Ruin

by Christina Rossetti

Amid the shade of a deserted hall
I stand and think on how much that hath been lost.
How long it is since other step has cross'd
This time-worn floor; that tapestry is all
Worm-eaten; and those columns rise up tall
Yet crumbling to decay; where banners toss'd
Thin spiders' webs hang now; and bitter frost
Has even killed the flowers upon the wall.
Yet once this was a home brim full of life,
Full of hopes and fears and love of youth,
Full of love's language speaking without sound;
Here honour was enshrined and kindly truth;
Hither the young lord brought his blushing wife,
And here her bridal garlands were unbound.

I sit among green shady valleys oft
Listening to the echo-winds sighing of woe;
The grass and flowers are strong and sweet below,
Yea, I am tired and the smooth turf is soft.
I sit and think and never look aloft
Save to the tops of a tall poplar row
That glistens in the wind, whispering low
Of sudden sorrow reaching those who laughed.
A very drowsy fountain bubbles near
Catching pale sunbeams o'er it wandering;
Its waters are so clear the stones look through:--
Then sitting by its lazy stream I hear
Silence more loud than any other thing,
What time the trees weep o'er me honeydew.

Listen, and I will tell you of a face
Not lovely, but made beautiful by mind;
Lighted up with dark eyes in which you find
All womanly affections have their place;
Upon her even brow there is no trace
Of passion; many fragrant blossoms bind
Her hair glossy and golden; like a blind
It shadows her round cheeks blush full of grace.
I know now how it is, but it was so:
And when I think upon her bosom heaving,
And her full glistening eyes looking on me
When the poor bird was struggling; I still see
The throbbing tenderness, the virgin glow,
And dream on, not at rest and yet believing.

Wouldst thou give me a heavy jewelled crown
And purple mantle and embroidered vest?
Dear Child, the colours of the glorious west
Are far more gorgeous when the sun sinks down.
The diadem would only make me frown
With its own weight; nay, give me for my crest
Pale violets dreaming in perfect rest,
Or rather leaves withered to Autumn brown.
A purple flowing mantle would but hinder
My careless walk, and and an embroidered robe
Would shame me: what is the best man who stepped
On earth, more than the naked worm that crept
Over its surface? Earth shall be a cinder;
Where shall be then the beauty of the globe?

I said within myself: I am a fool
To sigh ever for for that which being gone
Cannot return: the sun shines as it shone;
Rejoice:--but who can be made glad by rule?
My heart and soul and spirit are no tool
To play with and direct; my cheek is wan
With memory; and ever and anon
I weep feeling life is a weary school
There is much noise and bustle in the street;
It used to be so, and it is so now;
All are the same, and will be many a year.
Spirit, that canst not break and wilt not bow,
Fear not the cold, thou who hast borne the heat:--
Die if thou wilt; but what hast thou to fear?

Methinks the ills of life I fain would shun;
But then I must shun life which is a blank;
Even in my childhood oft my spirit sank
Thinking of all that had still to be done.
Among my many friends there is not one
Like her with whom I sat upon the bank
Willow-o'er-shadowed; from whose lips I drank
A love more pure than streams that sing and run.
But many times that joy has cost a sigh;
And many times I in my heart have sought
For the old comfort, and not found it yet:
Surely in the calm day when I shall die
The painful thought will be a blessed thought,
And I shall sorrow that I must forget.

Strange voices sing among the planets which
Move on for ever; in the old sea's foam
There is a prophecy; in Heaven's blue dome
Great beacon fires are lighted; black as pitch
Is night, and yet star jewels make it rich;
And if the moon lights up her cloudy home
The darkness flees, and forth strange gleamings roam
Lighting up hill and vale and mound and ditch.
Earth is full of all questions that all ask;
And she alone of heavy silence full
Answereth not: what is it severeth
Us from the spirits that we would be with?
Or is it that our fleshly ear is dull,
And our own shadow hides light with a mask?

 

 

Title:

Ruin

Poet:

Rossetti, Christina

Form:

Bouts-rimes

Literary Period:

Pre-Raphaelite