kiss and forebode the last.
SONNET LIX

LOVE'S LAST GIFT
  • Love to his singer held a glistening leaf,
  • And said: “The rose-tree and the apple-tree
  • Have fruits to vaunt or flowers to lure the bee;
  • And golden shafts are in the feathered sheaf
  • Of the great harvest-marshal, the year's chief,
  • Victorious Summer; aye, and 'neath warm sea
  • Strange secret grasses lurk inviolably
  • Between the filtering channels of sunk reef.
  • “All are my blooms; and all sweet blooms of love
  • 10 To thee I gave while Spring and Summer sang;
  • But Autumn stops to listen, with some pang
  • From those worse things the wind is moaning of.
  • Only this laurel dreads no winter days:
  • Take my last gift; thy heart hath sung my praise.”
Part II.— CHANGE AND FATE
SONNET LX

TRANSFIGURED LIFE
  • As growth of form or momentary glance
  • In a child's features will recall to mind
  • The father's with the mother's face combin'd,—
  • Sweet interchange that memories still enhance:
  • And yet, as childhood's years and youth's advance,
  • The gradual mouldings leave one stamp behind,
  • Till in the blended likeness now we find
  • A separate man's or woman's countenance:—
  • So in the Song, the singer's Joy and Pain,
  • 10 Its very parents, evermore expand
  • To bid the passion's fullgrown birth remain,
  • By Art's transfiguring essence subtly spann'd;
  • And from that song-cloud shaped as a man's hand
  • There comes the sound as of abundant rain.
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SONNET LXI

THE SONG-THROE
  • By thine own tears thy song must tears beget,
  • O Singer! Magic mirror thou hast none
  • Except thy manifest heart; and save thine own
  • Anguish or ardour, else no amulet.
  • Cisterned in Pride, verse is the feathery jet
  • Of soulless air-flung fountains; nay, more dry
  • Than the Dead Sea for throats that thirst and sigh,
  • That song o'er which no singer's lids grew wet.
  • The Song-god—He the Sun-god—is no slave
  • 10 Of thine; thy Hunter he, who for thy soul
  • Fledges his shaft: to no august control
  • Of thy skilled hand his quivered store he gave:
  • But if thy lips' loud cry leap to his smart,
  • The inspir'd recoil shall pierce thy brother's heart.
SONNET LXII

THE SOUL'S SPHERE
  • Some prisoned moon in steep cloud-fastnesses,—
  • Throned queen and thralled; some dying sun whose pyre
  • Blazed with momentous memorable fire;—
  • Who hath not yearned and fed his heart with these?
  • Who, sleepless, hath not anguished to appease
  • Tragical shadow's realm of sound and sight
  • Conjectured in the lamentable night? . . .
  • Lo! the soul's sphere of infinite images!
  • What sense shall count them? Whether it forecast
  • 10 The rose-winged hours that flutter in the van
  • Of Love's unquestioning unrevealèd span,—
  • Visions of golden futures: or that last
  • Wild pageant of the accumulated past
  • That clangs and flashes for a drowning man.
SONNET LXIII

INCLUSIVENESS
  • The changing guests, each in a different mood,
  • Sit at the roadside table and arise:
  • And every life among them in like wise
  • Is a soul's board set daily with new food.
  • What man has bent o'er his son's sleep, to brood
  • How that face shall watch his when cold it lies?—
  • Or thought, as his own mother kissed his eyes,
  • Of what her kiss was when his father wooed?
  • May not this ancient room thou sitt'st in dwell
  • 10 In separate living souls for joy or pain?
  • Nay, all its corners may be painted plain
  • Where Heaven shows pictures of some life spent well;
  • And may be stamped, a memory all in vain,
  • Upon the sight of lidless eyes in Hell.
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SONNET LXIV

ARDOUR AND MEMORY
  • The cuckoo-throb, the heartbeat of the Spring;
  • The rosebud's blush that leaves it as it grows
  • Into the full-eyed fair unblushing rose;
  • The summer clouds that visit every wing
  • With fires of sunrise and of sunsetting;
  • The furtive flickering streams to light re-born
  • 'Mid airs new-fledged and valorous lusts of morn,
  • While all the daughters of the daybreak sing:—
  • These ardour loves, and memory: and when flown
  • 10 All joys, and through dark forest-boughs in flight
  • The wind swoops onward brandishing the light,
  • Even yet the rose-tree's verdure left alone
  • Will flush all ruddy though the rose be gone;
  • With ditties and with dirges infinite.
SONNET LXV

KNOWN IN VAIN
  • As two whose love, first foolish, widening scope,
  • Knows suddenly, to music high and soft,
  • The Holy of holies; who because they scoff'd
  • Are now amazed with shame, nor dare to cope
  • With the whole truth aloud, lest heaven should ope;
  • Yet, at their meetings, laugh not as they laugh'd
  • In speech; nor speak, at length; but sitting oft
  • Together, within hopeless sight of hope
  • For hours are silent:—So it happeneth
  • 10 When Work and Will awake too late, to gaze
  • After their life sailed by, and hold their breath.
  • Ah! who shall dare to search through what sad maze
  • Thenceforth their incommunicable ways
  • Follow the desultory feet of Death?
SONNET LXVI

THE HEART OF THE NIGHT
  • From child to youth; from youth to arduous man;
  • From lethargy to fever of the heart;
  • From faithful life to dream-dowered days apart;
  • From trust to doubt; from doubt to brink of ban;—
  • Thus much of change in one swift cycle ran
  • Till now. Alas, the soul!—how soon must she
  • Accept her primal immortality,—
  • The flesh resume its dust whence it began?
  • O Lord of work and peace! O Lord of life!
  • 10 O Lord, the awful Lord of will! though late,
  • Even yet renew this soul with duteous breath:
  • That when the peace is garnered in from strife,
  • The work retrieved, the will regenerate,
  • This soul may see thy face, O Lord of death!
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Sig. 7
SONNET LXVII

THE LANDMARK
  • Was that the landmark? What,—the foolish well
  • Whose wave, low down, I did not stoop to drink,
  • But sat and flung the pebbles from its brink
  • In sport to send its imaged skies pell-mell,
  • (And mine own image, had I noted well!)—
  • Was that my point of turning?—I had thought
  • The stations of my course should rise unsought,
  • As altar-stone or ensigned citadel.
  • But lo! the path is missed, I must go back,
  • 10 And thirst to drink when next I reach the spring
  • Which once I stained, which since may have grown black.
  • Yet though no light be left nor bird now sing
  • As here I turn, I'll thank God, hastening,
  • That the same goal is still on the same track.
SONNET LXVIII

A DARK DAY
  • The gloom that breathes upon me with these airs
  • Is like the drops which strike the traveller's brow
  • Who knows not, darkling, if they bring him now
  • Fresh storm, or be old rain the covert bears.
  • Ah! bodes this hour some harvest of new tares,
  • Or hath but memory of the day whose plough
  • Sowed hunger once,—the night at length when thou,
  • O prayer found vain, didst fall from out my prayers?
  • How prickly were the growths which yet how smooth,
  • 10 Along the hedgerows of this journey shed,
  • Lie by Time's grace till night and sleep may soothe!
  • Even as the thistledown from pathsides dead
  • Gleaned by a girl in autumns of her youth,
  • Which one new year makes soft her marriage-bed.
SONNET LXIX

AUTUMN IDLENESS
  • This sunlight shames November where he grieves
  • In dead red leaves, and will not let him shun
  • The day, though bough with bough be over-run.
  • But with a blessing every glade receives
  • High salutation; while from hillock-eaves
  • The deer gaze calling, dappled white and dun,
  • As if, being foresters of old, the sun
  • Had marked them with the shade of forest-leaves.
  • Here dawn to-day unveiled her magic glass;
  • 10 Here noon now gives the thirst and takes the dew;
  • Till eve bring rest when other good things pass.
  • And here the lost hours the lost hours renew
  • While I still lead my shadow o'er the grass,
  • Nor know, for longing, that which I should do.
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SONNET LXX

THE HILL SUMMIT
  • This feast-day of the sun, his altar there
  • In the broad west has blazed for vesper-song;
  • And I have loitered in the vale too long
  • And gaze now a belated worshipper.
  • Yet may I not forget that I was 'ware,
  • So journeying, of his face at intervals
  • Transfigured where the fringed horizon falls,—
  • A fiery bush with coruscating hair.
  • And now that I have climbed and won this height,
  • 10 I must tread downward through the sloping shade
  • And travel the bewildered tracks till night.
  • Yet for this hour I still may here be stayed
  • And see the gold air and the silver fade
  • And the last bird fly into the last light.
SONNETS LXXI, LXXII, LXXIII

THE CHOICE
I
  • Eat thou and drink; to-morrow thou shalt die.
  • Surely the earth, that's wise being very old,
  • Needs not our help. Then loose me, love, and hold
  • Thy sultry hair up from my face; that I
  • May pour for thee this golden wine, brim-high,
  • Till round the glass thy fingers glow like gold.
  • We'll drown all hours: thy song, while hours are toll'd,
  • Shall leap, as fountains veil the changing sky.
  • Now kiss, and think that there are really those,
  • 10 My own high-bosomed beauty, who increase
  • Vain gold, vain lore, and yet might choose our way!
  • Through many years they toil; then on a day
  • They die not,—for their life was death,—but cease;
  • And round their narrow lips the mould falls close.
II
  • Watch thou and fear; to-morrow thou shalt die.
  • Or art thou sure thou shalt have time for death?
  • Is not the day which God's word promiseth
  • To come man knows not when? In yonder sky,
  • Now while we speak, the sun speeds forth: can I
  • Or thou assure him of his goal? God's breath
  • Even at this moment haply quickeneth
  • The air to a flame; till spirits, always nigh
  • Though screened and hid, shall walk the daylight here.
  • 10 And dost thou prate of all that man shall do?
  • Canst thou, who hast but plagues, presume to be
  • Glad in his gladness that comes after thee?
  • Will his strength slay thy worm in Hell? Go to:
  • Cover thy countenance, and watch, and fear.
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III
  • Think thou and act; to-morrow thou shalt die.
  • Outstretched in the sun's warmth upon the shore,
  • Thou say'st: “Man's measured path is all gone o'er:
  • Up all his years, steeply, with strain and sigh,
  • Man clomb until he touched the truth; and I,
  • Even I, am he whom it was destined for.”
  • How should this be? Art thou then so much more
  • Than they who sowed, that thou shouldst reap thereby?
  • Nay, come up hither. From this wave-washed mound
  • 10 Unto the furthest flood-brim look with me;
  • Then reach on with thy thought till it be drown'd.
  • Miles and miles distant though the last line be,
  • And though thy soul sail leagues and leagues beyond,—
  • Still, leagues beyond those leagues, there is more sea.
SONNETS LXXIV, LXXV, LXXVI

OLD AND NEW ART
I. ST. LUKE THE PAINTER
  • Give honour unto Luke Evangelist;
  • For he it was (the aged legends say)
  • Who first taught Art to fold her hands and pray.
  • Scarcely at once she dared to rend the mist
  • Of devious symbols: but soon having wist
  • How sky-breadth and field-silence and this day
  • Are symbols also in some deeper way,
  • She looked through these to God and was God's priest.
  • And if, past noon, her toil began to irk,
  • 10And she sought talismans, and turned in vain
  • To soulless self-reflections of man's skill,—
  • Yet now, in this the twilight, she might still
  • Kneel in the latter grass to pray again,
  • Ere the night cometh and she may not work.
II. NOT AS THESE
  • “I am not as these are,” the poet saith
  • In youth's pride, and the painter, among men
  • At bay, where never pencil comes nor pen,
  • And shut about with his own frozen breath.
  • To others for whom only rhyme wins faith
  • As poets,—only paint as painters,—then
  • He turns in the cold silence; and again
  • Shrinking, “I am not as these are,” he saith.
  • And say that this is so, what follows it?
  • 10 For were thine eyes set backwards in thine head,
  • Such words were well; but they see on, and far.
  • Unto the lights of the great Past, new-lit
  • Fair for the Future's track, look thou instead,—
  • Say thou instead, “I am not as these are.”
Image of page 100 page: 100
III. THE HUSBANDMEN
  • Though God, as one that is an householder,
  • Called these to labour in His vineyard first,
  • Before the husk of darkness was well burst
  • Bidding them grope their way out and bestir,
  • (Who, questioned of their wages, answered, “Sir,
  • Unto each man a penny:”) though the worst
  • Burthen of heat was theirs and the dry thirst:
  • Though God has since found none such as these were
  • To do their work like them:—Because of this
  • 10 Stand not ye idle in the market-place.
  • Which of ye knoweth he is not that last
  • Who may be first by faith and will?—yea, his
  • The hand which after the appointed days
  • And hours shall give a Future to their Past?
SONNET LXXVII

SOUL'S BEAUTY
  • Under the arch of Life, where love and death,
  • Terror and mystery, guard her shrine, I saw
  • Beauty enthroned; and though her gaze struck awe,
  • I drew it in as simply as my breath.
  • Hers are the eyes which, over and beneath,
  • The sky and sea bend on thee,—which can draw,
  • By sea or sky or woman, to one law,
  • The allotted bondman of her palm and wreath.
  • This is that Lady Beauty, in whose praise
  • 10 Thy voice and hand shake still,—long known to thee
  • By flying hair and fluttering hem,—the beat
  • Following her daily of thy heart and feet,
  • How passionately and irretrievably,
  • In what fond flight, how many ways and days!
SONNET LXXVIII

BODY'S BEAUTY
  • Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
  • (The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
  • That, ere the snake's, her sweet tongue could deceive,
  • And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
  • And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
  • And, subtly of herself contemplative,
  • Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
  • Till heart and body and life are in its hold.
  • The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where
  • 10 Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
  • And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
  • Lo! as that youth's eyes burned at thine, so went
  • Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent
  • And round his heart one strangling golden hair.
Image of page 101 page: 101
SONNET LXXIX

THE MONOCHORD
  • Is it this sky's vast vault or ocean's 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 draws round me at last this wind-warm space,
  • And in regenerate rapture turns my face
  • Upon the devious coverts of dismay?
SONNET LXXX

FROM DAWN TO NOON
  • As the child knows not if his mother's face
  • Be fair; nor of his elders yet can deem
  • What each most is; but as of hill or stream
  • At dawn, all glimmering life surrounds his place:
  • Who yet, tow'rd noon of his half-weary race,
  • Pausing awhile beneath the high sun-beam
  • And gazing steadily back,—as through a dream,
  • In things long past new features now can trace:—
  • Even so the thought that is at length fullgrown
  • 10 Turns back to note the sun-smit paths, all grey
  • And marvellous once, where first it walked alone;
  • And haply doubts, amid the unblenching day,
  • Which most or least impelled its onward way,—
  • Those unknown things or these things overknown.
SONNET LXXXI

MEMORIAL THRESHOLDS
  • What place so strange,—though unrevealèd snow
  • With unimaginable fires arise
  • At the earth's end,—what passion of surprise
  • Like frost-bound fire-girt scenes of long ago?
  • Lo! this is none but I this hour; and lo!
  • This is the very place which to mine eyes
  • Those mortal hours in vain immortalize,
  • 'Mid hurrying crowds, with what alone I know.
  • City, of thine a single simple door,
  • 10 By some new Power reduplicate, must be
  • Even yet my life-porch in eternity,
  • Even with one presence filled, as once of yore:
  • Or mocking winds whirl round a chaff-strown floor
  • Thee and thy years and these my words and me.
Image of page 102 page: 102
SONNET LXXXII

HOARDED JOY
  • I said: “Nay, pluck not,—let the first fruit be:
  • Even as thou sayest, it is sweet and red,
  • But let it ripen still. The tree's bent head
  • Sees in the stream its own fecundity
  • And bides the day of fulness. Shall not we
  • At the sun's hour that day possess the shade,
  • And claim our fruit before its ripeness fade,
  • And eat it from the branch and praise the tree?”
  • I say: “Alas! our fruit hath wooed the sun
  • 10 Too long,—'tis fallen and floats adown the stream.
  • Lo, the last clusters! Pluck them every one,
  • And let us sup with summer; ere the gleam
  • Of autumn set the year's pent sorrow free,
  • And the woods wail like echoes from the sea.”
SONNET LXXXIII

BARREN SPRING
  • Once more 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 here, 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 stay till on the year's last lily-stem
  • The white cup shrivels round the golden heart.
SONNET LXXXIV

FAREWELL TO THE GLEN
  • Sweet stream-fed glen, why say “farewell” to thee
  • Who far'st so well and find'st for ever smooth
  • The brow of Time where man may read no ruth?
  • Nay, do thou rather say “farewell” to me,
  • Who now fare forth in bitterer fantasy
  • Than erst was mine where other shade might soothe
  • By other streams, what while in fragrant youth
  • The bliss of being sad made melancholy.
  • And yet, farewell! For better shalt thou fare
  • 10 When children bathe sweet faces in thy flow
  • And happy lovers blend sweet shadows there
  • In hours to come, than when an hour ago
  • Thine echoes had but one man's sighs to bear
  • And thy trees whispered what he feared to know.
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SONNET LXXXV

VAIN VIRTUES
  • What is the sorriest thing that enters Hell?
  • None of the sins,—but this and that fair deed
  • Which a soul's sin at length could supersede.
  • These yet are virgins, whom death's timely knell
  • Might once have sainted; whom the fiends compel
  • Together now, in snake-bound shuddering sheaves
  • Of anguish, while the pit's pollution leaves
  • Their refuse maidenhood abominable.
  • Night sucks them down, the tribute of the pit,
  • 10 Whose names, half entered in the book of Life,
  • Were God's desire at noon. And as their hair
  • And eyes sink last, the Torturer deigns no whit
  • To gaze, but, yearning, waits his destined wife,
  • The Sin still blithe on earth that sent them there.
SONNET LXXXVI

LOST DAYS
  • The lost days of my life until to-day,
  • What were they, could I see them on the street
  • Lie as they fell? Would they be ears of wheat
  • Sown once for food but trodden into clay?
  • Or golden coins squandered and still to pay?
  • Or drops of blood dabbling the guilty feet?
  • Or such spilt water as in dreams must cheat
  • The undying throats of Hell, athirst alway?
  • I do not see them here; but after death
  • 10 God knows I know the faces I shall see,
  • Each one a murdered self, with low last breath.
  • “I am thyself,—what hast thou done to me?”
  • “And I—and I—thyself,” (lo! each one saith,)
  • “And thou thyself to all eternity!”
SONNET LXXXVII

DEATH'S SONGSTERS
  • When first that horse, within whose populous womb
  • The birth was death, o'ershadowed Troy with fate,
  • Her elders, dubious of its Grecian freight,
  • Brought Helen there to sing the songs of home;
  • She whispered, “Friends, I am alone; come, come!”
  • Then, crouched within, Ulysses waxed afraid,
  • And on his comrades' quivering mouths he laid
  • His hands, and held them till the voice was dumb.
  • The same was he who, lashed to his own mast,
  • 10 There where the sea-flowers screen the charnel-caves,
  • Beside the sirens' singing island pass'd,
  • Till sweetness failed along the inveterate waves. . . .
  • Say, soul,—are songs of Death no heaven to thee,
  • Nor shames her lip the cheek of Victory?
Image of page 104 page: 104
Note: There is a typo in the footnote on p. 104: “Anterca” is printed, instead of the 1881 reading “Anteros”.
SONNET LXXXVIII

HERO'S LAMP.*
Transcribed Footnote (page 104):

* After the deaths of Leander and of Hero, the signal-lamp was dedicated to Anterca,

with the edict that no man should light it unless his love had proved fortunate.

  • That lamp thou fill'st in Eros' name to-night,
  • O Hero, shall the Sestian augurs take
  • To-morrow, and for drowned Leander's sake
  • To Anteros its fireless lip shall plight.
  • Aye, waft the unspoken vow: yet dawn's first light
  • On ebbing storm and life twice ebb'd must break;
  • While 'neath no sunrise, by the Avernian Lake,
  • Lo where Love walks, Death's pallid neophyte.
  • That lamp within Anteros' shadowy shrine
  • 10 Shall stand unlit (for so the gods decree)
  • Till some one man the happy issue see
  • Of a life's love, and bid its flame to shine:
  • Which still may rest unfir'd; for, theirs or thine,
  • O brother, what brought love to them or thee?
SONNET LXXXIX

THE TREES OF THE GARDEN
  • Ye who have passed Death's haggard hills; and ye
  • Whom trees that knew your sires shall cease to know
  • And still stand silent:—is it all a show,—
  • A wisp that laughs upon the wall?—decree
  • Of some inexorable supremacy
  • Which ever, as man strains his blind surmise
  • From depth to ominous depth, looks past his eyes,
  • Sphinx-faced with unabashèd augury?
  • Nay, rather question the Earth's self. Invoke
  • 10 The storm-felled forest-trees moss-grown to-day
  • Whose roots are hillocks where the children play;
  • Or ask the silver sapling 'neath what yoke
  • Those stars, his spray-crown's clustering gems, shall wage
  • Their journey still when his boughs shrink with age.
SONNET XC

RETRO ME, SATHANA!
  • Get thee behind me. Even as, heavy-curled,
  • Stooping against the wind, a charioteer
  • Is snatched from out his chariot by the hair,
  • So shall Time be; and as the void car, hurled
  • Abroad by reinless steeds, even so the world:
  • Yea, even as chariot-dust upon the air,
  • It shall be sought and not found anywhere.
  • Get thee behind me, Satan. Oft unfurled,
  • Thy perilous wings can beat and break like lath
  • 10 Much mightiness of men to win thee praise.
  • Leave these weak feet to tread in narrow ways.
  • Thou still, upon the broad vine-sheltered path,
  • Mayst wait the turning of the phials of wrath
  • For certain years, for certain months and days.
Image of page 105 page: 105
SONNET XCI

LOST ON BOTH SIDES
  • As when two men have loved a woman well,
  • Each hating each, through Love's and Death's deceit;
  • Since not for either this stark marriage-sheet
  • And the long pauses of this wedding-bell;
  • Yet o'er her grave the night and day dispel
  • At last their feud forlorn, with cold and heat;
  • Nor other than dear friends to death may fleet
  • The two lives left that most of her can tell:—
  • So separate hopes, which in a soul had wooed
  • 10 The one same Peace, strove with each other long,
  • And Peace before their faces perished since:
  • So through that soul, in restless brotherhood,
  • They roam together now, and wind among
  • Its bye-streets, knocking at the dusty inns.
SONNETS XCII, XCIII

THE SUN'S SHAME
I
  • Beholding youth and hope in mockery caught
  • From life; and mocking pulses that remain
  • When the soul's death of bodily death is fain;
  • Honour unknown, and honour known unsought;
  • And penury's sedulous self-torturing thought
  • On gold, whose master therewith buys his bane;
  • And longed-for woman longing all in vain
  • For lonely man with love's desire distraught;
  • And wealth, and strength, and power, and pleasantness,
  • 10 Given unto bodies of whose souls men say,
  • None poor and weak, slavish and foul, as they:—
  • Beholding these things, I behold no less
  • The blushing morn and blushing eve confess
  • The shame that loads the intolerable day.
II
  • As some true chief of men, bowed down with stress
  • Of life's disastrous eld, on blossoming youth
  • May gaze, and murmur with self-pity and ruth,—
  • “Might I thy fruitless treasure but possess,
  • Such blessing of mine all coming years should bless;”—
  • Then sends one sigh forth to the unknown goal,
  • And bitterly feels breathe against his soul
  • The hour swift-winged of nearer nothingness:—
  • Even so the World's grey Soul to the green World
  • 10 Perchance one hour must cry: “Woe's me, for whom
  • Inveteracy of ill portends the doom,—
  • Whose heart's old fire in shadow of shame is furl'd:
  • While thou even as of yore art journeying,
  • All soulless now, yet merry with the Spring!”
Image of page 106 page: 106
SONNET XCIV

MICHELANGELO'S KISS
  • Great Michelangelo, with age grown bleak
  • And uttermost labours, having once o'ersaid
  • All grievous memories on his long life shed,
  • This worst regret to one true heart could speak:—
  • That when, with sorrowing love and reverence meek,
  • He stooped o'er sweet Colonna's dying bed,
  • His Muse and dominant Lady, spirit-wed,—
  • Her hand he kissed, but not her brow or cheek.
  • O Buonarruoti,—good at Art's fire-wheels
  • 10 To urge her chariot!—even thus the Soul,
  • Touching at length some sorely-chastened goal,
  • Earns oftenest but a little: her appeals
  • Were deep and mute,—lowly her claim. Let be:
  • What holds for her Death's garner? And for thee?
SONNET XCV

THE VASE OF LIFE
  • Around the vase of Life at your slow pace
  • He has not crept, but turned it with his hands,
  • And all its sides already understands.
  • There, girt, one breathes alert for some great race;
  • Whose road runs far by sands and fruitful space;
  • Who laughs, yet through the jolly throng has pass'd;
  • Who weeps, nor stays for weeping; who at last,
  • A youth, stands somewhere crowned, with silent face.
  • And he has filled this vase with wine for blood,
  • 10 With blood for tears, with spice for burning vow,
  • With watered flowers for buried love most fit;
  • And would have cast it shattered to the flood,
  • Yet in Fate's name has kept it whole; which now
  • Stands empty till his ashes fall in it.
SONNET XCVI

LIFE THE BELOVED
  • As thy friend's face, with shadow of soul o'erspread,
  • Somewhile unto thy sight perchance hath been
  • Ghastly and strange, yet never so is seen
  • In thought, but to all fortunate favour wed;
  • As thy love's death-bound features never dead
  • To memory's glass return, but contravene
  • Frail fugitive days, and alway keep, I ween,
  • Than all new life a livelier lovelihead:—
  • So Life herself, thy spirit's friend and love,
  • 10 Even still as Spring's authentic harbinger
  • Glows with fresh hours for hope to glorify;
  • Though pale she lay when in the winter grove
  • Her funeral flowers were snow-flakes shed on her
  • And the red wings of frost-fire rent the sky.
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Note: The punctuation mark on p. 107, line 11 of “A Superscription”, between the word “sighs” and the emdash is so type-damaged that it is unreadable. It may possibly be a comma or semicolon.
SONNET XCVII

A SUPERSCRIPTION
  • Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;
  • I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell;
  • Unto thine ear I hold the dead-sea shell
  • Cast up thy Life's foam-fretted feet between;
  • Unto thine eyes the glass where that is seen
  • Which had Life's form and Love's, but by my spell
  • Is now a shaken shadow intolerable,
  • Of ultimate things unuttered the frail screen.
  • Mark me, how still I am! But should there dart
  • 10 One moment through thy soul the soft surprise
  • Of that winged Peace which lulls the breath of sighs
    Transcription Gap: 1 character (type damage)
  • Then shalt thou see me smile, and turn apart
  • Thy visage to mine ambush at thy heart
  • Sleepless with cold commemorative eyes.
SONNET XCVIII

HE AND I
  • Whence came his feet into my field, and why?
  • How is it that he sees it all so drear?
  • How do I see his seeing, and how hear
  • The name his bitter silence knows it by?
  • This was the little fold of separate sky
  • Whose pasturing clouds in the soul's atmosphere
  • Drew living light from one continual year:
  • How should he find it lifeless? He, or I?
  • Lo! this new Self now wanders round my field,
  • 10 With plaints for every flower, and for each tree
  • A moan, the sighing wind's auxiliary:
  • And o'er sweet waters of my life, that yield
  • Unto his lips no draught but tears unseal'd,
  • Even in my place he weeps. Even I, not he.
SONNETS XCIX, C

NEWBORN DEATH
I
  • To-day Death seems to me an infant child
  • Which her worn mother Life upon my knee
  • Has set to grow my friend and play with me;
  • If haply so my heart might be beguil'd
  • To find no terrors in a face so mild,—
  • If haply so my weary heart might be
  • Unto the newborn milky eyes of thee,
  • O Death, before resentment reconcil'd.
  • How long, O Death? And shall thy feet depart
  • 10 Still a young child's with mine, or wilt thou stand
  • Fullgrown the helpful daughter of my heart,
  • What time with thee indeed I reach the strand
  • Of the pale wave which knows thee what thou art,
  • And drink it in the hollow of thy hand?
Image of page 108 page: 108
II
  • And thou, O Life, the lady of all bliss,
  • With whom, when our first heart beat full and fast,
  • I wandered till the haunts of men were pass'd,
  • And in fair places found all bowers amiss
  • Till only woods and waves might hear our kiss,
  • While to the winds all thought of Death we cast:—
  • Ah, Life! and must I have from thee at last
  • No smile to greet me and no babe but this?
  • Lo! Love, the child once ours; and Song, whose hair
  • 10 Blew like a flame and blossomed like a wreath;
  • And Art, whose eyes were worlds by God found fair:
  • These o'er the book of Nature mixed their breath
  • With neck-twined arms, as oft we watched them there:
  • And did these die that thou mightst bear me Death?
SONNET CI

THE ONE HOPE
  • When vain desire at last and vain regret
  • Go hand in hand to death, and all is vain,
  • What shall assuage the unforgotten pain
  • And teach the unforgetful to forget?
  • Shall Peace be still a sunk stream long unmet,—
  • Or may the soul at once in a green plain
  • Stoop through the spray of some sweet life-fountain
  • And cull the dew-drenched flowering amulet?
  • Ah! when the wan soul in that golden air
  • 10 Between the scriptured petals softly blown
  • Peers breathless for the gift of grace unknown,—
  • Ah! let none other alien spell soe'er
  • But only the one Hope's one name be there,—
  • Not less nor more, but even that word alone.
Image of page 109 page: 109
Note: The period at the end of p. 109, line 4 is surrounded by an square of ink, caused by overinking the piece of type during the printing process.
EDEN BOWER
  • It was Lilith the wife of Adam:
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • Not a drop of her blood was human,
  • But she was made like a soft sweet woman.
  • Lilith stood on the skirts of Eden;
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • She was the first that thence was driven;
  • With her was hell and with Eve was heaven.
  • In the ear of the Snake said Lilith:—
  • 10 ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • “To thee I come when the rest is over;
  • A snake was I when thou wast my lover.
  • “I was the fairest snake in Eden:
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • By the earth's will, new form and feature
  • Made me a wife for the earth's new creature.
  • “Take me thou as I come from Adam:
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • Once again shall my love subdue thee;
  • 20The past is past and I am come to thee.
  • “O but Adam was thrall to Lilith!
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • All the threads of my hair are golden,
  • And there in a net his heart was holden.
  • “O and Lilith was queen of Adam!
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • All the day and the night together
  • My breath could shake his soul like a feather.
  • “What great joys had Adam and Lilith!—
  • 30 ( Alas the hour!)
  • Sweet close rings of the serpent's twining,
  • As heart in heart lay sighing and pining.
  • “What bright babes had Lilith and Adam!
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • Shapes that coiled in the woods and waters,
  • Glittering sons and radiant daughters.
Image of page 110 page: 110
  • “O thou God, the Lord God of Eden!
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • Say, was this fair body for no man,
  • 40That of Adam's flesh thou mak'st him a woman?
  • “O thou Snake, the King-snake of Eden!
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • God's strong will our necks are under,
  • But thou and I may cleave it in sunder.
  • “Help, sweet Snake, sweet lover of Lilith!
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • And let God learn how I loved and hated
  • Man in the image of God created.
  • “Help me once against Eve and Adam!
  • 50 ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • Help me once for this one endeavour,
  • And then my love shall be thine for ever!
  • “Strong is God, the fell foe of Lilith:
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • Nought in heaven or earth may affright Him;
  • But join thou with me and we will smite Him.
  • “Strong is God, the great God of Eden:
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • Over all He made He hath power;
  • 60But lend me thou thy shape for an hour!
  • “Lend thy shape for the love of Lilith!
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • Look, my mouth and my cheek are ruddy,
  • And thou art cold, and fire is my body.
  • “Lend thy shape for the hate of Adam!
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • That he may wail my joy that forsook him,
  • And curse the day when the bride-sleep took him.
  • “Lend thy shape for the shame of Eden!
  • 70 ( Alas the hour!)
  • Is not the foe-God weak as the foeman
  • When love grows hate in the heart of a woman?
  • “Wouldst thou know the heart's hope of Lilith?
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • Then bring thou close thine head till it glisten
  • Along my breast, and lip me and listen.
  • “Am I sweet, O sweet Snake of Eden?
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • Then ope thine ear to my warm mouth's cooing
  • 80And learn what deed remains for our doing.
  • “Thou didst hear when God said to Adam:—
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • ‘Of all this wealth I have made thee warden;
  • Thou'rt free to eat of the trees of the garden:
Image of page 111 page: 111
  • “‘Only of one tree eat not in Eden:
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • All save one I give to thy freewill,—
  • The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.’
  • “O my love, come nearer to Lilith!
  • 90 ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • In thy sweet folds bind me and bend me,
  • And let me feel the shape thou shalt lend me.
  • “In thy shape I'll go back to Eden;
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • In these coils that Tree will I grapple,
  • And stretch this crowned head forth by the apple.
  • “Lo, Eve bends to the breath of Lilith!
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • O how then shall my heart desire
  • 100All her blood as food to its fire!
  • “Lo, Eve bends to the words of Lilith!—
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • ‘Nay, this Tree's fruit,—why should ye hate it,
  • Or Death be born the day that ye ate it?
  • “‘Nay, but on that great day in Eden,
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • By the help that in this wise Tree is,
  • God knows well ye shall be as He is.’
  • “Then Eve shall eat and give unto Adam;
  • 110 ( Alas the hour!)
  • And then they both shall know they are naked,
  • And their hearts ache as my heart hath achèd.
  • “Ay, let them hide 'mid the trees of Eden,
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • As in the cool of the day in the garden
  • God shall walk without pity or pardon.
  • “Hear, thou Eve, the man's heart in Adam!
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • Of his brave words hark to the bravest:—
  • 120‘This the woman gave that thou gavest.’
  • “Hear Eve speak, yea list to her, Lilith!
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • Feast thine heart with words that shall sate it—
  • ‘This the serpent gave and I ate it.’
  • “O proud Eve, cling close to thine Adam,
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • Driven forth as the beasts of his naming
  • By the sword that for ever is flaming.
  • “Know, thy path is known unto Lilith!
  • 130 ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • While the blithe birds sang at thy wedding,
  • There her tears grew thorns for thy treading.
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  • “O my love, thou Love-snake of Eden!
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • O to-day and the day to come after!
  • Loose me, love,—give breath to my laughter.
  • “O bright Snake, the Death-worm of Adam!
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • Wreathe thy neck with my hair's bright tether,
  • 140And wear my gold and thy gold together!
  • “On that day on the skirts of Eden,
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • In thy shape shall I glide back to thee,
  • And in my shape for an instant view thee.
  • “But when thou'rt thou and Lilith is Lilith,
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • In what bliss past hearing or seeing
  • Shall each one drink of the other's being!
  • “With cries of ‘Eve!’ and ‘Eden!’ and ‘Adam!’
  • 150 ( Alas the hour!)
  • How shall we mingle our love's caresses,
  • I in thy coils, and thou in my tresses!
  • “With those names, ye echoes of Eden,
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • Fire shall cry from my heart that burneth,—
  • ‘Dust he is and to dust returneth!’
  • “Yet to-day, thou master of Lilith,—
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • Wrap me round in the form I'll borrow
  • 160And let me tell thee of sweet to-morrow.
  • “In the planted garden eastward in Eden,
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • Where the river goes forth to water the garden,
  • The springs shall dry and the soil shall harden.
  • “Yea, where the bride-sleep fell upon Adam,
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • None shall hear when the storm-wind whistles
  • Through roses choked among thorns and thistles.
  • “Yea, beside the east-gate of Eden,
  • 170 ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • Where God joined them and none might sever,
  • The sword turns this way and that for ever.
  • “What of Adam cast out of Eden?
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • Lo! with care like a shadow shaken,
  • He tills the hard earth whence he was taken.
  • “What of Eve too, cast out of Eden?
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • Nay, but she, the bride of God's giving,
  • 180Must yet be mother of all men living.
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Sig. 8
  • “Lo, God's grace, by the grace of Lilith!
  • ( Alas the hour!)
  • To Eve's womb, from our sweet to-morrow,
  • God shall greatly multiply sorrow.
  • “Fold me fast, O God-snake of Eden!
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • What more prize than love to impel thee?
  • Grip and lip my limbs as I tell thee!
  • “Lo! two babes for Eve and for Adam!
  • 190 ( Alas the hour!)
  • Lo! sweet Snake, the travail and treasure,—
  • Two men-children born for their pleasure!
  • “The first is Cain and the second Abel:
  • ( Sing Eden Bower!)
  • The soul of one shall be made thy brother,
  • And thy tongue shall lap the blood of the other.”
  • ( Alas the hour!)
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THE STREAM'S SECRET
  • 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 in one kiss 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.
  • The hour that must 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 drift down?
Image of page 115 page: 115
  • 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 yields 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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 mouth,
  • Each singly wooed and won.
  • Yet most with the sweet soul
  • Shall love's espousals then be knit;
  • For very passion of peace shall breathe from it
  • 130 O'er tremulous wings that touch the goal,
  • As 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 heed 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,
  • His message 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?
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  • 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 sunless 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, 'mid airs grown 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.
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  • 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 a colder wave
  • On deathlier 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.
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ROSE MARY

Of her two fights with the Beryl-stone

Lost the first, but the second won.

PART I
  • “Mary mine that art Mary's Rose
  • Come in to me from the garden-close.
  • The sun sinks fast with the rising dew,
  • And we marked not how the faint moon grew;
  • But the hidden stars are calling you.
  • “Tall Rose Mary, come to my side,
  • And read the stars if you'd be a bride.
  • In hours whose need was not your own,
  • While you were a young maid yet ungrown
  • 10You've read the stars in the Beryl-stone.
  • “Daughter, once more I bid you read;
  • But now let it be for your own need:
  • Because to-morrow, at break of day,
  • To Holy Cross he rides on his way,
  • Your knight Sir James of Heronhaye.
  • “Ere he wed you, flower of mine,
  • For a heavy shrift he seeks the shrine.
  • Now hark to my words and do not fear;
  • Ill news next I have for your ear;
  • 20But be you strong, and our help is here.
  • “On his road, as the rumour's rife,
  • An ambush waits to take his life.
  • He needs will go, and will go alone;
  • Where the peril lurks may not be known;
  • But in this glass all things are shown.”
  • Pale Rose Mary sank to the floor:—
  • “The night will come if the day is o'er!”
  • “Nay, heaven takes counsel, star with star,
  • And help shall reach your heart from afar:
  • 30A bride you'll be, as a maid you are.”
  • The lady unbound her jewelled zone
  • And drew from her robe the Beryl-stone.
  • Shaped it was to a shadowy sphere,—
  • World of our world, the sun's compeer,
  • That bears and buries the toiling year.
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  • With shuddering light 'twas stirred and strewn
  • Like the cloud-nest of the wading moon:
  • Freaked it was as the bubble's ball,
  • Rainbow-hued through a misty pall
  • 40Like the middle light of the waterfall.
  • Shadows dwelt in its teeming girth
  • Of the known and unknown things of earth;
  • The cloud above and the wave around,—
  • The central fire at the sphere's heart bound,
  • Like doomsday prisoned underground.
  • A thousand years it lay in the sea
  • With a treasure wrecked from Thessaly;
  • Deep it lay 'mid the coiled sea-wrack,
  • But the ocean-spirits found the track:
  • 50A soul was lost to win it back.
  • The lady upheld the wondrous thing:—
  • “Ill fare” (she said) “with a fiend's-faring:
  • But Moslem blood poured forth like wine
  • Can hallow Hell, 'neath the Sacred Sign;
  • And my lord brought this from Palestine.
  • “Spirits who fear the Blessed Rood
  • Drove forth the accursed multitude
  • That heathen worship housed herein,—
  • Never again such home to win,
  • 60Save only by a Christian's sin.
  • “All last night at an altar fair
  • I burnt strange fires and strove with prayer;
  • Till the flame paled to the red sunrise,
  • All rites I then did solemnize;
  • And the spell lacks nothing but your eyes.”
  • Low spake maiden Rose Mary:—
  • “O mother mine, if I should not see!”
  • “Nay, daughter, cover your face no more,
  • But bend love's heart to the hidden lore,
  • 70And you shall see now as heretofore.”
  • Paler yet were the pale cheeks grown
  • As the grey eyes sought the Beryl-stone:
  • Then over her mother's lap leaned she,
  • And stretched her thrilled throat passionately,
  • And sighed from her soul, and said, “I see.”
  • Even as she spoke, they two were 'ware
  • Of music-notes that fell through the air;
  • A chiming shower of strange device,
  • Drop echoing drop, once, twice, and thrice,
  • 80As rain may fall in Paradise.
  • An instant come, in an instant gone,
  • No time there was to think thereon.
  • The mother held the sphere on her knee:—
  • “Lean this way and speak low to me,
  • And take no note but of what you see.”
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  • “I see a man with a besom grey
  • That sweeps the flying dust away.”
  • “Ay, that comes first in the mystic sphere;
  • But now that the way is swept and clear,
  • 90Heed well what next you look on there.”
  • “Stretched aloft and adown I see
  • Two roads that part in waste-country:
  • The glen lies deep and the ridge stands tall;
  • What's great below is above seen small,
  • And the hill-side is the valley-wall.”
  • “Stream-bank, daughter, or moor and moss,
  • Both roads will take to Holy Cross.
  • The hills are a weary waste to wage;
  • But what of the valley-road's presage?
  • 100That way must tend his pilgrimage.”
  • “As 'twere the turning leaves of a book,
  • The road runs past me as I look;
  • Or it is even as though mine eye
  • Should watch calm waters filled with sky
  • While lights and clouds and wings went by.”
  • “In every covert seek a spear;
  • They'll scarce lie close till he draws near.”
  • “The stream has spread to a river now;
  • The stiff blue sedge is deep in the slough,
  • 110But the banks are bare of shrub or bough.’
  • “Is there any roof that near at hand
  • Might shelter yield to a hidden band?”
  • “On the further bank I see but one,
  • And a herdsman now in the sinking sun
  • Unyokes his team at the threshold-stone.”
  • “Keep heedful watch by the water's edge,—
  • Some boat might lurk 'neath the shadowed sedge.”
  • “One slid but now 'twixt the winding shores,
  • But a peasant woman bent to the oars
  • 120And only a young child steered its course.
  • “Mother, something flashed to my sight!—
  • Nay, it is but the lapwing's flight.—
  • What glints there like a lance that flees?—
  • Nay, the flags are stirred in the breeze,
  • And the water's bright through the dart-rushes.
  • “Ah! vainly I search from side to side:—
  • Woe's me! and where do the foemen hide?
  • Woe's me! and perchance I pass them by,
  • And under the new dawn's blood-red sky
  • 130Even where I gaze the dead shall lie.”
  • Said the mother: “For dear love's sake,
  • Speak more low, lest the spell should break.”
  • Said the daughter: “By love's control,
  • My eyes, my words, are strained to the goal;
  • But oh! the voice that cries in my soul!”
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  • “Hush, sweet, hush! be calm and behold.”
  • “I see two floodgates broken and old:
  • The grasses wave o'er the ruined weir,
  • But the bridge still leads to the breakwater;
  • 140And—mother, mother, O mother dear!”
  • The damsel clung to her mother's knee,
  • And dared not let the shriek go free;
  • Low she crouched by the lady's chair,
  • And shrank blindfold in her fallen hair,
  • And whispering said, “The spears are there!”
  • The lady stooped aghast from her place,
  • And cleared the locks from her daughter's face.
  • “More's to see, and she swoons, alas!
  • Look, look again, ere the moment pass!
  • 150One shadow comes but once to the glass.
  • “See you there what you saw but now?”
  • “I see eight men 'neath the willow bough.
  • All over the weir a wild growth's spread:
  • Ah me! it will hide a living head
  • As well as the water hides the dead.
  • “They lie by the broken water-gate
  • As men who have a while to wait.
  • The chief's high lance has a blazoned scroll,—
  • He seems some lord of tithe and toll
  • 160With seven squires to his bannerole.
  • “The little pennon quakes in the air,
  • I cannot trace the blazon there:—
  • Ah! now I can see the field of blue,
  • The spurs and the merlins two and two;—
  • It is the Warden of Holycleugh!”
  • “God be thanked for the thing we know!
  • You have named your good knight's mortal foe.
  • Last Shrovetide in the tourney-game
  • He sought his life by treasonous shame;
  • 170And this way now doth he seek the same.
  • “So, fair lord, such a thing you are!
  • But we too watch till the morning star.
  • Well, June is kind and the moon is clear:
  • Saint Judas send you a merry cheer
  • For the night you lie in Warisweir!
  • “Now, sweet daughter, but one more sight,
  • And you may lie soft and sleep to-night.
  • We know in the vale what perils be:
  • Now look once more in the glass, and see
  • 180If over the hills the road lies free.”
  • Rose Mary pressed to her mother's cheek,
  • And almost smiled but did not speak;
  • Then turned again to the saving spell,
  • With eyes to search and with lips to tell
  • The heart of things invisible.
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  • “Again the shape with the besom grey
  • Comes back to sweep the clouds away.
  • Again I stand where the roads divide;
  • But now all's near on the steep hillside,
  • 190And a thread far down is the rivertide.”
  • “Ay, child, your road is o'er moor and moss,
  • Past Holycleugh to Holy Cross.
  • Our hunters lurk in the valley's wake,
  • As they knew which way the chase would take:
  • Yet search the hills for your true love's sake.”
  • “Swift and swifter the waste runs by,
  • And nought I see but the heath and the sky;
  • No brake is there that could hide a spear,
  • And the gaps to a horseman's sight lie clear;
  • 200Still past it goes, and there's nought to fear.”
  • “Fear no trap that you cannot see,—
  • They'd not lurk yet too warily.
  • Below by the weir they lie in sight,
  • And take no heed how they pass the night
  • Till close they crouch with the morning light.”
  • “The road shifts ever and brings in view
  • Now first the heights of Holycleugh:
  • Dark they stand o'er the vale below,
  • And hide that heaven which yet shall show
  • 210The thing their master's heart doth know.
  • “Where the road looks to the castle steep,
  • There are seven hill-clefts wide and deep:
  • Six mine eyes can search as they list,
  • But the seventh hollow is brimmed with mist:
  • If aught were there, it might not be wist.”
  • “Small hope, my girl, for a helm to hide
  • In mists that cling to a wild moorside:
  • Soon they melt with the wind and sun,
  • And scarce would wait such deeds to be done
  • 220God send their snares be the worst to shun.”
  • “Still the road winds ever anew
  • As it hastens on towards Holycleugh;
  • And ever the great walls loom more near,
  • Till the castle-shadow, steep and sheer,
  • Drifts like a cloud, and the sky is clear.”
  • “Enough, my daughter,” the mother said,
  • And took to her breast the bending head;
  • “Rest, poor head, with my heart below,
  • While love still lulls you as long ago:
  • 230For all is learnt that we need to know.
  • “Long the miles and many the hours
  • From the castle-height to the abbey-towers;
  • But here the journey has no more dread;
  • Too thick with life is the whole road spread
  • For murder's trembling foot to tread.”
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Note: It is unclear whether the end punctuation mark on p. 124, line 2 of “Beryl-Song. I.” is a comma or semicolon.
  • She gazed on the Beryl-stone full fain
  • Ere she wrapped it close in her robe again:
  • The flickering shades were dusk and dun
  • And the lights throbbed faint in unison
  • 240Like a high heart when a race is run.
  • As the globe slid to its silken gloom,
  • Once more a music rained through the room;
  • Low it splashed like a sweet star-spray,
  • And sobbed like tears at the heart of May,
  • And died as laughter dies away.
  • The lady held her breath for a space,
  • And then she looked in her daughter's face:
  • But wan Rose Mary had never heard;
  • Deep asleep like a sheltered bird
  • 250She lay with the long spell minister'd.
  • “Ah! and yet I must leave you, dear,
  • For what you have seen your knight must hear.
  • Within four days, by the help of God,
  • He comes back safe to his heart's abode:
  • Be sure he shall shun the valley-road.”
  • Rose Mary sank with a broken moan,
  • And lay in the chair and slept alone,
  • Weary, lifeless, heavy as lead:
  • Long it was ere she raised her head
  • 260And rose up all discomforted.
  • She searched her brain for a vanished thing,
  • And clasped her brows, remembering;
  • Then knelt and lifted her eyes in awe,
  • And sighed with a long sigh sweet to draw:—
  • “Thank God, thank God, thank God I saw!”
  • The lady had left her as she lay,
  • To seek the Knight of Heronhaye.
  • But first she clomb by a secret stair,
  • And knelt at a carven altar fair,
  • 270And laid the precious Beryl there.
  • Its girth was graved with a mystic rune
  • In a tongue long dead 'neath sun and moon:
  • A priest of the Holy Sepulchre
  • Read that writing and did not err;
  • And her lord had told its sense to her.
  • She breathed the words in an undertone:—
  • None sees here but the pure alone .”
  • “And oh!” she said, “what rose may be
  • In Mary's bower more pure to see
  • 280Than my own sweet maiden Rose Mary?”
Beryl-Song
  • We whose home is the Beryl,
  • Fire-spirits of dread desire,
  • Who entered in
  • By a secret sin,
  • 'Gainst whom all powers that strive with ours are sterile,—
    Image of page 125 page: 125
  • We cry, Woe to thee, mother!
  • What hast thou taught her, the girl thy daughter,
  • That she and none other
  • Should this dark morrow to her deadly sorrow imperil?
  • 10 What were her eyes
  • But the fiend's own spies,
  • O mother,
  • And shall We not fee her, our proper prophet and seër?
  • Go to her, mother,
  • Even thou, yea thou and none other,
  • Thou, from the Beryl:
  • Her fee must thou take her,
  • Her fee that We send, and make her,
  • Even in this hour, her sin's unsheltered avower.
  • 20 Whose steed did neigh,
  • Riderless, bridleless,
  • At her gate before it was day?
  • Lo! where doth hover
  • The soul of her lover?
  • She sealed his doom, she, she was the sworn approver,—
  • Whose eyes were so wondrous wise,
  • Yet blind, ah! blind to his peril!
  • For stole not We in
  • Through a love-linked sin,
  • 30 'Gainst whom all powers at war with ours are sterile,—
  • Fire-spirits of dread desire,
  • We whose home is the Beryl?
PART II
  • “Pale Rose Mary, what shall be done
  • With a rose that Mary weeps upon?”
  • “Mother, let it fall from the tree,
  • And never walk where the strewn leaves be
  • Till winds have passed and the path is free.”
  • “Sad Rose Mary, what shall be done
  • With a cankered flower beneath the sun?”
  • “Mother, let it wait for the night;
  • Be sure its shame shall be out of sight
  • 10Ere the moon pale or the east grow light.”
  • “Lost Rose Mary, what shall be done
  • With a heart that is but a broken one?”
  • “Mother, let it lie where it must;
  • The blood was drained with the bitter thrust,
  • And dust is all that sinks in the dust.”
  • “Poor Rose Mary, what shall I do,—
  • I, your mother, that lovèd you?”
  • “O my mother, and is love gone?
  • Then seek you another love anon:
  • 20Who cares what shame shall lean upon?”
  • Low drooped trembling Rose Mary,
  • Then up as though in a dream stood she.
  • “Come, my heart, it is time to go;
  • This is the hour that has whispered low
  • When thy pulse quailed in the nights we know.
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  • “Yet O my heart, thy shame has a mate
  • Who will not leave thee desolate.
  • Shame for shame, yea and sin for sin:
  • Yet peace at length may our poor souls win
  • 30If love for love be found therein.
  • “O thou who seek'st our shrift to-day,”
  • She cried, “O James of Heronhaye—
  • Thy sin and mine was for love alone;
  • And oh! in the sight of God 'tis known
  • How the heart has since made heavy moan.
  • “Three days yet!” she said to her heart;
  • “But then he comes, and we will not part.
  • God, God be thanked that I still could see!
  • Oh! he shall come back assuredly,
  • 40But where, alas! must he seek for me?
  • “O my heart, what road shall we roam
  • Till my wedding-music fetch me home?
  • For love's shut from us and bides afar,
  • And scorn leans over the bitter bar
  • And knows us now for the thing we are.”
  • Tall she stood with a cheek flushed high
  • And a gaze to burn the heart-strings by.
  • 'Twas the lightning-flash o'er sky and plain
  • Ere labouring thunders heave the chain
  • 50From the floodgates of the drowning rain.
  • The mother looked on the daughter still
  • As on a hurt thing that's yet to kill.
  • Then wildly at length the pent tears came;
  • The love swelled high with the swollen shame,
  • And their hearts' tempest burst on them.
  • Closely locked, they clung without speech,
  • And the mirrored souls shook each to each,
  • As the cloud-moon and the water-moon
  • Shake face to face when the dim stars swoon
  • 60In stormy bowers of the night's mid-noon.
  • They swayed together, shuddering sore,
  • Till the mother's heart could bear no more.
  • 'Twas death to feel her own breast shake
  • Even to the very throb and ache
  • Of the burdened heart she still must break.
  • All her sobs ceased suddenly,
  • And she sat straight up but scarce could see.
  • “O daughter, where should my speech begin?
  • Your heart held fast its secret sin:
  • 70How think you, child, that I read therein?”
  • “Ah me! but I thought not how it came
  • When your words showed that you knew my shame:
  • And now that you call me still your own,
  • I half forget you have ever known.
  • Did you read my heart in the Beryl-stone?”
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  • The lady answered her mournfully:—
  • “The Beryl-stone has no voice for me:
  • But when you charged its power to show
  • The truth which none but the pure may know,
  • 80Did naught speak once of a coming woe?”
  • Her hand was close to her daughter's heart,
  • And it felt the life-blood's sudden start:
  • A quick deep breath did the damsel draw,
  • Llke the struck fawn in the oakenshaw:
  • “O mother,” she cried, “but still I saw!”
  • “O child, my child, why held you apart
  • From my great love your hidden heart?
  • Said I not that all sin must chase
  • From the spell's sphere the spirits of grace,
  • 90And yield their rule to the evil race?
  • “Ah! would to God I had clearly told
  • How strong those powers, accurst of old:
  • Their heart is the ruined house of lies;
  • O girl, they can seal the sinful eyes,
  • Or show the truth by contraries!”
  • The daughter sat as cold as a stone,
  • And spoke no word but gazed alone,
  • Nor moved, though her mother strove a space
  • To clasp her round in a close embrace,
  • 100Because she dared not see her face.
  • “Oh!” at last did the mother cry,
  • “Be sure, as he loved you, so will I!
  • Ah! still and dumb is the bride, I trow;
  • But cold and stark as the winter snow
  • Is the bridegroom's heart, laid dead below!
  • “Daughter, daughter, remember you
  • That cloud in the hills by Holycleugh?
  • 'Twas a Hell-screen hiding truth away:
  • There, not i' the vale, the ambush lay,
  • 110And thence was the dead borne home to-day.”
  • Deep the flood and heavy the shock
  • When sea meets sea in the riven rock:
  • But calm is the pulse that shakes the sea
  • To the prisoned tide of doom set free
  • In the breaking heart of Rose Mary.
  • Once she sprang as the heifer springs
  • With the wolf's teeth at its red heart-strings.
  • First 'twas fire in her breast and brain,
  • And then scarce hers but the whole world's pain,
  • 120As she gave one shriek and sank again.
  • In the hair dark-waved the face lay white
  • As the moon lies in the lap of night;
  • And as night through which no moon may dart
  • Lies on a pool in the woods apart,
  • So lay the swoon on the weary heart.
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  • The lady felt for the bosom's stir,
  • And wildly kissed and called on her;
  • Then turned away with a quick footfall,
  • And slid the secret door in the wall,
  • 130And clomb the strait stair's interval.
  • There above in the altar-cell
  • A little fountain rose and fell:
  • She set a flask to the water's flow,
  • And, backward hurrying, sprinkled now
  • The still cold breast and the pallid brow.
  • Scarce cheek that warmed or breath on the air,
  • Yet something told that life was there.
  • “Ah! not with the heart the body dies!”
  • The lady moaned in a bitter wise;
  • 140Then wrung her hands and hid her eyes.
  • “Alas! and how may I meet again
  • In the same poor eyes the selfsame pain?
  • What help can I seek, such grief to guide?
  • Ah! one alone might avail,” she cried—
  • “The priest who prays at the dead man's side.”
  • The lady arose, and sped down all
  • The winding stairs to the castle-hall.
  • Long-known valley and wood and stream,
  • As the loopholes passed, naught else did seem
  • 150Than the torn threads of a broken dream.
  • The hall was full of the castle-folk;
  • The women wept, but the men scarce spoke.
  • As the lady crossed the rush-strewn floor,
  • The throng fell backward, murmuring sore,
  • And pressed outside round the open door.
  • A stranger shadow hung on the hall
  • Than the dark pomp of a funeral.
  • 'Mid common sights that were there alway,
  • As 'twere a chance of the passing day,
  • 160On the ingle-bench the dead man lay.
  • A priest who passed by Holycleugh
  • The tidings brought when the day was new.
  • He guided them who had fetched the dead;
  • And since that hour, unwearièd,
  • He knelt in prayer at the low bier's head.
  • Word had gone to his own domain
  • That in evil wise the knight was slain:
  • Soon the spears must gather apace
  • And the hunt be hard on the hunters' trace;
  • 170But all things yet lay still for a space.
  • As the lady's hurried step drew near,
  • The kneeling priest looked up to her.
  • “Father, death is a grievous thing;
  • But oh! the woe has a sharper sting
  • That craves by me your ministering.
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  • “Alas for the child that should have wed
  • This noble knight here lying dead!
  • Dead in hope, with all blessed boon
  • Of love thus rent from her heart ere noon,
  • 180I left her laid in a heavy swoon.
  • “O haste to the open bower-chamber
  • That's topmost as you mount the stair:
  • Seek her, father, ere yet she wake;
  • Your words, not mine, be the first to slake
  • This poor heart's fire, for Christ's sweet sake!
  • “God speed!” she said as the priest passed through,
  • “And I ere long will be with you.”
  • Then low on the hearth her knees sank prone;
  • She signed all folk from the threshold-stone,
  • 190And gazed in the dead man's face alone.
  • The fight for life found record yet
  • In the clenched lips and the teeth hard-set;
  • The wrath from the bent brow was not gone
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  • And stark in the eyes the hate still shone
  • Of that they last had looked upon.
  • The blazoned coat was rent on his breast
  • Where the golden field was goodliest;
  • But the shivered sword, close-gripped, could tell
  • That the blood shed round him where he fell
  • 200Was not all his in the distant dell.
  • The lady recked of the corpse no whit,
  • But saw the soul and spoke to it:
  • A light there was in her steadfast eyes,—
  • The fire of mortal tears and sighs
  • That pity and love immortalize.
  • “By thy death have I learnt to-day
  • Thy deed, O James of Heronhaye!
  • Great wrong thou hast done to me and mine;
  • And haply God hath wrought for a sign
  • 210By our blind deed this doom of thine.
  • “Thy shrift, alas! thou wast not to win;
  • But may death shrive thy soul herein!
  • Full well do I know thy love should be
  • Even yet—had life but stayed with thee—
  • Our honour's strong security.”
  • She stooped, and said with a sob's low stir,—
  • “Peace be thine,—but what peace for her?”
  • But ere to the brow her lips were press'd,
  • She marked, half-hid in the riven vest,
  • 220A packet close to the dead man's breast.
  • 'Neath surcoat pierced and broken mail
  • It lay on the blood-stained bosom pale.
  • The clot hung round it, dull and dense,
  • And a faintness seized her mortal sense
  • As she reached her hand and drew it thence.
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  • 'Twas steeped in the heart's flood welling high
  • From the heart it there had rested by:
  • 'Twas glued to a broidered fragment gay,—
  • A shred by spear-thrust rent away
  • 230From the heron-wings of Heronhaye.
  • She gazed on the thing with piteous eyne:—
  • “Alas, poor child, some pledge of thine!
  • Ah me! in this troth the hearts were twain,
  • And one hath ebbed to this crimson stain,
  • And when shall the other throb again?”
  • She opened the packet heedfully;
  • The blood was stiff, and it scarce might be.
  • She found but a folded paper there,
  • And round it, twined with tenderest care,
  • 240A long bright tress of golden hair.
  • Even as she looked, she saw again
  • That dark-haired face in its swoon of pain:
  • It seemed a snake with a golden sheath
  • Crept near, as a slow flame flickereth,
  • And stung her daughter's heart to death.
  • She loosed the tress, but her hand did shake
  • As though indeed she had touched a snake;
  • And next she undid the paper's fold,
  • But that too trembled in her hold,
  • 250And the sense scarce grasped the tale it told.
  • “My heart's sweet lord,” ('twas thus she read,)
  • “At length our love is garlanded.
  • At Holy Cross, within eight days' space,
  • I seek my shrift; and the time and place
  • Shall fit thee too for thy soul's good grace.
  • “From Holycleugh on the seventh day
  • My brother rides, and bides away:
  • And long or e'er he is back, mine own,
  • Afar where the face of fear's unknown
  • 260We shall be safe with our love alone.
  • “Ere yet at the shrine my knees I bow,
  • I shear one tress for our holy vow.
  • As round these words these threads I wind,
  • So, eight days hence, shall our loves be twined,
  • Says my lord's poor lady, Jocelind.”
  • She read it twice, with a brain in thrall,
  • And then its echo told her all.
  • O'er brows low-fall'n her hands she drew:—
  • “O God!” she said, as her hands fell too,—
  • 270“The Warden's sister of Holycleugh!”
  • She rose upright with a long low moan,
  • And stared in the dead man's face new-known.
  • Had it lived indeed? She scarce could tell:
  • 'Twas a cloud where fiends had come to dwell,—
  • A mask that hung on the gate of Hell.
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  • She lifted the lock of gleaming hair
  • And smote the lips and left it there.
  • “Here's gold that Hell shall take for thy toll!
  • Full well hath thy treason found its goal,
  • 280O thou dead body and damnèd soul!”
  • She turned, sore dazed, for a voice was near,
  • And she knew that some one called to her.
  • On many a column fair and tall
  • A high court ran round the castle-hall;
  • And thence it was that the priest did call.
  • “I sought your child where you bade me go,
  • And in rooms around and rooms below;
  • But where, alas! may the maiden be?
  • Fear nought,—we shall find her speedily,—
  • 290But come, come hither, and seek with me.”
  • She reached the stair like a lifelorn thing,
  • But hastened upward murmuring
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  • “Yea, Death's is a face that's fell to see;
  • But bitterer pang Life hoards for thee,
  • Thou broken heart of Rose Mary!”
Beryl-Song
  • We whose throne is the Beryl,
  • Dire-gifted spirits of fire,
  • Who for a twin
  • Leash Sorrow to Sin,
  • Who on no flower refrain to lour with peril,—
  • We cry,—O desolate daughter!
  • Thou and thy mother share newer shame with each other
  • Than last night's slaughter.
  • Awake and tremble, for our curses assemble!
  • 10 What more, that thou know'st not yet,—
  • That life nor death shall forget?
  • No help from Heaven,—thy woes heart-riven are sterile!
  • O once a maiden,
  • With yet worse sorrow can any morrow be laden?
  • It waits for thee,
  • It looms, it must be,
  • O lost among women,—
  • It comes and thou canst not flee.
  • Amen to the omen,
  • 20 Says the voice of the Beryl.
  • Thou sleep'st? Awake,—
  • What dar'st thou yet for his sake,
  • Who each for other did God's own Future imperil?
  • Dost dare to live
  • 'Mid the pangs each hour must give?
  • Nay, rather die,—
  • With him thy lover 'neath Hell's cloud-cover to fly,—
  • Hopeless, yet not apart,
  • Cling heart to heart,
  • 30 And beat through the nether storm-eddying winds together?
  • Shall this be so?
  • There thou shalt meet him, but mayst thou greet him? ah no !
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  • He loves, but thee he hoped nevermore to see,—
  • He sighed as he died,
  • But with never a thought for thee.
  • Alone!
  • Alone, for ever alone,—
  • Whose eyes were such wondrous spies for the fate foreshown!
  • Lo! have not We leashed the twin
  • 40 Of endless Sorrow to Sin,—
  • Who on no flower refrain to lour with peril,—
  • Dire-gifted spirits of fire,
  • We whose throne is the Beryl?
PART III
  • A swoon that breaks is the whelming wave
  • When help comes late but still can save.
  • With all blind throes is the instant rife,—
  • Hurtling clangour and clouds at strife,—
  • The breath of death, but the kiss of life.
  • The night lay deep on Rose Mary's heart,
  • For her swoon was death's kind counterpart:
  • The dawn broke dim on Rose Mary's soul,—
  • No hill-crown's heavenly aureole,
  • 10But a wild gleam on a shaken shoal.
  • Her senses gasped in the sudden air,
  • And she looked around, but none was there.
  • She felt the slackening frost distil
  • Through her blood the last ooze dull and chill:
  • Her lids were dry and her lips were still.
  • Her tears had flooded her heart again;
  • As after a long day's bitter rain,
  • At dusk when the wet flower-cups shrink,
  • The drops run in from the beaded brink,
  • 20And all the close-shut petals drink.
  • Again her sighs on her heart were rolled;
  • As the wind that long has swept the wold,—
  • Whose moan was made with the moaning sea,—
  • Beats out its breath in the last torn tree,
  • And sinks at length in lethargy.
  • She knew she had waded bosom-deep
  • Along death's bank in the sedge of sleep:
  • All else was lost to her clouded mind;
  • Nor, looking back, could she see defin'd
  • 30O'er the dim dumb waste what lay behind.
  • Slowly fades the sun from the wall
  • Till day lies dead on the sun-dial:
  • And now in Rose Mary's lifted eye
  • 'Twas shadow alone that made reply
  • To the set face of the soul's dark sky.
  • Yet still through her soul there wandered past
  • Dread phantoms borne on a wailing blast,—
  • Death and sorrow and sin and shame;
  • And, murmured still, to her lips there came
  • 40Her mother's and her lover's name.
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  • How to ask, and what thing to know?
  • She might not stay and she dared not go.
  • From fires unseen these smoke-clouds curled;
  • But where did the hidden curse lie furled?
  • And how to seek through the weary world?
  • With toiling breath she rose from the floor
  • And dragged her steps to an open door:
  • 'Twas the secret panel standing wide,
  • As the lady's hand had let it bide
  • 50In hastening back to her daughter's side.
  • She passed, but reeled with a dizzy brain
  • And smote the door which closed again.
  • She stood within by the darkling stair,
  • But her feet might mount more freely there,—
  • 'Twas the open light most blinded her.
  • Within her mind no wonder grew
  • At the secret path she never knew:
  • All ways alike were strange to her now,—
  • One field bare-ridged from the spirit's plough,
  • 60One thicket black with the cypress-bough.
  • Once she thought that she heard her name;
  • And she paused, but knew not whence it came.
  • Down the shadowed stair a faint ray fell
  • That guided the weary footsteps well
  • Till it led her up to the altar-cell.
  • No change there was on Rose Mary's face
  • As she leaned in the portal's narrow space:
  • Still she stood by the pillar's stem,
  • Hand and bosom and garment's hem,
  • 70As the soul stands by at the requiem.
  • The altar-cell was a dome low-lit,
  • And a veil hung in the midst of it:
  • At the pole-points of its circling girth
  • Four symbols stood of the world's first birth,—
  • Air and water and fire and earth.
  • To the north, a fountain glittered free;
  • To the south, there glowed a red fruit-tree;
  • To the east, a lamp flamed high and fair;
  • To the west, a crystal casket rare
  • 80Held fast a cloud of the fields of air.
  • The painted walls were a mystic show
  • Of time's ebb-tide and overflow;
  • His hoards long-locked and conquering key,
  • His service-fires that in heaven be,
  • And earth-wheels whirled perpetually.
  • Rose Mary gazed from the open door
  • As on idle things she cared not for,—
  • The fleeting shapes of an empty tale;
  • Then stepped with a heedless visage pale,
  • 90And lifted aside the altar-veil.
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  • The altar stood from its curved recess
  • In a coiling serpent's life-likeness:
  • Even such a serpent evermore
  • Lies deep asleep at the world's dark core
  • Till the last Voice shake the sea and shore.
  • From the altar-cloth a book rose spread
  • And tapers burned at the altar-head;
  • And there in the altar-midst alone,
  • 'Twixt wings of a sculptured beast unknown,
  • 100Rose Mary saw the Beryl-stone.
  • Firm it sat 'twixt the hollowed wings,
  • As an orb sits in the hand of kings:
  • And lo! for that Foe whose curse far-flown
  • Had bound her life with a burning zone,
  • Rose Mary knew the Beryl-stone.
  • Dread is the meteor's blazing sphere
  • When the poles throb to its blind career;
  • But not with a light more grim and ghast
  • Thereby is the future doom forecast,
  • 110Than now this sight brought back the past.
  • The hours and minutes seemed to whirr
  • In a clanging swarm that deafened her;
  • They stung her heart to a writhing flame,
  • And marshalled past in its glare they came,—
  • Death and sorrow and sin and shame.
  • Round the Beryl's sphere she saw them pass
  • And mock her eyes from the fated glass:
  • One by one in a fiery train
  • The dead hours seemed to wax and wane,
  • 120And burned till all was known again.
  • From the drained heart's fount there rose no cry,
  • There sprang no tears, for the source was dry.
  • Held in the hand of some heavy law,
  • Her eyes she might not once withdraw,
  • Nor shrink away from the thing she saw.
  • Even as she gazed, through all her blood
  • The flame was quenched in a coming flood:
  • Out of the depth of the hollow gloom
  • On her soul's bare sands she felt it boom,—
  • 130The measured tide of a sea of doom.
  • Three steps she took through the altar-gate,
  • And her neck reared and her arms grew straight:
  • The sinews clenched like a serpent's throe,
  • And the face was white in the dark hair's flow,
  • As her hate beheld what lay below.
  • Dumb she stood in her malisons,—
  • A silver statue tressed with bronze:
  • As the fabled head by Perseus mown,
  • It seemed in sooth that her gaze alone
  • 140Had turned the carven shapes to stone.
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  • O'er the altar-sides on either hand
  • There hung a dinted helm and brand:
  • By strength thereof, 'neath the Sacred Sign,
  • That bitter gift o'er the salt sea-brine
  • Her father brought from Palestine.
  • Rose Mary moved with a stern accord
  • And reached her hand to her father's sword;
  • Nor did she stir her gaze one whit
  • From the thing whereon her brows were knit;
  • 150But gazing still, she spoke to it.
  • “O ye, three times accurst,” she said,
  • “By whom this stone is tenanted!
  • Lo! here ye came by a strong sin's might;
  • Yet a sinner's hand that's weak to smite
  • Shall send you hence ere the day be night.
  • “This hour a clear voice bade me know
  • My hand shall work your overthrow:
  • Another thing in mine ear it spake,—
  • With the broken spell my life shall break.
  • 160I thank Thee, God, for the dear death's sake!
  • “And he Thy heavenly minister
  • Who swayed erewhile this spell-bound sphere,—
  • My parting soul let him haste to greet,
  • And none but he be guide for my feet
  • To where Thy rest is made complete.”
  • Then deep she breathed, with a tender moan:—
  • “My love, my lord, my only one!
  • Even as I held the cursed clue,
  • When thee, through me, these foul ones slew,—
  • 170By mine own deed shall they slay me too!
  • “Even while they speed to Hell, my love,
  • Two hearts shall meet in Heaven above.
  • Our shrift thou sought'st, but might'st not bring:
  • And oh! for me 'tis a blessed thing
  • To work hereby our ransoming.
  • “One were our hearts in joy and pain,
  • And our souls e'en now grow one again.
  • And O my love, if our souls are three,
  • O thine and mine shall the third soul be,—
  • 180One threefold love eternally.”
  • Her eyes were soft as she spoke apart,
  • And the lips smiled to the broken heart:
  • But the glance was dark and the forehead scored
  • With the bitter frown of hate restored,
  • As her two hands swung the heavy sword.
  • Three steps back from her Foe she trod:—
  • “Love, for thy sake! In Thy Name, O God!”
  • In the fair white hands small strength was shown;
  • Yet the blade flashed high and the edge fell prone,
  • 190And she cleft the heart of the Beryl-stone.
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  • What living flesh in the thunder-cloud
  • Hath sat and felt heaven cry aloud?
  • Or known how the levin's pulse may beat?
  • Or wrapped the hour when the whirlwinds meet
  • About its breast for a winding-sheet?
  • Who hath crouched at the world's deep heart