Still flowed the music, flowed the wine.
The youth in silence went;
Through naked streets, in cold moonshine,
His homeward way he bent,
Where, on the city’s seaward line,
His lattice seaward leant.
He knew not why he left the throng,
But that he could not rest;
That something pained him in the song,
And mocked him in the jest;
And a cold moon-glitter lay along
One lovely lady’s breast.
He sat him down with solemn book
His sadness to beguile;
A skull from off its bracket-nook
Threw him a lipless smile;
But its awful, laughter-mocking look,
Was a passing moonbeam’s wile.
An hour he sat, and read in vain,
Nought but mirrors were his eyes;
For to and fro through his helpless brain,
Went the dance’s mysteries;
Till a gust of wind against the pane,
Mixed with a sea-bird’s cries,
And the sudden spatter of drifting rain
Bade him mark the altered skies.
The moon was gone, intombed in cloud;
The wind began to rave;
The ocean heaved within its shroud,
For the dark had built its grave;
But like ghosts brake forth, and cried aloud,
The white crests of the wave.
Big rain. The wind howled out, aware
Of the tread of the watery west;
The windows shivered, back waved his hair,
The fireside seemed the best;
But lo! a lady sat in his chair,
With the moonlight across her breast.
The moonbeam passed. The lady sat on.
Her beauty was sad and white.
All but her hair with whiteness shone,
And her hair was black as night;
And her eyes, where darkness was never gone,
Although they were full of light.
But her hair was wet, and wept like weeds
On her pearly shoulders bare;
And the clear pale drops ran down like beads,
Down her arms, to her fingers fair;
And her limbs shine through, like thin-filmed seeds,
Her dank white robe’s despair.
She moved not, but looked in his wondering face,
Till his blushes began to rise;
But she gazed, like one on the veiling lace,
To something within his eyes;
A gaze that had not to do with place,
But thought and spirit tries.
Then the voice came forth, all sweet and clear,
Though jarred by inward pain;
She spoke like one that speaks in fear
Of the judgment she will gain,
When the soul is full as a mountain-mere,
And the speech, but a flowing vein.
“Thine eyes are like mine, and thou art bold;
Nay, heap not the dying fire;
It warms not me, I am too cold,
Cold as the churchyard spire;
If thou cover me up with fold on fold,
Thou kill’st not the coldness dire.”
Her voice and her beauty, like molten gold,
Thrilled through him in burning rain.
He was on fire, and she was cold,
Cold as the waveless main;
But his heart-well filled with woe, till it rolled
A torrent that calmed him again.
“Save me, Oh, save me!” she cried; and flung
Her splendour before his feet;–
“I am weary of wandering storms among,
And I hate the mouldy sheet;
I can dare the dark, wind-vexed and wrung,
Not the dark where the dead things meet.
“Ah! though a ghost, I’m a lady still–“
The youth recoiled aghast.
With a passion of sorrow her great eyes fill;
Not a word her white lips passed.
He caught her hand; ’twas a cold to kill,
But he held it warm and fast.
“What can I do to save thee, dear?”
At the word she sprang upright.
To her ice-lips she drew his burning ear,
And whispered–he shivered–she whispered light.
She withdrew; she gazed with an asking fear;
He stood with a face ghost-white.