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ROSSETTI, Dante Gabriel

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

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!


Afar away the light that brings cold cheer

Unto this wall, – one instant and no more

Admitted at my distant palace-door

Afar the flowers of Enna from this drear

Dire fruit, which, tasted once, must thrall me here.

Afar those skies from this Tartarean grey

That chills me: and afar how far away,

The nights that shall become the days that were.

Afar from mine own self I seem, and wing

Strange ways in thought, and listen for a sign:

And still some heart unto some soul doth pine,

(Whose sounds mine inner sense in fain to bring,

Continually together murmuring) —

'Woe me for thee, unhappy Proserpine'.

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

Hangs 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.

Sudden Light

I have been here before,

But when or how I cannot tell:

I know the grass beyond the door,

The sweet keen smell,

The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

You have been mine before,--

How long ago I may not know:

But just when at that swallow's soar

Your neck turn'd so,

Some veil did fall,--I knew it all of yore.

Has this been thus before?

And shall not thus time's eddying flight

Still with our lives our love restore

In death's despite,

And day and night yield one delight once more?

The Woodspurge

The wind flapped loose, the wind was still,

Shaken out dead from tree and hill:

I had walked on at the wind's will,

I sat now, for the wind was still.

Between my knees my forehead was,

My lips, drawn in said not Alas!

My hair was over in the grass,

My naked ears heard the day pass.

My eyes, wide open, had the run

Of some ten weeds to fix upon;

Among those few, out of the sun,

The woodspurge flowered, three cups in one.

From perfect grief there need not be

Wisdom or even memory:

One thing then learnt remains to me,
The woodspurge has a cup of three.

The Portrait

This is her picture as she was:

It seems a thing to wonder on,

As though mine image in the glass

Should tarry when myself am gone.

I gaze until she seems to stir,—

Until mine eyes almost aver

That now, even now, the sweet lips part

To breathe the words of the sweet heart:—

And yet the earth is over her.

Alas! even such the thin-drawn ray

That makes the prison-depths more rude,—

The drip of water night and day

Giving a tongue to solitude.

Yet only this, of love's whole prize,

Remains; save what in mournful guise

Takes counsel with my soul alone,—

Save what is secret and unknown,

Below the earth, above the skies.

In painting her I shrin'd her face

Mid mystic trees, where light falls in

Hardly at all; a covert place

Where you might think to find a din

Of doubtful talk, and a live flame

Wandering, and many a shape whose name

Not itself knoweth, and old dew,

And your own footsteps meeting you,

And all things going as they came.

A deep dim wood; and there she stands

As in that wood that day: for so

Was the still movement of her hands

And such the pure line's gracious flow.

And passing fair the type must seem,

Unknown the presence and the dream.

'Tis she: though of herself, alas!

Less than her shadow on the grass

Or than her image in the stream.

That day we met there, I and she

One with the other all alone;

And we were blithe; yet memory

Saddens those hours, as when the moon

Looks upon daylight. And with her

I stoop'd to drink the spring-water,

Athirst where other waters sprang;

And where the echo is, she sang,—

My soul another echo there.

But when that hour my soul won strength

For words whose silence wastes and kills,

Dull raindrops smote us, and at length

Thunder'd the heat within the hills.

That eve I spoke those words again

Beside the pelted window-pane;

And there she hearken'd what I said,

With under-glances that survey'd

The empty pastures blind with rain.

Next day the memories of these things,

Like leaves through which a bird has flown,

Still vibrated with Love's warm wings;

Till I must make them all my own

And paint this picture. So, 'twixt ease

Of talk and sweet long silences,

She stood among the plants in bloom

At windows of a summer room,

To feign the shadow of the trees.

And as I wrought, while all above

And all around was fragrant air,

In the sick burthen of my love

It seem'd each sun-thrill'd blossom there

Beat like a heart among the leaves.

O heart that never beats nor heaves,

In that one darkness lying still,

What now to thee my love's great will

Or the fine web the sunshine weaves?

For now doth daylight disavow

Those days,—nought left to see or hear.

Only in solemn whispers now

At night-time these things reach mine ear;

When the leaf-shadows at a breath

Shrink in the road, and all the heath,

Forest and water, far and wide,

In limpid starlight glorified,

Lie like the mystery of death.

Last night at last I could have slept,

And yet delay'd my sleep till dawn,

Still wandering. Then it was I wept:

For unawares I came upon

Those glades where once she walk'd with me:

And as I stood there suddenly,

All wan with traversing the night,

Upon the desolate verge of light

Yearn'd loud the iron-bosom'd sea.

Even so, where Heaven holds breath and hears

The beating heart of Love's own breast,—

Where round the secret of all spheres

All angels lay their wings to rest,—

How shall my soul stand rapt and aw'd,

When, by the new birth borne abroad

Throughout the music of the suns,

It enters in her soul at once

And knows the silence there for God!

Here with her face doth memory sit

Meanwhile, and wait the day's decline,

Till other eyes shall look from it,

Eyes of the spirit's Palestine,

Even than the old gaze tenderer:

While hopes and aims long lost with her

Stand round her image side by side,

Like tombs of pilgrims that have died

About the Holy Sepulchre.