The Blessed Damozel

(February 1850) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The blessed damozel leaned out From the gold bar of Heaven; Her eyes were deeper than the depth Of waters stilled at even; She had three lilies in her hand, And the stars in her hair were seven. Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem, No wrought flowers did adorn, But a white rose of Mary’s gift, For service meetly worn; Her hair that lay along her back Was yellow like ripe corn. Herseemed she scarce had been a day One of God’s choristers; The wonder was not yet quite gone From that still look of hers; Albeit, to them she left, her day Had counted as ten years. (To one, it is ten years of years. . . . Yet now, and in this place, Surely she leaned o’er me—her hair Fell all about my face. . . . Nothing: the autumn-fall of leaves. The whole year sets apace.) It was the rampart of God’s house That she was standing on; By God built over the sheer depth The which is Space begun; So high, that looking downward thence She scarce could see the sun. It lies in Heaven, across the flood Of ether, as a bridge. Beneath, the tides of day and night With flame and darkness ridge The void, as low as where this earth Spins like a fretful midge. Around her, lovers, newly met ’Mid deathless love’s acclaims, Spoke evermore among themselves Their heart-remembered names; And the souls mounting up to God Went by her like thin flames. And still she bowed herself and stooped Out of the circling charm; Until her bosom must have made The bar she leaned on warm, And the lilies lay as if asleep Along her bended arm. From the fixed 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 curled 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 of the stars Had when they sang together. (Ah sweet! Even now, in that bird’s song, Strove not her accents there, Fain to be hearkened? When those bells Possessed the mid-day air, Strove not her steps to reach my side Down all the echoing stair?) ‘I wish that he were come to me, For he will come,’ she said. ‘Have I not prayed in Heaven?—on earth, Lord, Lord, has he not pray’d? Are not two prayers a perfect strength? And shall I feel afraid? ‘When round his head the aureole clings, And he is clothed in white, I’ll take his hand and go with him To the deep wells of light; As unto a stream we will step down, And bathe there in God’s sight. ‘We two will stand beside that shrine, Occult, withheld, untrod, Whose lamps are stirred 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. ‘And I myself will teach to him, I myself, lying so, The songs I sing here; which his voice Shall pause in, hushed and slow, And find some knowledge at each pause, Or some new thing to know.’ (Alas! We two, we two, thou say’st! Yea, one wast thou with me That once of old. But shall God lift To endless unity The soul whose likeness with thy soul Was but its love for thee?) ‘We two,’ she said, ‘will seek the groves Where the lady Mary is, With her five handmaidens, whose names Are five sweet symphonies, Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen, Margaret and Rosalys. ‘Circlewise sit they, with bound locks And foreheads garlanded; Into the fine cloth white like flame Weaving the golden thread, To fashion the birth-robes for them Who are just born, being dead. ‘He shall fear, haply, and be dumb: Then will I lay my cheek To his, and tell about our love, Not once abashed or weak: And the dear Mother will approve My pride, and let me speak. ‘Herself shall bring us, hand in hand, To him round whom all souls Kneel, the clear-ranged unnumbered heads Bowed with their aureoles: And angels meeting us shall sing To their citherns and citoles. ‘There will I ask of Christ the Lord Thus much for him and me:— Only to live as once on earth With Love,—only to be, As then awhile, for ever now Together, I and he.’ She gazed and listened and then said, Less sad of speech than mild,— ’All this is when he comes.’ She ceased. The light thrilled towards her, fill’d With angels in strong level flight. Her eyes prayed, and she smil’d. (I saw her smile.) But soon their path Was vague in distant spheres: And then she cast her arms along The golden barriers, And laid her face between her hands, And wept. (I heard her tears.)