Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Here you will find the Long Poem Love's Nocturn of poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Love's Nocturn

Master of the murmuring courts
 Where the shapes of sleep convene!--
 Lo! my spirit here exhorts
 All the powers of thy demesne
 For their aid to woo my queen.
 What reports
 Yield thy jealous courts unseen?

 Vaporous, unaccountable,
 Dreamland lies forlorn of light,
 Hollow like a breathing shell.
 Ah! that from all dreams I might
 Choose one dream and guide its flight!
 I know well
 What her sleep should tell to-night.

 There the dreams are multitudes:
 Some that will not wait for sleep,
 Deep within the August woods;
 Some that hum while rest may steep
 Weary labour laid a-heap;
 Some, of grievous moods that weep.

 Poets' fancies all are there:
 There the elf-girls flood with wings
 Valleys full of plaintive air;
 There breathe perfumes; there in rings
 Whirl the foam-bewildered springs;
 Siren there
 Winds her dizzy hair and sings.

 Thence the one dream mutually
 Dreamed in bridal unison,
 Less than waking ecstasy;
 Half-formed visions that make moan
 In the house of birth alone;
 And what we
 At death's wicket see, unknown.

 But for mine own sleep, it lies
 In one gracious form's control,
 Fair with honourable eyes,
 Lamps of a translucent soul:
 O their glance is loftiest dole,
 Sweet and wise,
 Wherein Love descries his goal.

 Reft of her, my dreams are all
 Clammy trance that fears the sky:
 Changing footpaths shift and fall;
 From polluted coverts nigh,
 Miserable phantoms sigh;
 Quakes the pall,
 And the funeral goes by.

 Master, is it soothly said
 That, as echoes of man's speech
 Far in secret clefts are made,
 So do all men's bodies reach
 Shadows o'er thy sunken beach,--
 Shape or shade
 In those halls pourtrayed of each?

 Ah! might I, by thy good grace
 Groping in the windy stair,
 (Darkness and the breath of space
 Like loud waters everywhere,)
 Meeting mine own image there
 Face to face,
 Send it from that place to her!

 Nay, not I; but oh! do thou,
 Master, from thy shadowkind
 Call my body's phantom now:
 Bid it bear its face declin'd
 Till its flight her slumbers find,
 And her brow
 Feel its presence bow like wind.

 Where in groves the gracile Spring
 Trembles, with mute orison
 Confidently strengthening,
 Water's voice and wind's as one
 Shed an echo in the sun.
 Soft as Spring,
 Master, bid it sing and moan.

 Song shall tell how glad and strong
 Is the night she soothes alway;
 Moan shall grieve with that parched tongue
 Of the brazen hours of day:
 Sounds as of the springtide they,
 Moan and song,
 While the chill months long for May.

 Not the prayers which with all leave
 The world's fluent woes prefer,--
 Not the praise the world doth give,
 Dulcet fulsome whisperer;--
 Let it yield my love to her,
 And achieve
 Strength that shall not grieve or err.

 Wheresoe'er my dreams befall,
 Both at night-watch, (let it say,)
 And where round the sundial
 The reluctant hours of day,
 Heartless, hopeless of their way,
 Rest and call;--
 There her glance doth fall and stay.

 Suddenly her face is there:
 So do mounting vapours wreathe
 Subtle-scented transports where
 The black firwood sets its teeth.
 Part the boughs and look beneath,--
 Lilies share
 Secret waters there, and breathe.

 Master, bid my shadow bend
 Whispering thus till birth of light,
 Lest new shapes that sleep may send
 Scatter all its work to flight;--
 Master, master of the night,
 Bid it spend
 Speech, song, prayer, and end aright.

 Yet, ah me! if at her head
 There another phantom lean
 Murmuring o'er the fragrant bed,--
 Ah! and if my spirit's queen
 Smile those alien prayers between,--
 Ah! poor shade!
 Shall it strive, or fade unseen?

 How should love's own messenger
 Strive with love and be love's foe?
 Master, nay! If thus, in her,
 Sleep a wedded heart should show,--
 Silent let mine image go,
 Its old share
 Of thy spell-bound air to know.

 Like a vapour wan and mute,
 Like a flame, so let it pass;
 One low sigh across her lute,
 One dull breath against her glass;
 And to my sad soul, alas!
 One salute
 Cold as when Death's foot shall pass.

 Then, too, let all hopes of mine,
 All vain hopes by night and day,
 Slowly at thy summoning sign
 Rise up pallid and obey.
 Dreams, if this is thus, were they:--
 Be they thine,
 And to dreamworld pine away.

 Yet from old time, life, not death,
 Master, in thy rule is rife:
 Lo! through thee, with mingling breath,
 Adam woke beside his wife.
 O Love bring me so, for strife,
 Force and faith,
 Bring me so not death but life!

 Yea, to Love himself is