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DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI

(1828–1882)

I believe in a future life

, Have I not had evidence

believe in a future life. Have I not had evidence

? I seen those that died long years ago ? 1

[Mr. W. M. Rossetti writes :-“As to my brother's reported assertion, 'I believe in a future life,' this was partially true at all periods of his career, and was entirely true in his closing years. It depended partly upon what we call “Spiritualism,' on many of whose manifestations he relied, while ready to admit that some others have been mere juggling.

I cannot say with any accuracy what he supposed immortality to consist of. . .. I cannot recollect having myself ever heard my brother allege that he had seen a spiritual appearance, or what we term a ghost ” (Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1895).]

לל

The lost days of my life until to-day,

What were they, could I see them on the street

Lie as they fell ? Would they be ears of wheat Sown once for food but trodden into clay ? Or golden coins squandered and still to pay ?

Or drops of blood dabbling the guilty feet ?

Or such spilt water as in dreams must cheat The undying throats of Hell, athirst alway?

1 Said in November 1881 (see Autobiography of W. B. Scott).

I do not see them here; but after death

God knows I know the faces I shall see,
Each one a murdered self, with low last breath.

“I am thyself,—what hast thou done to me?” “ And I—and I—thyself” (lo! each one saith),

“ And thou thyself to all eternity!"}

And thou, O Life, the lady of all bliss,

With whom, when our first heart beat full and fast,

I wandered till the haunts of men were pass'd,
And in fair places found all bowers amiss
Till only woods and waves might hear our kiss,

While to the winds all thought of Death we cast :

Ah, Life! and must I have from thee at last No smile to greet me and no babe but this ? Lo! Love, the child once ours; and Song, whose hair

Blew like a flame and blossomed like a wreath; And Art, whose eyes were worlds by God found fair:

These o'er the book of Nature mixed their breath With neck-twined arms, as oft we watched them there;

And did these die that thou mightst bear me Death ? 2

CHRISTINA ROSSETTI (1830–1894)

IFE is not sweet. One day it will be sweet
To shut our eyes

and die :
Nor feel the wild flowers blow, nor birds dart by

With flitting butterfly, Nor grass grow long above our heads and feet, 1 From The House of Life, Sonnet lxxxvi. (“Lost Days”).

2 lbid. Sonnet c. (“Newborn Death ”).

Nor hear the happy lark that soars sky high,
Nor sigh that spring is fleet and summer fleet,

Nor mark the waxing wheat,
Nor know who sits in our accustomed seat.

Life is not good. One day it will be good

To die, then live again;
To sleep meanwhile: so not to feel the wane
Of shrunk leaves dropping in the wood,
Nor hear the foamy lashing of the main,
Nor mark the blackened bean-fields, nor where

stood
Rich ranks of golden grain
Only dead refuse stubble clothe the plain :
Asleep from risk, asleep from pain.

The wise do send their hearts before them to

Dear blessed Heaven, despite the veil between;

The foolish nurse their hearts within the screen
Of this familiar world, where all we do
Or have is old, for there is nothing new :

Yet elder far that world we have not seen ;

God's Presence antedates what else hath been :
Many the foolish seem, the wise seem few.
Oh foolishest fond folly of a heart
Divided, neither here nor there at rest!

That hankers after Heaven, but clings to earth;
That neither here nor there knows thorough

mirth,
Half-choosing, wholly missing, the good part:-
Oh fool among the foolish, in thy quest.2

1 “ Life and Death.”

3 “ Later Life,” Sonnet xxiv.

This Life is full of numbness and of balk,

Of haltingness and baffled short-coming,

Of promise unfulfilled, of everything
That is puffed vanity and empty talk:
Its very bud hangs cankered on the stalk,

Its very song-bird trails a broken wing,

Its very Spring is not indeed like Spring,
But sighs like Autumn round an aimless walk.
This Life we live is dead for all its breath;

Death's self it is, set off on pilgrimage,
Travelling with tottering steps the first short stage:

The second stage is one mere desert dust

Where Death sits veiled amid creation's rust:Unveil thy face, O Death who art not Death.1

In life our absent friend is far

away: But death may bring our friend exceeding near,

Show him familiar faces long so dear
And lead him back in reach of words we say.
He only cannot utter yea or nay

In any voice accustomed to our ear;

He only cannot make his face appear
And turn the sun back on our shadowed day.
The dead may be around us, dear and dead;
The unforgotten dearest dead may be

Watching us with unslumbering eyes and heart Brimful of words which cannot yet be said,

Brimful of knowledge they may not impart, Brimful of love for you and love for me.?

When all the overwork of life

Is finished once, and fallen asleep 1 “Later Life,” Sonnet xxvi.

2 Ibid. Sonnet xxviii.

We shrink no more beneath the knife,

But having sown prepare to reap, Delivered from the crossway rough,

Delivered from the thorny scourge,

Delivered from the tossing surge, Then shall we find—(please God !)—it is enough?

Not in this world of hope deferred,

This world of perishable stuff;
Eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard,

Nor heart conceived that full “enough”:
Here moans the separating sea,

Here harvests fail, here breaks the heart;

Here God shall join and no man part, All one in Christ, so one—(please God !)—with me.1

Is it worth while to live,
Rejoice and grieve,
Hope, fear and die ?
Man with man, truth with lie,
The slow show dwindles by :
At last what shall we have
Besides a grave ?
Lies and shows no more,
No fear, no pain,
But after hope and sleep
Dear joys again.
Those who sowed shall reap:
Those who bore
The Cross shall wear the Crown:
Those who clomb the steep

1 From “ Time Flies," August 17.

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