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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

From ‘Paolo and Francesca’

By Stephen Phillips (1868–1915)

[Enter Paolo.]
PAOLO—I am by music led into this room,

And beckoned sweetly: all the breezes die

Round me and in immortal ecstasy

Toward thee I move: now am I free and gay—

Light as a dancer when the strings begin.

Francesca—What glow is on thy face, what sudden light?

Paolo—It seems that I am proof against all perils.

Francesca—And yet I fear to see thy air so glad.

Paolo—To-night all points of swords to me are dull.

Francesca—And still I dread the bravery of your words.

Kiss me, and leave me, Paolo, to-night.

Paolo—What do you fear?
Francesca—One watches quietly.


Francesca—I know not: perhaps the quiet face

Of God: the eternal Listener is near.

Paolo—I’ll struggle now no more. Have I not fought

Against thee as a foe most terrible?

Parried the nimble thrust and thought of thee,

And from thy mortal sweetness fled away,

Yet evermore returned? Now all the bonds

Which held me I cast off—honor, esteem,

All ties, all friendships, peace, and life itself.

You only in this universe I want.

Francesca—You fill me with a glorious rashness.


Shall we two, then, take up our fate and smile?

Paolo—Remember how when first we met we stood

Stung with immortal recollections.

O face immured beside a fairy sea,

That leaned down at dead midnight to be kissed!

O beauty folded up in forests old!

Thou wast the lovely quest of Arthur’s knights—

Francesca—Thy armor glimmered in a gloom of green.

Paolo—Did I not sing to thee in Babylon?

Francesca—Or did we set a sail in Carthage bay?

Paolo—Were thine eyes strange?
Francesca—Did I not know thy voice?

All ghostly grew the sun, unreal the air

Then when we kissed.
Paolo—And in that kiss our souls

Together flashed, and now they are one flame,

Which nothing can put out, nothing divide.

Francesca—Kiss me again! I smile at what may chance.

Paolo—Again, and yet again! and here and here,

Let me with kisses burn this body away,

That our two souls may dart together free.

I fret at intervention of the flesh,

And I would clasp you—you that but inhabit

This lovely house.

Francesca—Break open then the door,

And let my spirit out. Paolo, kill me!

Then kill thyself: to vengeance leave these weeds,

And let our souls together soar away.

Paolo[recoiling]—You are too beautiful for human blow![Francesca starts.]

Why did you shiver and turn sudden cold?

Francesca[slowly]—I felt a wind pass over me.
Paolo—I too:

Colder than any summer night could give.

Francesca—A solitary wind: and it hath passed.

Paolo[embracing her]—Do you still fear?
Francesca—Ah, Paolo! if we

Should die to-night, then whither would our souls

Repair? There is a region which priests tell of

Where such as we are punished without end.

Paolo—Were we together, what can punish us?

Francesca—Nothing! Ah! think not I can love you less—

Only I fear.
Paolo—What can we fear, we two?

O God, Thou seest us Thy creatures bound

Together by that law which holds the stars

In palpitating cosmic passion bright;

By which the very sun enthralls the earth,

And all the waves of the world faint to the moon.

Even by such attraction we two rush

Together through the everlasting years.

Us, then, whose only pain can be to part,

How wilt Thou punish? For what ecstasy

Together to be blown about the globe!

What rapture in perpetual fire to burn

Together!—where we are is endless fire.

Three centuries shall in a moment pass,

And all the cycles in one hour elapse!

Still, still together, even when faints Thy sun,

And past our souls Thy stars like ashes fall,

How wilt Thou punish us who cannot part?

Francesco—I lie out on your arm and say your name—

“Paolo!” “Paolo!”

[They slowly pass through the curtains.A pause.]