James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 9

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

By Edmund Gosse (1849–1928)

(Died April 9, 1882)

ALL pomps and gorgeous rites, all visions old,

Nursed by the ancient Spouse of Christ serene

Within the solemn precincts of her fold,

To him were dear, as angel-wings once seen

Across a ruined minster’s spires of gold

To some old priest in exile might have been.

The gloom, the splendor of the apse, the cloud

Of streaming incense swung aloft the choir,

The murmuring organ, muffled now, now loud,

The great rose-window like a flower on fire,

The choral shout, the countless faces bowed.—

These were the plectrum and his soul the lyre.

In leaving these he wrought his instinct wrong,—

He sprang from no protesting ancestry;

Those ancient signs of worship waked his song,

And though a pagan he might feign to be,

In Arcady he never wandered long,

Nor truly loved the goddess of the sea.

His mighty spirit was an outlaw yet

In this bright garish modern life of ours;

His statue should with gothic kings’ be set,

Engarlanded with saints and carven flowers,

Or on some dim Italian altar, wet

With votive tears and sprinkled hyssop-showers.

He is made one with all the Easter fires,

With all the perfume and the rainbow-light,

His voice is mingled with the ascending choir’s,

Broken and spent through traceries infinite;

Above the rich triforium, past the spires,

The answering music melts into the night.

Farewell! though time hath vanquished our desire,

We shall not be as though he had not been;

Some love of mystic thought in strange attire,

Of things unseen reflected in the seen,

Of heights towards which the sons of flesh aspire,

Shall haunt us with a yearning close and keen.

Farewell! upon the marble of his tomb

Let some great sculptor carve a knight in prayer,

Who dreams he sees the holy vision come.

Now let the night-wind pass across his hair;

Him can no more vain backward hope consume,

Nor the world vex him with her wasting care.