The Stream's Secret
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Poems (London: Ellis and White, 1881). end R677 A155 1881 (Fisher Library).
1 What thing unto mine ear
2 Wouldst thou convey,--what secret thing,
3O wandering water ever whispering?
4 Surely thy speech shall be of her.
5Thou water, O thou whispering wanderer,
6 What message dost thou bring?
7 Say, hath not Love leaned low
8 This hour beside thy far well-head,
9And there through jealous hollowed fingers said
10 The thing that most I long to know--
11Murmuring with curls all dabbled in thy flow
12 And washed lips rosy red?
13 He told it to thee there
14 Where thy voice hath a louder tone;
15But where it welters to this little moan
16 His will decrees that I should hear.
17Now speak: for with the silence is no fear,
18 And I am all alone.
19 Shall Time not still endow
20 One hour with life, and I and she
21Slake in one kiss the thirst of memory?
22 Say, streams, lest Love should disavow
23Thy service, and the bird upon the bough
24 Sing first to tell it me.
25 What whisperest thou? Nay, why
26 Name the dead hours? I mind them well.
27Their ghosts in many darkened doorways dwell
28 With desolate eyes to know them by.
29That hour must still be born ere it can die
30 Of that I'd have thee tell.
31 But hear, before thou speak!
32 Withhold, I pray, the vain behest
33That while the maze hath still its bower for quest
34 My burning heart should cease to seek.
35Be sure that Love ordained for souls more meek
36 His roadside dells of rest.
37 Stream, when this silver thread
38 In flood-time is a torrent brown,
39May any bulwark bind thy foaming crown?
40 Shall not the waters surge and spread
41And to the crannied boulders of their bed
42 Still shoot the dead drift down?
43 Let no rebuke find place
44 In speech of thine: or it shall prove
45That thou dost ill expound the words of Love.
46 Even as thine eddy's rippling race
47Would blur the perfect image of his face
48 I will have none thereof.
49 O learn and understand
50 That 'gainst the wrongs himself did wreak
51Love sought her aid; until her shadowy cheek
52 And eyes beseeching gave command;
53And compassed in her close compassionate hand
54 My heart must burn and speak.
55 For then at last we spoke
56 What eyes so oft had told to eyes
57Through that long-lingering silence whose half-sighs
58 Alone the buried secret broke,
59Which with snatched hands and lips' reverberate stroke
60 Then from the heart did rise.
61 But she is far away
62 Now; nor the hours of night grown hoar
63Bring yet to me, long gazing from the door,
64 The wind-stirred robe of roseate gray
65And rose-crown of the hour that leads the day
66 When we shall meet once more.
67 Dark as thy blinded wave
68 When brimming midnight floods the glen,--
69Bright as the laughter of thy runnels when
70 The dawn yields all the light they crave;
71Even so these hours to wound and that to save
72 Are sisters in Love's ken.
73 Oh sweet her bending grace
74 Then when I kneel beside her feet;
75And sweet her eyes' o'erhanging heaven; and sweet
76 The gathering folds of her embrace;
77And her fall'n hair at last shed round my face
78 When breaths and tears shall meet.
79 Beneath her sheltering hair,
80 In the warm silence near her breast,
81Our kisses and our sobs shall sink to rest;
82 As in some still trance made aware
83That day and night have wrought to fulness there
84 And Love has built our nest.
85 And as in the dim grove,
86 When the rains cease that hushed them long,
87'Mid glistening boughs the song-birds wake to song,--
88 So from our hearts deep-shrined in love,
89While the leaves throb beneath, around, above,
90 The quivering notes shall throng.
91 Till tenderest words found vain
92 Draw back to wonder mute and deep,
93And closed lips in closed arms a silence keep,
94 Subdued by memory's circling strain,--
95The wind-rapt sound that the wind brings again
96 While all the willows weep.
97 Then by her summoning art
98 Shall memory conjure back the sere
99Autumnal Springs, from many a dying year
100 Born dead; and, bitter to the heart,
101The very ways where now we walk apart
102 Who then shall cling so near.
103 And with each thought new-grown,
104 Some sweet caress or some sweet name
105Low-breathed shall let me know her thought the same:
106 Making me rich with every tone
107And touch of the dear heaven so long unknown
108 That filled my dreams with flame.
109 Pity and love shall burn
110 In her pressed cheek and cherishing hands;
111And from the living spirit of love that stands
112 Between her lips to soothe and yearn,
113Each separate breath shall clasp me round in turn
114 And loose my spirit's bands.
115 Oh passing sweet and dear,
116 Then when the worshipped form and face
117Are felt at length in darkling close embrace;
118 Round which so oft the sun shone clear,
119With mocking light and pitiless atmosphere,
120 In many an hour and place.
121 Ah me! with what proud growth
122 Shall that hour's thirsting race be run;
123While, for each several sweetness still begun
124 Afresh, endures love's endless drouth;
125Sweet hands, sweet hair, sweet cheeks, sweet eyes, sweet mouth,
126 Each singly wooed and won.
127 Yet most with the sweet soul
128 Shall love's espousals then be knit;
129What time the governing cloud sheds peace from it
130 O'er tremulous wings that touch the goal,
131And on the unmeasured height of Love's control
132 The lustral fires are lit.
133 Therefore, when breast and cheek
134 Now part, from long embraces free,--
135Each on the other gazing shall but see
136 A self that has no need to speak:
137All things unsought, yet nothing more to seek,--
138 One love in unity.
139 O water wandering past,--
140 Albeit to thee I speak this thing,
141O water, thou that wanderest whispering,
142 Thou keep'st thy counsel to the last.
143What spell upon thy bosom should Love cast,
144 Its secret thence to wring?
145 Nay, must thou hear the tale
146 Of the past days,--the heavy debt
147Of life that obdurate time withholds,--ere yet
148 To win thine ear these prayers prevail,
149And by thy voice Love's self with high All-hail
150 Yield up the amulet?
151 How should all this be told?--
152 All the sad sum of wayworn days,--
153Heart's anguish in the impenetrable maze;
154 And on the waste uncoloured wold
155The visible burthen of the sun grown cold
156 And the moon's labouring gaze?
157 Alas! shall hope be nurs'd
158 On life's all-succouring breast in vain,
159And made so perfect only to be slain?
160 Or shall not rather the sweet thirst
161Even yet rejoice the heart with warmth dispers'd
162 And strength grown fair again?
163 Stands it not by the door!--
164 Love's Hour--Till she and I shall meet
165With bodiless form and unapparent feet
166 That cast no shadow yet before,
167Though round its head the dawn begins to pour
168 The breath that makes day sweet?
169 Its eyes invisible
170 Watch till the dial's thin-thrown shade
171Be born,--yea, till the journeying line be laid
172 Upon the point that wakes the spell,
173And there in lovelier light than tongue can tell
174 Its presence stands array'd.
175 Its soul remembers yet
176 Those sunless hours that passed it by;
177And still it hears the night's disconsolate cry,
178 And feels the branches wringing wet
179Cast on its brow, that may not once forget,
180 Dumb tears from the blind sky.
181 But oh! when now her foot
182Draws near, for whose sake night and day
183 Were long in weary longing sighed away,--
184The hour of Love, 'mid airs grown mute,
185 Shall sing beside the door, and Love's own lute
186 Thrill to the passionate lay.
187 Thou know'st, for Love has told
188 Within thine ear, O stream, how soon
189That song shall lift its sweet appointed tune.
190 O tell me, for my lips are cold,
191And in my veins the blood is waxing old
192 Even while I beg the boon.
193 So, in that hour of sighs
194 Assuaged, shall we beside this stone
195Yield thanks for grace; while in thy mirror shown
196 The twofold image softly lies,
197Until we kiss, and each in other's eyes
198 Is imaged all alone.
199 Still silent? Can no art
200 Of Love's then move thy pity? Nay,
201To thee let nothing come that owns his sway:
202 Let happy lovers have no part
203With thee; nor even so sad and poor a heart
204 As thou hast spurned to-day.
205 To-day? Lo! night is here.
206 The glen grows heavy with some veil
207Risen from the earth or fall'n to make earth pale;
208 And all stands hushed to eye and ear,
209Until the night-wind shake the shade like fear
210 And every covert quail.
211 Ah! by another wave
212 On other airs the hour must come
213Which to thy heart, my love, shall call me home.
214 Between the lips of the low cave
215Against that night the lapping waters lave,
216 And the dark lips are dumb.
217 But there Love's self doth stand,
218 And with Life's weary wings far flown,
219And with Death's eyes that make the water moan,
220 Gathers the water in his hand:
221And they that drink know nought of sky or land
222 But only love alone.
223 O soul-sequestered face
224 Far off,--O were that night but now!
225So even beside that stream even I and thou
226 Through thirsting lips should draw Love's grace,
227And in the zone of that supreme embrace
228 Bind aching breast and brow.
229 O water whispering
230 Still through the dark into mine ears,--
231As with mine eyes, is it not now with hers?--
232 Mine eyes that add to thy cold spring,
233Wan water, wandering water weltering,
234 This hidden tide of tears.
Publication Start Year:
RPO poem Editors:
W. J. Alexander; William Hall Clawson
RP (1916), pp. 414-16 RPO 1997.