The Damozels.

Lady Alice, Lady Louise,
Between the wash of the tumbling seas
We are ready to sing, if so ye please;
So lay your long hands on the keys;
                     Sing, 'Laudato pueri.'
And ever the great bell overhead
Boom'd in the wind a knell for the dead,
Though no one toll'd it, a knell for the dead.

Lady Louise.

Sister, let the measure swell
Not too loud; for you sing not well                  10
If you drown the faint boom of the bell;
                     He is weary, so am I.
And ever the chevron overhead
Flapp'd on the banner of the dead;
(Was he asleep, or was he dead?)

Lady Alice.

Alice the Queen, and Louise the Queen,
Two damozels wearing purple and green,
Four lone ladies dwelling here
From day to day and year to year;
And there is none to let us go;                           20
To break the locks of the doors below,
Or shovel away the heaped-up snow;
And when we die no man will know
That we are dead; but they give us leave,
Once every year on Christmas-eve,
To sing in the Closet Blue one song;
And we should be so long, so long,
If we dared, in singing; for dream on dream.
They float on in a happy stream;
Float from the gold strings, float from the keys,  30
Float from the open'd lips of Louise;
But, alas! the sea-salt oozes through
The chinks of the tiles of the Closet Blue;
And ever the great bell overhead
Booms in the wind a knell for the dead,
The wind plays on it a nekll for the dead.

[They sing all together.]

How long ago was it, how long ago,
He came to this tower with hands full of snow?

'Kneel down, O love Louise, kneel down,' he said,
And sprinkled the dusty snow over my head. 40

He watch'd the snow melting, it ran through my hair,
Ran over my shoulders, white shoulders and bare.

'I cannot weep for thee, poor love Louise,
For my tears are all hidden deep under the seas;

'In a gold and blue casket she keeps all my tears,
But my eyes are no longer blue, as in old years;

'Yea, they grow grey with time, grow small and dry,
I am so feeble now, would I might die.'

And in truth the great bell overhead          50
Left off his pealing for the dead,
Perchance, because the wind was dead.

Will he come back again, or is he dead?
O! is he sleeping, my scarf round his head?

Or did they strangle him as he lay there,
With the long scarlet scarf I used to wear?

Only I pray thee, Lord, let him come here?!
Both his soul and his body to me are most dear.

Dear Lord, that loves me, I wait to receive
Either body or spirit this wild Christmas-eve.

Through the floor shot up a lily red,         60
With a patch of earth from the land of the dead;
For he was strong in the land of the dead.

What matter that his cheeks were pale,
         His kind kiss'd lips all grey?
'O, love Louise, have you waited long?'
         'O, my lord Arthur, yea.'

What if his hair that brush'd her cheek
         Was stiff with frozen rime?
His eyes were grown quite blue again,
         As in the happy time.                            70

'O, love Louise, this is the key
         Of the happy golden land!
O, sisters, cross the bridge with me,
         My eyes are full of sand.
What matter that I cannot see,
         If ye take me by the hand?'

And ever the great bell overhead,
And the tumbling seas mourn'd for the dead;
For their song ceased, and they were dead.

Morris, William. The Defence of Guenevere, The Life and Death of Jason, and Other Poems. London: Oxford University Press, 1914. Pp. 119-22. [Scanned and added by GPL].

Last modified 24 August 2004