Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
The Blessed Damozel
By Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)
 
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,        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
  For service meetly worn;        10
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        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, and in this place,        20
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        25
  That she was standing on;
By God built over the sheer depth
  The which is Space begun;
So high, that looking downward thence
  She scarce could see the sun.        30
 
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        35
  Spins like a fretful midge.
 
Heard hardly, some of her new friends
  Amid their loving games
Spake evermore among themselves
  Their virginal chaste names;        40
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        45
  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
  Time like a pulse shake fierce        50
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        55
  Was like a little feather
Fluttering far down the gulf; and now
  She spoke through the still weather.
Her voice was like the voice the stars
  Had when they sang together.        60
 
(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        65
  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,
  Lord, Lord, has he not pray’d?        70
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        75
  To the deep wells of light;
We will step down as to a stream,
  And bathe there in God’s sight.
 
‘We two will stand beside the shrine,
  Occult, withheld, untrod,        80
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        85
  That living mystic tree
Within whose secret growth the Dove
  Is sometimes felt to be,
While every leaf that His plumes touch
  Saith His Name audibly.        90
 
‘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,        95
  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
  To endless unity        100
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        105
  Are five sweet symphonies,
Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen,
  Margaret and Rosalys.
 
‘Circlewise sit they, with bound locks
  And foreheads garlanded;        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 will I lay my cheek
To his, and tell about our love,
  Not once abashed 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 clear-ranged unnumbered heads
  Bowed 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:—
Only to live as once on earth
  With Love,—only to be,        130
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.        135
  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
  Was vague in distant spheres:        140
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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