Francesca soon learns the difference in character between the gay Paulo and the haughty Giovanni. Disappointed, she resolves to make the best of her situation. But neglected by her husband, she finds consolation in the brother, who for his part nurses in secret a passion for Francesca. The pair alternately avoid and seek one another, until the fatal day in which Francesca seeks repose in a pagan temple embowered in a leafy paradise. She is reading the story of Launcelot when Paulo enters, and one thing leads to another: "The world was all forgot, the struggle o'er, | Desperate the joy — That day they read no more" p. 78. Hunt tempered the seduction passage in later revisions.
Francis Jeffrey: "We have detained our readers longer than we intended, from that which forms the most interesting part of the poem, the Third Canto, of which the subject is the fatal passion between Paulo and Francesca. We shall be ample in our extracts from this part of the poem, because we have no other way of giving an idea of its characteristic qualities. Mr. Hunt, as we have already intimated, does not belong to any of the modern schools of poetry; and therefore we cannot convey our idea of his manner of writing, by reference to any the more conspicuous models. His poetry is not like Mr. Wordsworth's, which is metaphysical; nor like Mr. Coleridge's, which is fantastical; nor like Mr. Southey's, which is monastical. But it is something which we have already endeavoured to sketch by its general features, and shall now enable the reader to study in detail in the following extracts" Edinburgh Review 26 (June 1816) 482-83.
Lord Byron to Leigh Hunt: "You have excelled yourself — if not all your contemporaries — in the canto which I have just finished. I think it above the former books; but that is as it should be; it rises with the subject, the conception appears to me perfect, and the execution perhaps as nearly so as verse will admit. There is more originality than I recollect to have seen elsewhere within the same compass, and frequent and great happiness of expression. In short, I must turn to the faults, or what appear to be such to me: these are not many, nor such as may not be easily altered, being almost all verbal; — and of the same kind as I pretended to point out in the former cantos, viz., occasional quaintness and obscurity, and a kind of harsh and yet colloquial compounding of epithets, as if to avoid saying common things in a common way" Byron, Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1901) 3:226.
David Macbeth Moir: "The finest passages in the Story of Rimini, are the descriptions of the April morning with which canto first opens; of the Ravenna pine-forest, with its 'immemorial trees,' in canto second; and of the garden and summer-house in canto third. Indeed, the whole of the third canto overflows alike with classic elegance and natural feeling; and it would be difficult anywhere to find, in an English poet, an equal number of consecutive lines so thoroughly excellent. The account of the funeral procession of the lovers, at the conclusion of the poem, is also conceived in a spirit of picturesque beauty, as well as of solemn and deep-toned tenderness" Sketches of the Poetical Literature of the Past Half-Century (1851; 1852) 215.
THE FATAL PASSION.
Now why must I disturb a dream of bliss,
Or bring cold sorrow 'twixt the wedded kiss?
Sad is the strain, with which I cheer my long
And caged hours, and try my native tongue;
Now too, while rains autumnal, as I sing,
Wash the dull bars, chilling my sicklied wing,
And all the climate presses on my sense;
But thoughts it furnishes of things far hence,
And leafy dreams affords me, and a feeling
Which I should else disdain, tear-dipped and healing;
And shews me, — more than what it first designed,—
How little upon earth our home we find,
Or close the intended course of erring human-kind.
Enough of this. Yet how shall I disclose
The weeping days that with the morning rose,
How bring the bitter disappointment in,—
The holy cheat, the virtue-binding sin,—
The shock, that told this lovely, trusting heart,
That she had given, beyond all power to part,
Her hope, belief, love, passion, to one brother,
Possession (oh, the misery!) to another!
Some likeness was there 'twixt the two, — an air
At times, a cheek, a colour of the hair,
A tone, when speaking of indifferent things;
Nor, by the scale of common measurings,
Would you say more perhaps, than that the one
Was more robust, the other finelier spun;
That of the two, Giovanni was the graver,
Paulo the livelier, and the more in favour.
Pride in his warlike fame made some prefer
Giovanni's countenance as the martialler;
And 'twas a soldier's truly, if an eye
Ardent and cool at once, drawn-back and high,
An eagle's nose and a determined lip,
Were the best marks of manly soldiership.
Paulo's was fashioned in a different mould,
And finer still, I think; for though 'twas bold,
When boldness was required, and could put on
A glowing frown as if an angel shone,
Yet there was nothing in it one might call
A stamp exclusive or professional,—
No courtier's face, and yet its smile was ready,—
No scholar's, yet its look was deep and steady,—
No soldier's, for its power was all of mind,
Too true for violence, and too refined.
A graceful nose was his, lightsomely brought
Down from a forehead of clear-spirited thought;
Wisdom looked sweet and inward from his eye;
And round his mouth was sensibility:—
It was a face, in short, seemed made to shew
How far the genuine flesh and blood could go;—
A morning glass of unaffected nature,—
Something, that baffled every pompous feature,—
The visage of a glorious human creature.
If any points there were, at which they came
Nearer together, 'twas in knightly fame,
And all accomplishments that art might know,—
Hunting, and princely hawking, and the bow,
The rush together in the bright-eyed list,
Fore-thoughted chess, the riddle rarely missed,
And the decision of still knottier points,
With knife in hand, of boar and peacock joints,—
Things, that might shake the fame that Tristan got,
And bring a doubt on perfect Launcelot.
But leave we knighthood to the former part;
The tale I tell is of the human heart.
The worst of Prince Giovanni, as his bride
Too quickly found, was an ill-tempered pride.
Bold, handsome, able if he chose to please,
Punctual and right in common offices,
He lost the sight of conduct's only worth,
The scattering smiles on this uneasy earth,
And on the strength of virtues of small weight,
Claimed tow'rds himself the exercise of great.
He kept no reckoning with his sweets and sours;—
He'd hold a sullen countenance for hours,
And then, if pleased to cheer himself a space,
Look for the immediate rapture in your face,
And wonder that a cloud could still be there,
How small soever, when his own was fair.
Yet such is conscience, — so designed to keep
Stern, central watch, though all things else may sleep,
And so much knowledge of one's self there lies
Cored, after all, in our complacencies,
That no suspicion would have touched him more,
Than that of wanting on the generous score:
He would have whelmed you with a weight of scorn,
Been proud at eve, inflexible at morn,
In short, ill-tempered for a week to come,
And all to strike that desperate error dumb.
Taste had he, in a word, for high-turned merit,
But not the patience, nor the genial spirit;
And so he made, 'twixt virtue and defect,
A sort of fierce demand on your respect,
Which, if assisted by his high degree,
It gave him in some eyes a dignity,
And struck a meaner deference in the many,
Left him, at last, unloveable with any.
From this complexion in the reigning brother,
His younger birth in part had saved the other.
Born to a homage less gratuitous,
He learned to win a nobler for his house;
And both from habit and a genial heart,
Without much trouble of the reasoning art,
Found this the wisdom and the sovereign good,—
To be, and make, as happy as he could.
Not that he saw, or thought he saw, beyond
His general age, and could not be as fond
Of wars and creeds as any of his race,—
But most he loved a happy human face;
And wheresoe'er his fine, frank eyes were thrown,
He struck the looks he wished for with his own.
His danger was, lest, feeling as he did,
Too lightly he might leap o'er means forbid.
And in some tempting hour lose sight of crime
O'er some sweet face too happy for the time;
But fears like these he never entertained,
And had they crossed him, would have been disdained.
Warm was his youth, 'tis true, — nor had been free
From lighter loves, — but virtue reverenced he,
And had been kept from men of pleasure's cares
By dint of feelings still more warm than theirs.
So what but service leaped where'er he went!
Was there a tilt-day or a tournament,—
For welcome grace there rode not such another,
Nor yet for strength, except his lordly brother,
Was there a court-day, or a sparkling feast
Or better still, — in my ideas, at least,—
A summer party to the greenwood shade,
With lutes prepared, and cloth on herbage laid,
And ladies' laughter coming through the air,—
He was the readiest and the blithest there;
And made the time so exquisitely pass
With stories told with elbow on the grass,
Or touched the music in his turn so finely,
That all he did, they thought, was done divinely.
The lovely stranger could not fail to see
Too soon this difference, more especially
As her consent, too lightly now, she thought,
With hopes as different had been strangely bought;
And many a time the pain of that neglect
Would strike in blushes o'er her self-respect:
But since the ill was cureless, she applied
With busy virtue to resume her pride,
Hoping to value her submissive heart
On playing well a patriot daughter's part,
And trying new-found duties to prefer
To what a father might have owed to her.
The very day too when her first surprise
Was full, kind tears had come into her eyes
On finding, by his care, her private room
Furnished, like magic, from her own at home;
The very books and all transported there,
The leafy tapestry, and the crimson chair,
The lute, the glass that told the shedding hours,
The little vase of silver for the flowers,
The frame for broidering, with a piece half done,
And the white falcon, basking in the sun,
Who, when he saw her, sidled on his stand,
And twined his neck against her loving hand.
But what had touched her nearest, was the thought,
That if 'twere destined for her to be brought
To a sweet mother's bed, the joy would be
Giovanni's too, and his her family:—
He seemed already father of her child,
And on the nestling pledge in patient thought she smiled.
Yet then a pang would cross her, and the red
In either downward cheek startle and spread,
To think that he, who was to have such part
In joys like these, had never shared her heart;
But back she chased it with a sigh austere;
And did she chance, at times like these, to hear
Her husband's footstep, she would haste the more,
And with a double smile open the door,
And hope his day had worn a happy face;
Ask how his soldiers pleased him in reviewing,
Or if the boar was slain, which he had been pursuing.
The prince, at this, would bend on her an eye
Cordial enough, and kiss her tenderly;
Nor, to say truth, was he slow in common
To accept the attentions of this lovely woman;
But then meantime he took no generous pains,
By mutual pleasing, to secure his gains;
He entered not, in turn, in her delights,
Her books, her flowers, her taste for rural sights;
Nay, scarcely her sweet singing minded he,
Unless his pride was roused by company;
Or when to please him, after martial play,
She strain'd her lute to some old fiery lay
Of fierce Orlando, or of Ferumbras,
Or Ryan's cloak, or how by the red grass
In battle you might know where Richard was.
Yet all the while, no doubt, however stern
Or cold at times, he thought he loved in turn,
And that the joy he took in her sweet ways,
The pride he felt when she excited praise,
In short, the enjoyment of his own good pleasure,
Was thanks enough, and passion beyond measure.
She, had she loved him, might have thought so too,
For what will love's exalting not go through,
Till long neglect, and utter selfishness,
Shame the fond pride it takes in its distress?
But ill prepared was she, in her hard lot,
To fancy merit where she found it not,—
She, who had been beguil'd, — she, who was made
Within a gentle bosom to be laid,—
To bless and to be blessed, — to be heart-bare
To one who found his bettered likeness there,—
To think for ever with him, like a bride,—
To haunt his eye, like grace personified,—
To double his delight, to share his sorrow,
And like a morning beam, wake to him every morrow.
Paulo, meantime, who ever since the day
He saw her sweet looks bending o'er his way,
Had stored them up, unconsciously, as graces
By which to judge all other forms and faces,
Had learnt, I know not how, the secret snare,
Which gave her up, that evening, to his care.
Some babbler, may-be, of old Guido's court,
Or foolish friend had told him, half in sport:
But to his heart the fatal flattery went,
And grave he grew, and inwardly intent,
And ran back, in his mind, with sudden spring,
Look, gesture, smile, speech, silence, every thing,
Even what before had seemed indifference,
And read them over in another sense.
Then would he blush with sudden self-disdain,
To think how fanciful he was, and vain;
And with half angry, half regretful sigh,
Tossing his chin, and feigning a free eye,
Breathe off, as 'twere, the idle tale, and look
About him for his falcon or his book,
Scorning that ever he should entertain
One thought that in the end might give his brother pain.
This start, however, came so often round,—
So often fell he in deep thought, and found
Occasion to renew his carelessness,
Yet every time the power grown less and less,
That by degrees, half wearied, half inclined,
To the sweet struggling image he resigned;
And merely, as he thought, to make the best
Of what by force would twine about his breast,
Began to bend down his admiring eyes
On all her touching looks and qualities,
Turning their shapely sweetness every way,
Till 'twas his food and habit day by day,
And she became companion of his thought;
Silence her gentleness before him brought,
Society her sense, reading her books,
Music her voice, every sweet thing her looks,
Which sometimes seemed, when he sat fixed awhile,
To steal beneath his eyes with upward smile:
And did he stroll into some lonely place,
Under his trees, upon the thick soft grass,
How charming, would he think, to see her here!
How heightening then, and perfect would appear
The two divinest things this world has got,
A lovely woman in a rural spot!
Thus daily went he on, gathering sweet pain
About his fancy, till it thrilled again;
And if his brother's image, less and less,
Startled him up from his new idleness,
'Twas not, — he fancied, — that he reason'd worse,
Or felt less scorn of wrong, but the reverse.
That one should think of injuring another,
Or trenching on his peace, — this too a brother,—
And all from selfishness and pure weak will,
To him seemed marvellous and impossible.
'Tis true, thought he, one being more there was,
Who might meantime have weary hours to pass,—
One weaker too to bear them, — and for whom?—
No matter; — wishing could reverse no doom;
And so he sighed and smiled, as if one thought
Of paltering could suppose that he was to be caught.
Yet if she lov'd him, common gratitude,
If not, a sense of what was fair and good,
Besides his new relationship and right,
Would make him wish to please her all he might;
And as to thinking, — where could be the harm,
Provided he kept close the secret charm?
He wished not to himself another's blessing,
But then he might console for not possessing;
And glorious things there were, which but to see
And not admire, was mere stupidity:
He might as well object to his own eyes
For loving to behold the fields and skies,
His neighbour's grove, or story-painted hall;
'Twas but the taste for what was natural;
Only his fav'rite thought was loveliest of them all.
Concluding thus, and happier that he knew
His ground so well, near and more near he drew;
And sanction'd by his brother's manner, spent
Hours by her side, as happy as well-meant.
He read with her, he rode, he went a hawking,
He spent still evenings in delightful talking,
While she sat busy at her broidery frame;
Or touched the lute with her, and when they came
To some fine part, prepared her for the pleasure,
And then with double smile stole on the measure.
Then at the tournament, — who there but she
Made him more gallant still than formerly,
Couch o'er his tightened lance with double force,
Pass like the wind, sweeping down man and horse,
And franklier then than ever, midst the shout
And dancing trumpets ride, uncovered, round about?
His brother only, more than hitherto,
He would avoid, or sooner let subdue,
Partly from something strange unfelt before,
Partly because Giovanni sometimes wore
A knot his bride had worked him, green and gold;—
For in all things with nature did she hold;
And while 'twas being worked, her fancy was
Of sunbeams mingling with a tuft of grass.
Francesca from herself but ill could hide
What pleasure now was added to her side,—
How placidly, yet fast, the days succeeded
With one who thought and felt so much as she did,—
And how the chair he sat in, and the room,
Began to look, when he had failed to come.
But as she better knew the cause than he,
She seemed to have the more necessity
For struggling hard, and rousing all her pride;
And so she did at first; she even tried
To feel a sort of anger at his care;
But these extremes brought but a kind despair;
And then she only spoke more sweetly to him,
And found her failing eyes give looks that melted through him.
Giovanni too, who felt relieved indeed
To see another to his place succeed,
Or rather filling up some trifling hours,
Better spent elsewhere, and beneath his powers,
Left the new tie to strengthen day by day,
Talked less and less, and longer kept away,
Secure in his self-love and sense of right,
That he was welcome most, come when he might.
And doubtless, they, in their still finer sense,
With added care repaid this confidence,
Turning their thoughts from his abuse of it,
To what on their own parts was graceful and was fit.
Ah now, ye gentle pair, — now think awhile,
Now, while ye still can think, and still can smile;
Now, while your generous hearts have not been grieved
Perhaps with something not to be retrieved,
And ye have in ye still the power of gladness,
From self-resentment free, and recollected madness!
So did they think; — but partly from delay,
Partly from fancied ignorance of the way,
But most from feeling the bare contemplation
Give them fresh need of mutual consolation,
They scarcely tried to see each other less,
And did but meet with deeper tenderness,
Living, from day to day, as they were used,
Only with graver thoughts, and smiles reduced,
And sighs more frequent, which, when one would heave,
The other longed to start up and receive.
For whether some suspicion now had crossed
Giovanni's mind, or whether he had lost
More of his temper lately, he would treat
His wife with petty scorns, and starts of heat,
And, to his own omissions proudly blind,
O'erlook the pains she took to make him kind,
And yet be angry, if he thought them less;
He found reproaches in her meek distress,
Forcing her silent tears, and then resenting,
Then almost angrier grown from half repenting,
And hinting at the last, that some there were
Better perhaps than he, and tastefuller,
And these, for what he knew, — he little cared,—
Might please her, and be pleased, though he despaired.
Then would he quit the room, and half disdain
His tongue for yielding to so harsh a strain,
And venting thus his temper on a woman;
Yet not the more for that changed he in common,
Or took more pains to please her, and be near:—
What! should he truckle to a woman's tear?
At times like these the princess tried to shun
The face of Paulo as too kind a one;
And shutting up her tears with final sigh,
Would walk into the air, and see the sky,
And feel about her all the garden green,
And hear the birds that shot the covert boughs between.
A noble range it was, of many a rood,
Walled round with trees, and ending in a wood:
Indeed the whole was leafy; and it had
A winding stream about it, clear and glad,
That danced from shade to shade, and on its way
Seemed smiling with delight to feel the day.
There was the pouting rose, both red and white,
The flamy heart's-ease, flushed with purple light,
Blush-hiding strawberry, sunny-coloured box,
Hyacinth, handsome with his clustering locks,
The lady lily, looking gently down,
Pure lavender, to lay in bridal gown,
The daisy, lovely on both sides, — in short,
All the sweet cups to which the bees resort,
With plots of grass, and perfumed walks between
Of citron, honeysuckle and jessamine,
With orange, whose warm leaves so finely suit,
And look as if they'd shade a golden fruit;
And midst the flowers, turfed round beneath a shade
Of circling pines, a babbling fountain played,
And 'twixt their shafts you saw the water bright,
Which through the darksome tops glimmered with showering light.
So now you walked beside an odorous bed
Of gorgeous hues, purple, and gold, and red;
And now turned off into a leafy walk,
Close and continuous, fit for lovers' talk;
And now pursued the stream, and as you trod
Onward and onward o'er the velvet sod,
Felt on your face an air, watery and sweet,
And a new sense in your soft-lighting feet;
And then perhaps you entered upon shades,
Pillowed with dells and uplands 'twixt the glades,
Through which the distant palace, now and then,
Looked lordly forth with many-windowed ken
A land of trees, which reaching round about,
In shady blessing stretched their old arms out,
With spots of sunny opening, and with nooks
To lie and read in, sloping into brooks,
Where at her drink you startled the slim deer,
Retreating lightly with a lovely fear.
And all about, the birds kept leafy house,
And sung and darted in and out the boughs;
And all about, a lovely sky of blue
Clearly was felt, or down the leaves laughed through;
And here and there, in every part, were seats,
Some in the open walks, some in retreats
With bowering leaves o'erhead, to which the eye
Looked up half sweetly and half awfully,—
Places of nestling green, for poets made,
Where when the sunshine struck a yellow shade,
The slender trunks, to inward-peeping sight,
Thronged in dark pillars up the gold green light.
But 'twixt the wood and flowery walks, halfway,
And formed of both, the loveliest portion lay,
A spot, that struck you like enchanted ground:—
It was a shallow dell, set in a mound
Of sloping shrubs, that mounted by degrees,
The birch and poplar mixed with heavier trees;
From under which, sent through a marble spout,
Betwixt the dark wet green, a rill gushed out,
Whose low sweet talking seemed as if it said
Something eternal to that happy shade:
The ground within was lawn, with plots of flowers
Heaped towards the centre, and with citron bowers;
And in the midst of all, clustered about
With bay and myrtle, and just gleaming out,
Lurked a pavilion, — a delicious sight,—
Small, marble, well-proportioned, mellowy white,
With yellow vine-leaves sprinkled, — but no more,—
And a young orange either side the door.
The door was to the wood, forward and square,
The rest was domed at top, and circular;
And through the dome the only light came in,
Tinged, as it entered, with the vine-leaves thin.
It was a beauteous piece of ancient skill,
Spared from the rage of war, and perfect still;
By some supposed the work of fairy hands,
Famed for luxurious taste, and choice of lands,—
Alcina, or Morgana, — who from fights
And errant fame inveigled amorous knights,
And lived with them in a long round of blisses,
Feasts, concerts, baths, and bower-enshaded kisses.
But 'twas a temple, as its sculpture told,
Built to the Nymphs that haunted there of old;
For o'er the door was carved a sacrifice
By girls and shepherds brought, with reverent eyes,
Of sylvan drinks and foods, simple and sweet,
And goats with struggling horns and planted feet:
And on a line with this ran round about
A like relief, touched exquisitely out,
That shewed, in various scenes, the nymphs themselves;
Some by the water side on bowery shelves
Leaning at will, — some in the water sporting
With sides half swelling forth, and looks of courting,—
Some in a flowery dell, hearing a swain
Play on his pipe, till the hills ring again,—
Some tying up their long moist hair, — some sleeping
Under the trees, with fauns and satyrs peeping,—
Or, sidelong-eyed, pretending not to see,
The latter in the brakes come creepingly,
While from their forgotten urns, lying about
In the green herbage, let the water out.
Never, be sure, before or since was seen
A summer-house so fine in such a nest of green.
All the green garden, flower-bed, shade, and plot,
Francesca loved, but most of all this spot.
Whenever she walked forth, wherever went
About the grounds, to this at last she bent:
Here she had brought a lute and a few books;
Here would she lie for hours, with grateful looks,
Thanking at heart the sunshine and the leaves,
The vernal rain-drops counting from the eaves,
And all that promising, calm smile we see
In nature's face, when we look patiently.
Then would she think of heaven; and you might hear
Sometimes, when every thing was hushed and clear,
Her gentle voice from out those shades emerging,
Singing the evening anthem to the Virgin.
The gardeners and the rest, who served the place,
And blest whenever they beheld her face,
Knelt when they heard it, bowing and uncovered,
And felt as if in air some sainted beauty hovered.
One day, — 'twas on an early autumn noon,
When airs and gurgling brooks are best in tune
And grasshoppers are loud, and day-work done
And shades have heavy outlines in the sun,—
The princess came to her accustomed bower
To get her, if she could, a soothing hour,
Trying, as she was used, to leave her cares
Without, and slumberously enjoy the airs,
And the low-talking leaves, and that cool light
The vines let in, and all that hushing sight
Of closing wood seen through the opening door,
And distant plash of waters tumbling o'er,
And smell of citron blooms, and fifty luxuries more.
She tried, as usual, for the trial's sake,
For even that diminished her heart-ache;
And never yet, how ill soe'er at ease,
Came she for nothing 'midst the flowers and trees.
Yet how it was she knew not, but that day,
She seemed to feel too lightly borne away,—
Too much relieved — too much inclined to draw
A careless joy from every thing she saw,
And looking round her with a new-born eye,
As if some tree of knowledge had been nigh,
To taste of nature, primitive and free,
And bask at ease in her heart's liberty.
Painfully clear those rising thoughts appeared,
With something dark at bottom that she feared;
And turning from the trees her thoughtful look,
She reached o'er-head, and took her down a book,
And fell to reading with as fixed an air,
As though she had been wrapt since morning there.
'Twas Launcelot of the Lake, a bright romance,
That like a trumpet made young pulses dance,
Yet had a softer note that shook still more;—
She had begun it but the day before,
And read with a full heart, half sweet, half sad,
How old King Ban was spoiled of all he had
But one fair castle: how one summer's day
With his fair queen and child he went away
To ask the great King Arthur for assistance;
How reaching by himself a hill at distance
He turned to give his castle a last look,
And saw its far white face: and how a smoke,
As he was looking, burst in volumes forth,
And good King Ban saw all that he was worth,
And his fair castle, burning to the ground,
So that his wearied pulse felt over-wound,
And he lay down, and said a prayer apart
For those he loved, and broke his poor old heart.
Then read she of the queen with her young child,
How she came up, and nearly had gone wild,
And how in journeying on in her despair,
She reached a lake and met a lady there,
Who pitied her, and took the baby sweet
Into her arms, when lo, with closing feet
She sprang up all at once, like bird from brake,
And vanished with him underneath the lake.
The mother's feelings we as well may pass:—
The fairy of the place that lady was,
And Launcelot (so the boy was called) became
Her inmate, till in search of knightly fame
He went to Arthur's court, and played his part
So rarely, and displayed so frank a heart,
That what with all his charms of look and limb,
The Queen Geneura fell in love with him:—
And here, with growing interest in her reading,
The princess, doubly fixed, was now proceeding.
Ready she sat with one hand to turn o'er
The leaf, to which her thoughts ran on before,
The other propping her white brow, and throwing
Its ringlets out, under the skylight glowing.
So sat she fixed; and so observed was she
Of one, who at the door stood tenderly,—
Paulo, — who from a window seeing her
Go straight across the lawn, and guessing where,
Had thought she was in tears, and found, that day,
His usual efforts vain to keep away.
"May I come in?" said he: — it made her start,—
That smiling voice; — she coloured, pressed her heart
A moment, as for breath, and then with free
And usual tone said, "O yes, — certainly."
There's wont to be, at conscious times like these,
An affectation of a bright-eyed ease,
An air of something quite serene and sure,
As if to seem so, were to be, secure:
With this the lovers met, with this they spoke,
With this they sat down to the self-same book,
And Paulo, by degrees, gently embraced
With one permitted arm her lovely waist;
And both their cheeks, like peaches on a tree,
Came with a touch together, thrillingly;
And o'er the book they hung, and nothing said,
And every lingering page grew longer as they read.
As thus they sat, and felt, with leaps of heart,
Their colour change, they came upon the part
Where fond Geneura, with her flame long nurst,
Smiled upon Launcelot when he kiss'd her first:—
That touch, at last, through every fibre slid;
And Paulo turned, scarce knowing what he did,
Only he felt he could no more dissemble,
And kissed her, mouth to mouth, all in a tremble.
Sad were those hearts, and sweet was that long kiss:
Sacred be love from sight, whate'er it is.
The world was all forgot, the struggle o'er,
Desperate the joy — That day they read no more.