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The House of Life   By: (1828-1882)

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The House of Life


Dante Gabriel Rossetti



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 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.


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 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.


As when desire, long darkling, dawns, and first The mother looks upon the new born child, Even so my Lady stood at gaze and smiled When her soul knew at length the Love it nursed. 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, shielded in his wings, our faces yearn Together, as his fullgrown 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.


O Thou who at Love's hour ecstatically Unto my lips dost evermore present The body and blood of Love in sacrament; 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 o'er the cup, Remember me!

O what from thee the grace, for me the prize, 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!


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 Thyself, 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?


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 dry shod? 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 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... Continue reading book >>

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