The Poet's Vow. Part The Fourth

Part 4: Showing How Rosalind Fared By The Keeping Of The Vow.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning


In death-sheets lieth Rosalind,
As white and still as they;
And the old nurse that watched her bed,
Rose up with Well-a-day!
And oped the casement to let in
The sun, and that sweet doubtful din
Which droppeth from the grass and bough
Sans wind and bird -- none knoweth how --
To cheer her as she lay.


The old nurse started when she saw
Her sudden look of woe!
But the quick wan tremblings round her mouth
In a meek smile did go;
And calm she said, When I am dead,
Dear nurse, it shall be so.


Till then, shut out those sights and sounds,
And pray God pardon me,
That I without this pain, no more
His blessed works can see!
And lean beside me, loving nurse,
That thou mayst hear, ere I am worse,
What thy last love should be.


The loving nurse leant over her,
As white she lay beneath;
The old eyes searching, dim with life,
The young ones dim with death,
To read their look, if sound forsook
The trying, trembling breath. --


When all this feeble breath is done,
And I on bier am laid,
My tresses smoothed, for never a feast,
My body in shroud arrayed;
Uplift each palm in a saintly calm,
As if that still I prayed.


And heap beneath mine head the flowers
You stoop so low to pull;
The little white flowers from the wood,
Which grow there in the cool;
Which he and I, in childhood's games,
Went plucking, knowing not their names,
And filled thine apron full.


Weep not! I weep not. Death is strong;
The eyes of Death are dry;
But lay this scroll upon my breast
When hushed its heavings lie;
And wait awhile for the corpse's smile
Which shineth presently.


And when it shineth, straightway call
Thy youngest children dear,
And bid them gently carry me
All barefaced on the bier --
But bid them pass my kirkyard grass
That waveth long anear.


And up the bank where I used to sit
And dream what life would be,
Along the brook, with its sunny look
Akin to living glee;
O'er-the windy hill, through the forest still,
Let them gently carry me.


And through the piney forest still,
And down the open moorland --
Round where the sea beats mistily
And blindly on the foreland --
And let them chant that hymn I know,
Bearing me soft, bearing me slow,
To the old hall of Courland.


And when withal they near the hall,
In silence let them lay
My bier before the bolted door,
And leave it for a day:
For I have vowed, though I am proud,
To go there as a guest in shroud,
And not be turned away.


The old nurse looked within her eyes,
Whose mutual look was gone:
The old nurse stooped upon her mouth,
Whose answering voice was done;
And nought she heard, till a little bird
Upon the casement's woodbine swinging,
Broke out into a loud sweet singing
For joy o' the summer sun.
Alack! alack! -- she watched no more --
With head on knee she wailed sore;
And the little bird sang o'er and o'er
For joy o' the summer sun.


The Poems Of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Volume 1
Copyright 1853
C. S. Francis & Co., 262 Broadway, New York
Crosby & Nichols, Boston