Love's Nocturn

Original Text: 
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Poems (Boston: Roberts Bros., 1870). PR 5240 E70 ROBA.
1  Master of the murmuring courts
2    Where the shapes of sleep convene!--
3Lo! my spirit here exhorts
4    All the powers of thy demesne
5    For their aid to woo my queen.
6       What reports
7    Yield thy jealous courts unseen?
8  Vaporous, unaccountable,
9    Dreamland lies forlorn of light,
10Hollow like a breathing shell.
11    Ah! that from all dreams I might
12    Choose one dream and guide its flight!
13       I know well
14    What her sleep should tell to-night.
15  There the dreams are multitudes:
16    Some that will not wait for sleep,
17Deep within the August woods;
18    Some that hum while rest may steep
19    Weary labour laid a-heap;
20       Interludes,
21    Some, of grievous moods that weep.
22  Poets' fancies all are there:
23    There the elf-girls flood with wings
24Valleys full of plaintive air;
25    There breathe perfumes; there in rings
26    Whirl the foam-bewildered springs;
27       Siren there
28    Winds her dizzy hair and sings.
29  Thence the one dream mutually
30    Dreamed in bridal unison,
31Less than waking ecstasy;
32    Half-formed visions that make moan
33    In the house of birth alone;
34       And what we
35    At death's wicket see, unknown.
36  But for mine own sleep, it lies
37    In one gracious form's control,
38Fair with honourable eyes,
39    Lamps of a translucent soul:
40    O their glance is loftiest dole,
41       Sweet and wise,
42    Wherein Love descries his goal.
43  Reft of her, my dreams are all
44    Clammy trance that fears the sky:
45Changing footpaths shift and fall;
46    From polluted coverts nigh,
47    Miserable phantoms sigh;
48       Quakes the pall,
49    And the funeral goes by.
50  Master, is it soothly said
51    That, as echoes of man's speech
52Far in secret clefts are made,
53    So do all men's bodies reach
54    Shadows o'er thy sunken beach,--
55       Shape or shade
56    In those halls pourtrayed of each?
57  Ah! might I, by thy good grace
58    Groping in the windy stair,
59(Darkness and the breath of space
60    Like loud waters everywhere,)
61    Meeting mine own image there
62       Face to face,
63    Send it from that place to her!
64  Nay, not I; but oh! do thou,
65    Master, from thy shadowkind
66Call my body's phantom now:
67    Bid it bear its face declin'd
68    Till its flight her slumbers find,
69       And her brow
70    Feel its presence bow like wind.
71  Where in groves the gracile Spring
72    Trembles, with mute orison
73Confidently strengthening,
74    Water's voice and wind's as one
75    Shed an echo in the sun.
76       Soft as Spring,
77    Master, bid it sing and moan.
78  Song shall tell how glad and strong
79    Is the night she soothes alway;
80Moan shall grieve with that parched tongue
81    Of the brazen hours of day:
82    Sounds as of the springtide they,
83       Moan and song,
84    While the chill months long for May.
85  Not the prayers which with all leave
86    The world's fluent woes prefer,--
87Not the praise the world doth give,
88    Dulcet fulsome whisperer;--
89    Let it yield my love to her,
90       And achieve
91    Strength that shall not grieve or err.
92  Wheresoe'er my dreams befall,
93    Both at night-watch, (let it say,)
94And where round the sundial
95    The reluctant hours of day,
96    Heartless, hopeless of their way,
97       Rest and call;--
98    There her glance doth fall and stay.
99  Suddenly her face is there:
100    So do mounting vapours wreathe
101Subtle-scented transports where
102    The black firwood sets its teeth.
103    Part the boughs and look beneath,--
104       Lilies share
105    Secret waters there, and breathe.
106  Master, bid my shadow bend
107    Whispering thus till birth of light,
108Lest new shapes that sleep may send
109    Scatter all its work to flight;--
110    Master, master of the night,
111       Bid it spend
112    Speech, song, prayer, and end aright.
113  Yet, ah me! if at her head
114    There another phantom lean
115Murmuring o'er the fragrant bed,--
116    Ah! and if my spirit's queen
117    Smile those alien prayers between,--
118       Ah! poor shade!
119    Shall it strive, or fade unseen?
120  How should love's own messenger
121    Strive with love and be love's foe?
122Master, nay! If thus, in her,
123    Sleep a wedded heart should show,--
124    Silent let mine image go,
125       Its old share
126    Of thy spell-bound air to know.
127  Like a vapour wan and mute,
128    Like a flame, so let it pass;
129One low sigh across her lute,
130    One dull breath against her glass;
131    And to my sad soul, alas!
132       One salute
133    Cold as when Death's foot shall pass.
134  Then, too, let all hopes of mine,
135    All vain hopes by night and day,
136Slowly at thy summoning sign
137    Rise up pallid and obey.
138    Dreams, if this is thus, were they:--
139       Be they thine,
140    And to dreamworld pine away.
141  Yet from old time, life, not death,
142    Master, in thy rule is rife:
143Lo! through thee, with mingling breath,
144    Adam woke beside his wife.
145    O Love bring me so, for strife,
146       Force and faith,
147    Bring me so not death but life!
148  Yea, to Love himself is pour'd
149    This frail song of hope and fear.
150Thou art Love, of one accord
151    With kind Sleep to bring her near,
152    Still-eyed, deep-eyed, ah how dear.
153       Master, Lord,
154    In her name implor'd, O hear!
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
J. D. Robins
RPO Edition: 
2RP 2.574.