Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Lord De Tabley (John Byrne Leicester Warren) b. 1835


THIS the house of Circe, queen of charms,—

A kind of beacon-cauldron pois’d on high,

Hoop’d round with ember-clasping iron bars,

Sways in her palace porch, and smoulderingly

Drips out in blots of fire and ruddy stars:

But out behind that trembling furnace air

The lands are ripe and fair,

Hush are the hills and quiet to the eye.

The river’s reach goes by

With lamb and holy tower and squares of corn,

And shelving interspace

Of holly bush and thorn

And hamlets happy in an Alpine morn,

And deep-bower’d lanes with grace

Of woodbine newly born.

But inward o’er the hearth a torch-head stands

Inverted, slow green flames of fulvous hue,

Echoed in wave-like shadows over her.

A censer’s swing-chain set in her fair hands

Dances up wreaths of intertwisted blue

In clouds of fragrant frankincense and myrrh.

A giant tulip head and two pale leaves

Grew in the midmost of her chamber there.

A flaunting bloom, naked and undivine,

Rigid and bare,

Gaunt as a tawny bond-girl born to shame,

With freckled cheeks and splotch’d side serpentine,

A gipsy among flowers,

Unmeet for bed or bowers,

Virginal where pure-handed damsels sleep:

Let it not breathe a common air with them,

Lest when the night is deep,

And all things have their quiet in the moon,

Some birth of poison from its leaning stem

Waft in between their slumber-parted lips,

And they cry out or swoon,

Deeming some vampire sips

Where riper Love may come for nectar boon!

And near this tulip, rear’d across a loom,

Hung a fair web of tapestry half done,

Crowding with folds and fancies half the room:

Men eyed as gods, and damsels still as stone,

Pressing their brows alone,

In amethystine robes,

Or reaching at the polish’d orchard globes,

Or rubbing parted love-lips on their rind,

While the wind

Sows with sere apple-leaves their breast and hair.

And all the margin there

Was arabesqued and border’d intricate

With hairy spider things,

That catch and clamber,

And salamander in his dripping cave

Satanic ebon-amber;

Blind worm, and asp, and eft of cumbrous gait,

And toads who love rank grasses near a grave,

And the great goblin moth, who bears

Between his wings the ruin’d eyes of death;

And the enamell’d sails

Of butterflies, who watch the morning’s breath,

And many an emerald lizard with quick ears

Asleep in rocky dales;

And for outer fringe, embroider’d small,

A ring of many locusts, horny-coated,

A round of chirping tree-frogs merry-throated,

And sly, fat fishes sailing, watching all.