Canto VII

  1.  Ask me no more: the moon may draw the sea;
  2.  The cloud may stoop from heaven and take the shape,
  3.  With fold to fold, of mountain or of cape;
  4.  But O too fond, when have I answer'd thee?
  5.  Ask me no more.

  6.  Ask me no more: what answer should I give?
  7.  I love not hollow cheek or faded eye:
  8.  Yet, O my friend, I will not have thee die!
  9.  Ask me no more, lest I should bid thee live;
  10.  Ask me no more.

  11.  Ask me no more: thy fate and mine are seal'd:
  12.  I strove against the stream and all in vain:
  13.  Let the great river take me to the main:
  14.  No more, dear love, for at a touch I yield;
  15.  Ask me no more.

  16. So was their sanctuary violated,
  17. So their fair college turn'd to hospital;
  18. At first with all confusion: by and by
  19. Sweet order lived again with other laws:
  20. A kindlier influence reign'd; and everywhere
  21. Low voices with the ministering hand
  22. Hung round the sick: the maidens came, they talk'd,
  23. They sang, they read: till she not fair, began
  24. To gather light, and she that was, became
  25. Her former beauty treble; and to and fro
  26. With books, with flowers, with Angel offices,
  27. Like creatures native unto gracious act,
  28. And in their own clear element, they moved.

  29.  But sadness on the soul of Ida fell,
  30. And hatred of her weakness, blent with shame.
  31. Old studies fail'd; seldom she spoke; but oft
  32. Clomb to the roofs, and gazed alone for hours
  33. On that disastrous leaguer, swarms of men
  34. Darkening her female field: void was her use;
  35. And she as one that climbs a peak to gaze
  36. O'er land and main, and sees a great black cloud
  37. Drag inward from the deeps, a wall of night,
  38. Blot out the slope of sea from verge to shore,
  39. And suck the blinding splendour from the sand,
  40. And quenching lake by lake and tarn by tarn
  41. Expunge the world: so fared she gazing there;
  42. So blacken'd all her world in secret, blank
  43. And waste it seem'd and vain; till down she came,
  44. And found fair peace once more among the sick.

  45.  And twilight dawn'd; and morn by morn the lark
  46. Shot up and shrill'd in flickering gyres, but I
  47. Lay silent in the muffled cage of life:
  48. And twilight gloom'd; and broader grown the bowers
  49. Drew the great night into themselves, and Heaven,
  50. Star after star, arose and fell; but I,
  51. Deeper than those weird doubts could reach me, lay
  52. Quite sunder'd from the moving Universe,
  53. Nor knew what eye was on me, nor the hand
  54. That nursed me, more than infants in their sleep.

  55.  But Psyche tended Florian: with her oft
  56. Melissa came; for Blanche had gone, but left
  57. Her child among us, willing she should keep
  58. Court-favour: here and there the small bright head,
  59. A light of healing, glanced about the couch,
  60. Or thro' the parted silks the tender face
  61. Peep'd, shining in upon the wounded man
  62. With blush and smile, a medicine in themselves
  63. To wile the length from languorous hours, and draw
  64. The sting from pain; nor seem'd it strange that soon
  65. He rose up whole, and those fair charities
  66. Join'd at her side; nor stranger seem'd that hearts
  67. So gentle, so employ'd, should close in love,
  68. Than when two dewdrops on the petal shake
  69. To the same sweet air, and tremble deeper down,
  70. And slip at once all-fragrant into one.

  71.  Less prosperously the second suit obtain'd
  72. At first with Psyche. Not tho' Blanche had sworn
  73. That after that dark night among the fields
  74. She needs must wed him for her own good name;
  75. Not tho' he built upon the babe restored;
  76. Nor tho' she liked him, yielded she, but fear'd
  77. To incense the Head once more; till on a day
  78. When Cyril pleaded, Ida came behind
  79. Seen but of Psyche: on her foot she hung
  80. A moment, and she heard, at which her face
  81. A little flush'd, and she past on; but each
  82. Assumed from thence a half-consent involved
  83. In stillness, plighted troth, and were at peace.

  84.  Nor only these: Love in the sacred halls
  85. Held carnival at will, and flying struck
  86. With showers of random sweet on maid and man.
  87. Nor did her father cease to press my claim,
  88. Nor did mine own flow reconciled; nor yet
  89. Did those twin brothers, risen again and whole;
  90. Nor Arac, satiate with his victory.

  91.  But I lay still, and with me oft she sat:
  92. Then came a change; for sometimes I would catch
  93. Her hand in wild delirium, gripe it hard,
  94. And fling it like a viper off, and shriek
  95. 'You are not Ida;' clasp it once again,
  96. And call her Ida, tho' I knew her not,
  97. And call her sweet, as if in irony,
  98. And call her hard and cold, which seem'd a truth:
  99. And still she fear'd that I should lose my mind,
  100. And often she believed that I should die:
  101. Till out of long frustration of her care,
  102. And pensive tendance in the all-weary noons,
  103. And watches in the dead, the dark, when clocks
  104. Throbb'd thunder thro' the palace floors, or call'd
  105. On flying Time from all their silver tongues--
  106. And out of memories of her kindlier days,
  107. And sidelong glances at my father's grief,
  108. And at the happy lovers heart in heart--
  109. And out of hauntings of my spoken love,
  110. And lonely listenings to my mutter'd dream,
  111. And often feeling of the helpless hands,
  112. And wordless broodings on the wasted cheek--
  113. From all a closer interest flourish'd up,
  114. Tenderness touch by touch, and last, to these,
  115. Love, like an Alpine harebell hung with tears
  116. By some cold morning glacier; frail at first
  117. And feeble, all unconscious of itself,
  118. But such as gather'd colour day by day.

  119.  Last I woke sane, but well-nigh close to death
  120. For weakness: it was evening: silent light
  121. Slept on the painted walls, wherein were wrought
  122. Two grand designs; for on one side arose
  123. The women up in wild revolt, and storm'd
  124. At the Oppian law. Titanic shapes, they cramm'd
  125. The forum, and half-crush'd among the rest
  126. A dwarf-like Cato cower'd. On the other side
  127. Hortensia spoke against the tax; behind,
  128. A train of dames: by axe and eagle sat,
  129. With all their foreheads drawn in Roman scowls,
  130. And half the wolf's-milk curdled in their veins,
  131. The fierce triumvirs; and before them paused
  132. Hortensia, pleading: angry was her face.

  133.  I saw the forms: I knew not where I was:
  134. They did but look like hollow shows; nor more
  135. Sweet Ida: palm to palm she sat: the dew
  136. Dwelt in her eyes, and softer all her shape
  137. And rounder seem'd: I moved: I sigh'd: a touch
  138. Came round my wrist, and tears upon my hand:
  139. Then all for languor and self-pity ran
  140. Mine down my face, and with what life I had,
  141. And like a flower that cannot all unfold,
  142. So drench'd it is with tempest, to the sun,
  143. Yet, as it may, turns toward him, I on her
  144. Fixt my faint eyes, and utter'd whisperingly:

  145.  'If you be, what I think you, some sweet dream,
  146. I would but ask you to fulfil yourself:
  147. But if you be that Ida whom I knew,
  148. I ask you nothing: only, if a dream,
  149. Sweet dream, be perfect. I shall die to-night.
  150. Stoop down and seem to kiss me ere I die.'

  151.  I could no more, but lay like one in trance,
  152. That hears his burial talk'd of by his friends,
  153. And cannot speak, nor move, nor make one sign,
  154. But lies and dreads his doom. She turn'd; she paused;
  155. She stoop'd; and out of languor leapt a cry;
  156. Leapt fiery Passion from the brinks of death;
  157. And I believed that in the living world
  158. My spirit closed with Ida's at the lips;
  159. Till back I fell, and from mine arms she rose,
  160. Glowing all over noble shame; and all
  161. Her falser self slipt from her like a robe,
  162. And left her woman, lovelier in her mood,
  163. Than in her mould that other, when she came
  164. From barren deeps to conquer all with love;
  165. And down the streaming crystal dropt; and she
  166. Far-fleeted by the purple island-sides,
  167. Naked, a double light in air and wave,
  168. To meet her Graces, where they deck'd her out
  169. For worship without end; nor end of mine,
  170. Stateliest, for thee! but mute she glided forth,
  171. Nor glanced behind her, and I sank and slept,
  172. Fill'd thro' and thro' with Love, a happy sleep.

  173.  Deep in the night I woke: she, near me, held
  174. A volume of the Poets of her land:
  175. There to herself, all in low tones she read:

  176.    'Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
  177.    Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
  178.    Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font:
  179.    The fire-fly wakens: waken thou with me.

  180.    Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,
  181.    And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

  182.    Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars,
  183.    And all thy heart lies open unto me.

  184.    Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
  185.    A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

  186.    Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
  187.    And slips into the bosom of the lake:
  188.    So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
  189.    Into my bosom and be lost in me.'

  190.  I heard her turn the page; she found a small
  191. Sweet Idyl, and once more, as low, she read:

  192.    'Come down, O maid, from yonder mountain height:
  193.    What pleasure lives in height (the shepherd sang),
  194.    In height and cold, the splendour of the hills?
  195.    But cease to move so near the Heavens, and cease
  196.    To glide a sunbeam by the blasted Pine,
  197.    To sit a star upon the sparkling spire;
  198.    And come, for Love is of the valley, come,
  199.    For Love is of the valley, come thou down
  200.    And find him; by the happy threshold, he,
  201.    Or hand in hand with Plenty in the maize,
  202.    Or red with spirted purple of the vats,
  203.    Or foxlike in the vine; nor cares to walk
  204.    With Death and Morning on the silver horns,
  205.    Nor wilt thou snare him in the white ravine,
  206.    Nor find him dropt upon the firths of ice,
  207.    That huddling slant in furrow-cloven falls
  208.    To roll the torrent out of dusky doors:
  209.    But follow; let the torrent dance thee down
  210.    To find him in the valley; let the wild
  211.    Lean-headed Eagles yelp alone, and leave
  212.    The monstrous ledges there to slope, and spill
  213.    Their thousand wreaths of dangling water-smoke,
  214.    That like a broken purpose waste in air:
  215.    So waste not thou; but come; for all the vales
  216.    Await thee; azure pillars of the hearth
  217.    Arise to thee; the children call, and I
  218.    Thy shepherd pipe, and sweet is every sound,
  219.    Sweeter thy voice, but every sound is sweet;
  220.    Myriads of rivulets hurrying thro' the lawn,
  221.    The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
  222.    And murmuring of innumerable bees.'

  223.  So she low-toned; while with shut eyes I lay
  224. Listening; then look'd. Pale was the perfect face;
  225. The bosom with long sighs labour'd; and meek
  226. Seem'd the full lips, and mild the luminous eyes,
  227. And the voice trembled and the hand. She said
  228. Brokenly, that she knew it, she had fail'd
  229. In sweet humility; had fail'd in all;
  230. That all her labour was but as a block
  231. Left in the quarry; but she still were loth,
  232. She still were loth to yield herself to one
  233. That wholly scorn'd to help their equal rights
  234. Against the sons of men, and barbarous laws.
  235. She pray'd me not to judge their cause from her
  236. That wrong'd it, sought far less for truth than power
  237. In knowledge: something wild within her breast,
  238. A greater than all knowledge, beat her down.
  239. And she had nursed me there from week to week:
  240. Much had she learnt in little time. In part
  241. It was ill counsel had misled the girl
  242. To vex true hearts: yet was she but a girl-
  243. 'Ah fool, and made myself a Queen of farce!
  244. When comes another such? never, I think,
  245. Till the Sun drop dead from the signs.'
    Her voice
  246. Choked, and her forehead sank upon her hands,
  247. And her great heart thro' all the faultful Past
  248. Went sorrowing in a pause I dared not break;
  249. Till notice of a change in the dark world
  250. Was lispt about the acacias, and a bird,
  251. That early woke to feed her little ones,
  252. Sent from a dewy breast a cry for light:
  253. She moved, and at her feet the volume fell.

  254.  'Blame not thyself too much,' I said, 'nor blame
  255. Too much the sons of men and barbarous laws;
  256. These were the rough ways of the world till now.
  257. Henceforth thou hast a helper, me, that know
  258. The woman's cause is man's: they rise or sink
  259. Together, dwarf'd or godlike, bond or free:
  260. For she that out of Lethe scales with man
  261. The shining steps of Nature, shares with man
  262. His nights, his days, moves with him to one goal,
  263. Stays all the fair young planet in her hands--
  264. If she be small, slight-natur'd, miserable,
  265. How shall men grow? but work no more alone!
  266. Our place is much: as far as in us lies
  267. We two will serve them both in aiding her--
  268. Will clear away the parasitic forms
  269. That seem to keep her up but drag her down--
  270. Will leave her space to burgeon out of all
  271. Within her--let her make herself her own
  272. To give or keep, to live and learn and be
  273. All that not harms distinctive womanhood.
  274. For woman is not undevelopt man,
  275. But diverse: could we make her as the man,
  276. Sweet Love were slain: his dearest bond is this,
  277. Not like to like, but like in difference.
  278. Yet in the long years liker must they grow;
  279. The man be more of woman, she of man;
  280. He gain in sweetness and in moral height,
  281. Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world;
  282. She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care,
  283. Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind;
  284. Till at the last she set herself to man,
  285. Like perfect music unto noble words;
  286. And so these twain, upon the skirts of Time,
  287. Sit side by side, full-summ'd in all their powers,
  288. Dispensing harvest, sowing the To-be,
  289. Self-reverent each and reverencing each,
  290. Distinct in individualities,
  291. But like each other ev'n as those who love.
  292. Then comes the statelier Eden back to men:
  293. Then reign the world's great bridals, chaste and calm:
  294. Then springs the crowning race of humankind.
  295. May these things be!'
    Sighing she spoke, 'I fear
  296. They will not.'
    'Dear, but let us type them now
  297. In our own lives, and this proud watchword rest
  298. Of equal; seeing either sex alone
  299. Is half itself, and in true marriage lies
  300. Nor equal, nor unequal: each fulfils
  301. Defect in each, and always thought in thought,
  302. Purpose in purpose, will in will, they grow,
  303. The single pure and perfect animal,
  304. The two-cell'd heart beating, with one full stroke,
  305. Life.'
    And again sighing she spoke: 'A dream
  306. That once was mine what woman taught you this?'

  307.  'Alone,' I said, 'from earlier than I know,
  308. Immersed in rich foreshadowings of the world,
  309. I loved the woman: he, that doth not, lives
  310. A drowning life, besotted in sweet self,
  311. Or pines in sad experience worse than death,
  312. Or keeps his wing'd affections clipt with crime
  313. Yet was there one thro' whom I loved her, one
  314. Not learned, save in gracious household ways,
  315. Not perfect, nay, but full of tender wants,
  316. No Angel, but a dearer being, all dipt
  317. In Angel instincts, breathing Paradise,
  318. Interpreter between the Gods and men,
  319. Who look'd all native to her place, and yet
  320. On tiptoe seem'd to touch upon a sphere
  321. Too gross to tread, and all male minds perforce
  322. Sway'd to her from their orbits as they moved,
  323. And girdled her with music. Happy he
  324. With such a mother! faith in womankind
  325. Beats with his blood, and trust in all things high
  326. Comes easy to him, and tho' he trip and fall
  327. He shall not blind his soul with clay.'
    'But I,'
  328. Said Ida, tremulously, 'so all unlike--
  329. It seems you love to cheat yourself with words:
  330. This mother is your model. I have heard
  331. Of your strange doubts: they well might be: I seem
  332. A mockery to my own self. Never, Prince;
  333. You cannot love me.'
    'Nay but thee,' I said,
  334. 'From yearlong poring on thy pictured eyes,
  335. Ere seen I loved, and loved thee seen, and saw
  336. Thee woman thro' the crust of iron moods
  337. That mask'd thee from men's reverence up, and forced
  338. Sweet love on pranks of saucy boyhood: now,
  339. Giv'n back to life, to life indeed, thro' thee,
  340. Indeed I love: the new day comes, the light
  341. Dearer for night, as dearer thou for faults
  342. Lived over: lift thine eyes; my doubts are dead,
  343. My haunting sense of hollow shows: the change,
  344. This truthful change in thee has kill'd it. Dear,
  345. Look up, and let thy nature strike on mine,
  346. Like yonder morning on the blind half-world;
  347. Approach and fear not; breathe upon my brows;
  348. In that fine air I tremble, all the past
  349. Melts mist-like into this bright hour, and this
  350. Is morn to more, and all the rich to-come
  351. Reels, as the golden Autumn woodland reels,
  352. Athwart the smoke of burning weeds. Forgive me,
  353. I waste my heart in signs: let be. My bride,
  354. My wife, my life. O we will walk this world,
  355. Yoked in all exercise of noble end,
  356. And so thro' those dark gates across the wild
  357. That no man knows. Indeed I love thee: come.
  358. Yield thyself up: my hopes and thine are one:
  359. Accomplish thou my manhood and thyself;
  360. Lay thy sweet hands in mine and trust to me.'

Canto VI | Introduction | Conclusion

Last updated October 24, 1997