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"Rosaline" by James Russell Lowell

The following is the complete text of James Russell Lowell's "Rosaline." The various books, short stories and poems we offer are presented free of charge with absolutely no advertising as a public service from Internet Accuracy Project.

Visit these other works by James Russell Lowell
"The Bobolink"
The Chief Mate
"The Courtin'"
"The Departed"
"A Dirge"
"A Glance Behind the Curtain"
"An Incident of the Fire at Hamburg"

"New Year's Eve, 1844"
"On the Death of a Friend's Child"
"The Pious Editor's Creed"
"The Present Crisis"
Lowell's Short Poems and Sonnets
"The Sirens"
"To The Future"

To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.

Potential uses for the free books, stories and prose we offer
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* Bibliophiles expanding their collection of public domain ebooks at no cost.
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NOTE: We try to present these classic literary works as they originally appeared in print. As such, they sometimes contain adult themes, offensive language, typographical errors, and often utilize unconventional, older, obsolete or intentionally incorrect spelling and/or punctuation conventions.

"Rosaline" by James Russell Lowell


by James Russell Lowell

Thou look'd'st on me all yesternight,
Thine eyes were blue, thy hair was bright
As when we murmured our troth-plight
Beneath the thick stars, Rosaline!
Thy hair was braided on thy head,
As on the day we two were wed,
Mine eyes scarce knew if thou wert dead,
But my shrunk heart knew, Rosaline!

The death-watch ticked behind the wall,
The blackness rustled like a pall,
The moaning wind did rise and fall
Among the bleak pines, Rosaline!
My heart beat thickly in mine ears:
The lids may shut out fleshly fears,
But still the spirit sees and hears,
Its eyes are lidless, Rosaline!

A wildness rushing suddenly,
A knowing some ill shape is nigh,
A wish for death, a fear to die--
Is not this vengeance, Rosaline?
A loneliness that is not lone,
A love quite withered up and gone,
A strong soul trampled from its throne--
What would'st thou further, Rosaline?

'Tis lone such moonless nights as these,
Strange sounds are out upon the breeze,
And the leaves shiver in the trees,
And then thou comest, Rosaline!
I seem to hear the mourners go,
With long black garments trailing slow,
And plumes anodding to and fro,
As once I heard them, Rosaline!

Thy shroud it is of snowy white,
And, in the middle of the night,
Thou standest moveless and upright,
Gazing upon me, Rosaline!
There is no sorrow in thine eyes,
But evermore that meek surprise--
Oh God! her gentle spirit tries
To deem me guiltless, Rosaline!

Above thy grave the robin sings,
And swarms of bright and happy things
Flit all about with sunlit wings--
But I am cheerless, Rosaline!
The violets on the hillock toss,
The gravestone is o'ergrown with moss,
For nature feels not any loss--
But I am cheerless, Rosaline!

Ah! why wert thou so lowly bred?
Why was my pride galled on to wed
Her who brought lands and gold instead
Of thy heart's treasure, Rosaline!
Why did I fear to let thee stay
To look on me and pass away
Forgivingly, as in its May,
A broken flower, Rosaline!

I thought not, when my dagger strook,
Of thy blue eyes; I could not brook
The past all pleading in one look
Of utter sorrow, Rosaline!
I did not know when thou wert dead:
A blackbird whistling overhead
Thrilled through my brain; I would have fled
But dared not leave thee, Rosaline!

A low, low moan, a light twig stirred
By the upspringing of a bird,
A drip of blood--were all I heard--
Then deathly stillness, Rosaline!
The sun rolled down, and very soon,
Like a great fire, the awful moon
Rose, stained with blood, and then a swoon
Crept chilly o'er me, Rosaline!

The stars came out; and, one by one,
Each angel from his silver throne
Looked down and saw what I had done:
I dared not hide me, Rosaline!
I crouched; I feared thy corpse would cry
Against me to God's quiet sky,
I thought I saw the blue lips try
To utter something, Rosaline!

I waited with a maddened grin
To hear that voice all icy thin
Slide forth and tell my deadly sin
To hell and Heaven, Rosaline!
But no voice came, and then it seemed
That if the very corpse had screamed,
The sound like sunshine glad had streamed
Through that dark stillness, Rosaline!

Dreams of old quiet glimmered by,
And faces loved in infancy
Came and looked on me mournfully,
Till my heart melted, Rosaline!
I saw my mother's dying bed,
I heard her bless me, and I shed
Cool tears--but lo! the ghastly dead
Stared me to madness, Rosaline!

And then, amid the silent night,
I screamed with horrible delight,
And in my brain an awful light
Did seem to crackle, Rosaline!
It is my curse! sweet mem'ries fall
From me like snow--and only all
Of that one night, like cold worms crawl
My doomed heart over, Rosaline!

Thine eyes are shut: they nevermore
Will leap thy gentle words before
To tell the secret o'er and o'er
Thou could'st not smother, Rosaline!
Thine eyes are shut: they will not shine
With happy tears, or, through the vine
That hid thy casement, beam on mine
Sunfull with gladness, Rosaline!

Thy voice I nevermore shall hear,
Which in old times did seem so dear
That, ere it trembled in mime ear,
My quick heart heard it, Rosaline!
Would I might die! I were as well,
Ay, better, at my home in Hell,
To set for ay a burning spell
'Twixt me and memory, Rosaline!

Why wilt thou haunt me with thine eyes,
Wherein such blessed memories,
Such pitying forgiveness lies,
Than hate more bitter, Rosaline!
Woe's me! I know that love so high
As thine, true soul, could never die,
And with mean clay in churchyard lie,--
Would God it were so, Rosaline!

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