The Blessed Damozel.



                
The blessed Damozel leaned out
  From the gold bar of Heaven :
Her blue grave eyes were deeper much
  Than a deep water, 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
  On the neck meetly worn ;
And her hair, lying down 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, here 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 terrace of God's house
  That she was standing on,--
By God built over the sheer depth
  In which Space is begun ;
So high, that looking downward thence,
  She could scarce see the sun.

It lies from Heaven across the flood
  Of ether, as a bridge.
Beneath, the tides of day and night
  With flame and blackness ridge
The void, as low as where this earth
  Spins like a fretful midge.

81

But in those tracts, with her, it was The peace of utter light And silence. For no breeze may stir Along the steady flight O seraphim ; no echo there, Beyond all depth or height. Heard hardly, some of her new friends, Playing at holy games, Spake, gentle-mouthed, among themselves, Their virginal chaste names ; And the souls, mounting up to God, Went by her like thin flames. And still she bowed herself, and stooped Into the vast waste calm ; Till her bosom's pressure must have made The bar she leaned on warm, And the lilies lay as if asleep Along her bended arm. From the fixt lull of heaven, she saw Time, like a pulse, shake fierce Through all the worlds. Her gaze still strove, In that steep gulph, to pierce The swarm : and then she spake, as when The stars sang in their spheres. "I wish that he were come to me, For he will come," she said. "Have I not prayed in solemn heaven ? On earth, has he not prayed ? 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, And we will step down as to a stream And bathe there in God's sight. "We two will stand beside that shrine, Occult, withheld, untrod, Whose lamps tremble continually With prayer sent up to God ; And where each need, revealed, expects Its patient period. 82

"We two will lie i' the shadow of That living mystic tree Within whose secret growth the Dove Sometimes is 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 mouth Shall pause in, hushed and slow, Finding some knowledge at each pause And some new thing to know." (Alas ! to her wise simple mind These things were all but known Before : they trembled on her sense,-- Her voice had caught their tone. Alas for lonely Heaven ! Alas For life wrung out alone ! Alas, and though the end were reached ?........ Was thy part understood Or borne in trust ? And for her sake Shall this too be found good ?-- May the close lips that knew not prayer Praise ever, though they would ?) "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. "Circle-wise sit they, with bound locks And bosoms covered ; 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 I will 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. 83

"Herself shall bring us, hand in hand, To Him round whom all souls Kneel--the unnumber'd solemn 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 :-- To have more blessing than on earth In nowise ; but to be As then we were,--being as then At peace. Yea, verily. "Yea, verily ; when he is come We will do thus and thus : Till this my vigil seem quite strange And almost fabulous ; We two will live at once, one life ; And peace shall be with us." She gazed, and listened, and then said, Less sad of speech than mild : "All this is when he comes." She ceased ; The light thrilled past her, filled With Angels, in strong level lapse. Her eyes prayed, and she smiled. (I saw her smile.) But soon their flight Was vague 'mid the poised spheres. And then she cast her arms along The golden barriers, And laid her face between her hands, And wept. (I heard her tears.)


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Last modified 5/11/95