Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
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Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
  
Dante Gabriel Rossetti. 1828–1882
  
771. The Blessèd Damozel
  
THE blessèd Damozel lean'd out 
  From the gold bar of Heaven: 
Her blue grave eyes were deeper much 
  Than a deep water, even. 
She had three lilies in her hand,         5
  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 
  On the neck meetly worn;  10
And her hair, lying down her back, 
  Was yellow like ripe corn. 
 
Herseem'd she scarce had been a day 
  One of God's choristers; 
The wonder was not yet quite gone  15
  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: 
  ...Yet now, here in this place,  20
Surely she lean'd o'er me,—her hair 
  Fell all about my face.... 
Nothing: the Autumn-fall of leaves. 
  The whole year sets apace.) 
 
It was the terrace of God's house  25
  That she was standing on,— 
By God built over the sheer depth 
  In which Space is begun; 
So high, that looking downward thence, 
  She scarce could see the sun.  30
 
It lies from 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  35
  Spins like a fretful midge. 
 
But in those tracts, with her, it was 
  The peace of utter light 
And silence. For no breeze may stir 
  Along the steady flight  40
Of seraphim; no echo there, 
  Beyond all depth or height. 
 
Heard hardly, some of her new friends, 
  Playing at holy games, 
Spake gentle-mouth'd, among themselves,  45
  Their virginal chaste names; 
And the souls, mounting up to God, 
  Went by her like thin flames. 
 
And still she bow'd herself, and stoop'd 
  Into the vast waste calm;  50
Till her bosom's pressure must have made 
  The bar she lean'd on warm, 
And the lilies lay as if asleep 
  Along her bended arm. 
 
From the fixt lull of Heaven, she saw  55
  Time, like a pulse, shake fierce 
Through all the worlds. Her gaze still strove, 
  In that steep gulf, to pierce 
The swarm; and then she spoke, as when 
  The stars sang in their spheres.  60
 
'I wish that he were come to me, 
  For he will come,' she said. 
'Have I not pray'd in solemn Heaven? 
  On earth, has he not pray'd? 
Are not two prayers a perfect strength?  65
  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,  70
And we will step down as to a stream 
  And bathe there in God's sight. 
 
'We two will stand beside that shrine, 
  Occult, withheld, untrod, 
Whose lamps tremble continually  75
  With prayer sent up to God; 
And where each need, reveal'd, expects 
  Its patient period. 
 
'We two will lie i' the shadow of 
  That living mystic tree  80
Within whose secret growth the Dove 
  Sometimes is felt to be, 
While every leaf that His plumes touch 
  Saith His name audibly. 
 
'And I myself will teach to him,—  85
  I myself, lying so,— 
The songs I sing here; which his mouth 
  Shall pause in, hush'd and slow, 
Finding some knowledge at each pause, 
  And some new thing to know.'  90
 
(Alas! to her wise simple mind 
  These things were all but known 
Before: they trembled on her sense,— 
  Her voice had caught their tone. 
Alas for lonely Heaven! Alas  95
  For life wrung out alone! 
 
Alas, and though the end were reach'd?... 
  Was thy part understood 
Or borne in trust? And for her sake 
  Shall this too be found good?— 100
May the close lips that knew not prayer 
  Praise ever, though they would?) 
 
'We two,' she said, 'will seek the groves 
  Where the lady Mary is, 
With her five handmaidens, whose names 105
  Are five sweet symphonies:— 
Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen, 
  Margaret and Rosalys. 
 
'Circle-wise sit they, with bound locks 
  And bosoms coverèd; 110
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. 115
  Then I will lay my cheek 
To his, and tell about our love, 
  Not once abash'd or weak: 
And the dear Mother will approve 
  My pride, and let me speak. 120
 
'Herself shall bring us, hand in hand, 
  To Him round whom all souls 
Kneel—the unnumber'd solemn heads 
  Bow'd with their aureoles: 
And Angels, meeting us, shall sing 125
  To their citherns and citoles. 
 
'There will I ask of Christ the Lord 
  Thus much for him and me:— 
To have more blessing than on earth 
  In nowise; but to be 130
As then we were,—being as then 
  At peace. Yea, verily. 
 
'Yea, verily; when he is come 
  We will do thus and thus: 
Till this my vigil seem quite strange 135
  And almost fabulous; 
We two will live at once, one life; 
  And peace shall be with us.' 
 
She gazed, and listen'd, and then said, 
  Less sad of speech than mild,— 140
'All this is when he comes.' She ceased: 
  The light thrill'd past her, fill'd 
With Angels, in strong level lapse. 
  Her eyes pray'd, and she smiled. 
 
(I saw her smile.) But soon their flight 145
  Was vague 'mid the poised spheres. 
And then she cast her arms along 
  The golden barriers, 
And laid her face between her hands, 
  And wept. (I heard her tears.) 150
 
 
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