Tell me now in what hidden way is
Lady Flora the lovely Roman?
Where's Hipparchia, and where is Thais,
Neither of them the fairer woman?
Where is Echo, beheld of no man,
Only heard on river and mere—
She whose beauty was more than human?—
But where are the snows of yester-year?
If God in his wisdom have brought close
The day when I must die,
That day by water or fire or air
My feet shall fall in the destined snare
Wherever my road may lie.
The King's Tragedy, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
Still we say as we go,—
"Strange to think by the way
Whatever there is to know,
That shall we know one day."
The Cloud Confines, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
Gather a shell from the strewn beach
And listen at its lips: they sigh
The same desire and mystery,
The echo of the whole sea's speech.
The Sea-Limits, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "I send thee a shell from the ocean-beach; But listen thou well, for my shell hath speech. Hold to thine ear / And plain thou'lt hear / Tales of ships", Charles Henry Webb, With a Nantucket Shell; The hollow sea-shell, which for years hath stood / On dusty shelves, when held against the ear / Proclaims its stormy parent, and we hear / The faint, far murmur of the breaking flood. / We hear the sea. The Sea? It is the blood / In our own veins, impetuous and near", Eugene Lee-Hamilton, Sonnet. Sea-shell Murmurs'.
Was it a friend or foe that spread these lies?
Nay, who but infants question in such wise,
'T was one of my most intimate enemies.
Fragment, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
If the light is
It is because God said 'Let there be light.'
At Sunrise, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
Thou fill'st from the wingèd chalice of the soul
Thy lamp, O Memory, fire-wingèd to its goal.
Mnemosyne, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
The blessed damozel lean'd out
From the gold bar of Heaven;
Her eyes were deeper than the depth
Of waters still'd at even;
She had three lilies in her hand,
And the stars in her hair were seven.
Around her, lovers, newly met
'Mid deathless love's acclaims,
Spoke evermore among themselves
Their heart-remember'd names;
And the souls mounting up to God
Went by her like thin flames.
From the fix'd place of Heaven she saw
Time like a pulse shake fierce
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 curl'd moon
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.
We two will stand beside that shrine,
Occult, withheld, untrod,
Whose lamps are stirr'd 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
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.
A Sonnet is a moment's monument,—
Memorial from the Soul's eternity
To one dead deathless hour.
At length their long kiss severed, with sweet smart:
And as the last slow sudden drops are shed
From sparkling eaves when all the storm has fled,
So singly flagged the pulses of each heart.
Beauty like hers is genius.
Genius in Beauty.
Even as the moon grows queenlier in mid-space
When the sky darkens, and her cloud-rapt car
Thrills with intenser radiance from afar,—
So lambent, lady, beams thy sovereign grace
When the drear soul desires thee.
And Love, our light at night and shade at noon,
Lulls us to rest with songs, and turns away
All shafts of shelterless tumultuous day.
Each hour until we meet is as a bird
That wings from far his gradual way along
The rustling covert of my soul.
Sometimes thou seem'st not as thyself alone,
But as the meaning of all things that are.
Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been;
I am also called No-more, Too-late, Farewell.
Eat thou and drink; to-morrow thou shalt die.
Surely the earth, that's wise being very old,
Needs not our help. Then loose me, love, and hold
Thy sultry hair up from my face; that I
May pour for thee this golden wine, brim-high,
Till round the glass thy fingers glow like gold.
We'll drown all hours: thy song, while hours are toll'd,
Shall leap, as fountains veil the changing sky.
Now kiss, and think that there are really those,
My own high-bosom'd beauty, who increase
Vain gold, vain lore, and yet might choose our way!
Through many years they toil; then on a day
They die not, — for their life was death, — but cease;
And round their narrow lips the mould falls close.
Watch thou and fear; to-morrow thou shalt die.
Now while we speak, the sun speeds forth: can I
Or thou assure him of his goal? God's breath
Even at this moment haply quickeneth
The air to a flame; till spirits, always nigh
Though screen'd and hid, shall walk the daylight here.
Think thou and act; to-morrow thou shalt die
Outstretch'd in the sun's warmth upon the shore,
Thou say'st: "Man's measur'd path is all gone o'er:
Up all his years, steeply, with strain and sigh,
Man clomb until he touch'd the truth; and I,
Even I, am he whom it was destin'd for."
How should this be? Art thou then so much more
Than they who sow'd, that thou shouldst reap thereby?
Nay, come up hither. From this wave-wash'd mound Unto the furthest flood-brim look with me;
Then reach on with thy thought till it be drown'd.
Miles and miles distant though the last line be,
And though thy soul sail leagues and leagues beyond,—
Still, leagues beyond those leagues, there is more sea.
Rossetti makes the remark somewhere, bitterly but with great truth, that the worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.
G. K. Chesterton in St. Francis of Assisi (1923), p. 88; "The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank" has now become widely quoted as a statement of Rossetti, but without citation of a source, and there seems to be no publication of such a statement earlier than this one of Chesterton, which could be in some ways erroneous, as he himself does not cite a source.