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"Look on this picture and on this" by Christina Rossetti

The following is the complete text of Christina Rossetti's "Look on this picture and on this." Be sure and visit our collection of short poems and sonnets by Christina Rossetti. To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.

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"Look on this picture and on this" by Christina Rossetti

Look on this picture and on this

by Christina Rossetti


I wish we once were wedded,--then I must be true;
You should hold my will in yours to do or to undo:
But now I hate myself Eva when I look at you.

You have seen her hazel eyes, her warm dark skin,
Dark hair--but oh those hazel eyes a devil is dancing in:--
You my saint lead up to heaven she lures down to sin.

Listen Eva I repent, indeed I do my love:
How should I choose a peacock and leave and grieve a dove?--
If I could turn my back on her and follow you above.

No it's not her beauty bloomed like an autumn peach,
Not her pomp of beauty too high for me to reach;
It's her eyes, her witching manner--ah the lore they teach

You are winning, well I know it, who should know but I?
You constrain me, I must yield or else must hasten by:--
But she, she fascinates me, I can neither fight nor fly.

She's so redundant, stately;--in truth now have you seen
Ever anywhere such beauty, such a stature, such a mien?
She may be queen of devils but she's every inch a queen.

If you sing to me, I hear her subtler sweeter still
Whispering in each tender cadence strangely sweet to fill
All that lacks in music all my soul and sense and will.

If you dance, tho' mine eyes follow where my hand I gave
I only see her presence like a sunny wave
I only feel her presence like a wind too strong to rave.

If we talk: I love you, do you love me again?--
Tho' your lips speak it's her voice I flush to hear so plain
Say: Love you? yes I love you, love can neither change nor wane.

But, you ask, "why struggle? I have given you up:
Take again your pledges, snap the cord and break the cup:
Feast you with your temptation for I in heaven will sup."--

Can I bear to think upon you strong to break not bend,
Pale with inner intense passion silent to the end,
Bear to leave you, bear to grieve you, O my dove my friend?

One short pang and you would rise a light in heaven
While we grovelled in the darkness mean and unforgiven
Tho' our cup of love brimmed sevenfold crowns of love were seven.

What shall I choose, what can I choose for you and her and me;
With you the haven of rest, with her the tossing miry sea;
Time's love with her, or choose with you love's all eternity.--

Nay, you answer coldly yet with a quivering voice:
That is over, doubt and struggle, we have sealed our choice;
Leave me to my contentment vivid with fresh hopes and joys.

Listening so, I hide mine eyes and fancy years to come:
You cherished in another home with no cares burdensome;
You straitened in a windingsheet pulseless at peace and dumb.

So I fancy--The new love has driven the old away;
She has found a dearer shelter a dearer stronger stay;
Perhaps now she would thank me for the freedom of that day.

Open house and heart barred to me alone the door;
Children bound to meet her, babies crow before;--
Blessed wife and blessed mother whom I may see no more.

Or I fancy--In the grave her comely body lies;
She is 'tiring for the Bridegroom till the morning star shall rise,
Then to shine a glory in the nuptials of the skies.

No more yearning tenderness, no more pale regret,
She will not look for me when the marriage guests are set,
She joys with joy eternal as we had never met.

I would that one of us were dead, were gone no more to meet,
Or she and I were dead together stretched here at your feet,
That she and I were strained together in one winding sheet:

Hidden away from all the world upon this bitter morn;
Hidden from all the scornful world, from all your keener scorn;
Secure and secret in the dark as blessed babe unborn.

A pitiless fiend is in your eyes to tempt me and to taunt:
If you were dead I verily believe that you would haunt
The home you loved, the man you loved, you said you loved--avaunt.

Why do you face me with those eyes so calm they drive me mad,
Too proud to droop before me and own that you are sad?
Why have you a lofty angel made me mean and cursed and bad?

How have you the heart to face me with that passion in your stare
Deathly silent? weep before me, rave at me in your despair--
If you keep patience wings will spring and a halo from your hair.

Yet what matters--yea what matters? your frenzy can but mock:
You do not hold my heart's life key to lock and to unlock,
The door will not unclose to you tho' long you wait and knock.

Have I wronged you? nay not I nor she in deed or will:
You it is alone that mingle the venomous cup and fill;
Why are you so little lovely that I cannot love you still?--

One pulse, one tone, one ringlet of her's outweighs the whole
Of you, your puny graces puny body puny soul:
You but a taste of sweetness, she an overrunning bowl.

Did I make you, that you blame me because you are not the best?
Not so, be wise, take patience, turn away and be at rest:
Shall I not know her lovelier who is far loveliest?--

See now how proud you are, like us after all, no saint;
Not so upright but that you are bowed with the old bent;
White at white-heat, tainted with the devil's special taint.

Sit you still and wring the cup drop after loathsome drop:
You have let loose a torrent it is not you can stop;
You have sowed a noisome field-ful, now reap the stinging crop.

Did you think to sit in safety, to watch me torn and tost
Struggling like a mad dog, watch her tempting doubly lost?
Howl you, you wretched woman, for your flimsy hopes are crost.

Be still, tho' you may writhe you shall hear the branding truth:
You who thought to sit in judgment on our souls forsooth,
To sit in frigid judgment on our ripe luxuriant youth.

Did I love you? never from the first cold day to this;
You are not sufficient for my aim of life, my bliss;
You are not sufficient, but I found the one that is.

The wine of love that warms me from this life's mortal chill:
Drunk with love I drink again, a thirst I drink my fill;
Lapped in love I care not doth it make alive or kill.

Then did I never love you?--ah the sting struck home at last;
You are drooping, fainting, dying--the worst of death is past;
A light is on your face from the nearing heaven forecast.

Never?--yes I loved you then; I loved: the word still charms:--
For the first time last time lie here in my heart my arms,
For the first last time as if I shielded you from harms.

I trampled you, poor dove, to death; you clung to me, I spurned;
I taunted you, I tortured you, while you sat still and yearned:--
Oh lesson taught in anguish but in double anguish learned.

For after all I loved you, loved you then, I love you yet.
Listen love I love you: see, the seal of truth is set
On my face in tears--you cannot see? then feel them wet.

Pause at heaven's dear gate, look back, one moment back to grieve;
You go home thro' death to life; but I, I still must live:
On the threshold of heaven's love, O love can you forgive?--

Fully freely fondly, with heart truth above an oath,
With eager utter pardon given unasked and nothing loth,
Heaping coals of fire upon our heads forgiving both.

One word more--not one: one look more--too late too late:--
Lapped in love she sleeps who was lashed with scorn and hate;
Nestling in the lap of love the dove has found a mate.

Night has come, the night of rest; day will come, that day:
To her glad dawn of glory kindled from the deathless ray;
To us a searching fire and strict balances to weigh.

The tearless tender eyes are closed, the tender lips are dumb:
I shall not see or hear them more until that day shall come:
Then they must speak, what will they say--what then will be the sum?--

Shall we stand upon the left and she upon the right--
We smirched with endless death and shame, she glorified in white:
Will she sound our accusation in intolerable light?

Be open-armed to us in love--type of another Love--
As she forgave us once below will she forgive above,
Enthroned to all eternity our sister friend and dove?--



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