has kindly shared the material
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Alas, Fra Giacomo,
Too late! but follow me . . .
Hush! draw the curtain — so!
She is dead, quite dead, you see.
Poor little lady! she lies,
All the light gone out of her eyes!
But her features still wear that soft,
Gray, meditative expression,
Which you must have noticed oft,
Thro' the peephole, at confession.
How saintly she looks, how meek!
Though this be the chamber of death,
I fancy I feel her breath,
As I kiss her on the cheek.
Too holy for me, by far! —
As cold and as pure as a star,
Not fashioned for kissing and pressing,
But made for a heavenly crown! . . .
Ay, Father, let us go down, —
But first, if you please, your blessing.
. . . Wine? No! Come, come, you must!
Blessing it with your prayers,
You'll quaff a cup, I trust,
To the health of the Saint upstairs.
My heart is aching so!
And I feel so weary and sad,
Through the blow that I have had!
You'll sit, Fra Giacomo? . . .
Heigho! 'tis now six summers
Since I saw that angel and married her —
I was passing rich, and I carried her
Off in the face of all comers . . .
So fresh, yet so brimming with Soul!
A sweeter morsel, I swear,
Never made the dull black coal
Of a monk's eye glitter and glare . . .
Your pardon — nay, keep your chair! —
A jest! but a jest! . . . Very true,
It is hardly becoming to jest,
And that Saint upstairs at rest —
Her Soul may be listening, too!
To think how I doubted and doubted,
Suspected, grumbled at, flouted
That golden-hair'd Angel, and solely
Because she was zealous and holy! —
Night and noon and morn
She devoted herself to piety —
Not that she seemed to scorn,
Or shun, her husband's society;
But the claims of her Soul superseded
All that I asked for or needed,
And her thoughts were far away
From the level of lustful clay,
And she trembled lest earthly matters
Interfered with her aves and paters!
Sweet dove! she so fluttered, in flying
To avoid the black vapours of Hell,
So bent on self-sanctifying, —
That she never thought of trying
To save her poor husband as well!
And while she was named and elected
For place on the heavenly roll,
I (beast that I was) suspected
Her manner of saving her Soul —
So half for the fun of the thing,
What did I (blasphemer!) but fling
On my shoulders the gown of a monk,
(Whom I managed for that very day
To get safely out of the way),
And seat me, half-sober, half-drunk,
With the cowl drawn over my face,
In the Father Confessor's place . . .
In her beautiful sweet simplicity,
With that pensive gray expression,
She sighfully knelt at confession, —
While I bit my lips till they bled,
And dug my nails in my palm,
And heard, with averted head,
The horrible words come calm —
Each word was a serpent's sting;
But, wrapt in my gloomy gown,
I sat like a marble thing
As she uttered your name. SIT DOWN!
More wine, Fra Giacomo?
One cup — as you love me! No?
Come, drink! 'twill bring the streaks
Of crimson back to your cheeks.
Come! drink again to the Saint,
Whose virtues you loved to paint,
Who, stretched on her wifely bed,
With the soft, sweet, gray expression
You saw and admired at confession —
Lies poisoned, overhead!
Sit still — or, by God, you die!
Face to face, soul to soul, you and I
Have settled accounts, in a fine
Pleasant fashion, over our wine —
Stir not, and seek not to fly —
Nay, whether or not, you are mine!
Thank Montepulciano for giving
Your death in such delicate sips —
'Tis not every monk ceases living
With so pleasant a taste on his lips —
But lest Montepulciano unsurely should kiss,
Take this! — and this! — and this!
. . . Raise him; and cast him, Pietro,
Into the deep canal below:
You can be secret, lad, I know . . .
And hark you, then to the convent go —
Bid every bell of the convent toll,
And the monks say mass, for your mistress's soul.
(From Early Poems)
Last modified 26 September 2002