- Editor's Selection of Poems (Willow Wood) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
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Editor's Selection of Poems
Willow Wood

by Dante Gabriel Rossetti


I sat with Love upon a woodside well, 
   Leaning across the water, I and he; 
   Nor ever did he speak nor looked at me, 
But touched his lute wherein was audible 
The certain secret thing he had to tell: 
   Only our mirrored eyes met silently 
   In the low wave; and that sound came to be 
The passionate voice I knew; and my tears fell. 

And at their fall, his eyes beneath grew hers; 
And with his foot and with his wing-feathers 
   He swept the spring that watered my heart's drouth. 
Then the dark ripples spread to waving hair, 
And as I stooped, her own lips rising there 
   Bubbled with brimming kisses at my mouth. 


And now Love sang: but his was such a song, 
   So meshed with half-remembrance hard to free, 
   As souls disused in death's sterility 
May sing when the new birthday tarries long. 
And I was made aware of a dumb throng 
   That stood aloof, one form by every tree, 
   All mournful forms, for each was I or she, 
The shades of those our days that had no tongue. 

They looked on us, and knew us and were known; 
   While fast together, alive from the abyss, 
   Clung the soul-wrung implacable close kiss; 
And pity of self through all made broken moan 
Which said "For once, for once, for once alone!" 
   And still Love sang, and what he sang was this:--- 


"O ye, all ye that walk in Willowwood, 
   That walk with hollow faces burning white; 
What fathom-depth of soul-struck widowhood, 
   What long, what longer hours, one lifelong night, 
Ere ye again, who so in vain have wooed 
   Your last hope lost, who so in vain invite 
Your lips to that their unforgotten food, 
   Ere ye, ere ye again shall see the light! 

Alas! the bitter banks in Willowwood, 
   With tear-spurge wan, with blood-wort burning red: 
Alas! if ever such a pillow could 
   Steep deep the soul in sleep till she were dead,--- 
Better all life forget her than this thing, 
That Willowwood should hold her wandering!" 


So sang he: and as meeting rose and rose 
   Together cling through the wind's wellaway 
   Nor change at once, yet near the end of day 
The leaves drop loosened where the heart-stain glows,--- 
So when the song died did the kiss unclose; 
   And her face fell back drowned, and was as grey 
   As its grey eyes; and if it ever may 
Meet mine again I know not if Love knows. 

Only I know that I leaned low and drank 
A long draught from the water where she sank, 
   Her breath and all her tears and all her soul: 
And as I leaned, I know I felt Love's face 
Pressed on my neck with moan of pity and grace, 
   Till both our heads were in his aureole.

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