Dante Gabriel Rossetti
1828 - 1882
Could you not drink her gaze like wine?
Yet, though its splendour swoon
Into the silence languidly
As a tune into a tune,
Those eyes unravel the coil'd night
And know the stars at noon.
The gold that's heap'd beside her hand
In truth rich prize it were;
And rich the dreams that wreathe her brows
With magic stillness there;
And he were rich who would unwind
That woven golden hair.
Around her, where she sits, the dance
Now breathes its eager heat;
And not more lightly or more true
Fall there the dancers' feet
Than fall her cards on the bright board,
As 'twere a heart that beat.
Her fingers let them softly through,
Smooth polish'd silent things;
And each one as it falls reflects
In swift light-shadowings,
Blood-red and purple, green and blue
The great eyes of her rings.
Whom plays she with? With thee who lovest
Those gems upon her hand;
With me, who search her secret brows;
With all men, bless'd or bann'd.
We play together, she and we,
Within a vain strange land.
A land without any order, ---
Day even as night ( one saith ), ---
Where who lieth down ariseth not
Nor the sleeper awakeneth;
A land of darkness as darkness itself
And of the shadow of death.
What be her cards? you ask. Even these:
The heart, that doth but crave
More, having fed; the diamond,
Skill'd to make base seem brave;
The club, for smiting in the dark;
The spade, to dig a grave.
And do you ask what game she plays?
With me 'tis lost or won;
With thee it is playing still; with him
It is not well begun:
But 'tis a game she plays with all
Beneath the sway o' the sun.
Thou seest the card that falls; --- she knows
The card that followeth:
Her game in thy tongue is call'd Life,
As ebbs thy daily breath:
When she shall speak, thou'lt learn her tongue,
And know she calls it Death.