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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.


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