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

Edith (Nesbit) Bland (1858–1924)

Ballad of a Bridal

“OH, fill me flagons full and fair

Of red wine and of white,

And, maidens mine, my bower prepare:

It is my wedding night!

“Braid up my hair with gem and flower,

And make me fair and fine:

The day has dawned that brings the hour

When my desire is mine!”

They decked her bower with roses blown,

With rushes strewed the floor;

And sewed more jewels on her gown

Than ever she wore before.

She wore two roses in her face,

Two jewels in her e’en;

Her hair was crowned with sunset rays,

Her brows shone white between.

“Tapers at the bed’s foot,” she saith,

“Two tapers at the head!”

(It seemed more like the bed of death

Than like a bridal bed.)

He came. He took her hands in his;

He kissed her on the face:

“There is more heaven in thy kiss

Than in Our Lady’s grace!”

He kissed her once, he kissed her twice,

He kissed her three times o’er,

He kissed her brow, he kissed her eyes,

He kissed her mouth’s red flower.

“O love! What is it ails thy knight?

I sicken and I pine:

Is it the red wine or the white,

Or that sweet kiss of thine?”

“No kiss, no wine or white or red

Can make such sickness be:

Lie down and die on thy bride-bed,

For I have poisoned thee!

“And though the curse of saints and men

Be for the deed on me,

I would it were to do again,

Since thou wert false to me!

“Thou shouldst have loved or one or none,—

Nor she nor I loved twain;

But we are twain thou hast undone

And therefore art thou slain.

“And when before my God I stand,

With no base flesh between,

I shall hold up my guilty hand,

And he shall judge it clean!”

He fell across the bridal bed,

Between the tapers pale.

“I first shall see our God,” he said,

“And I will tell thy tale:

“And if God judge thee as I do,

Then art thou justified;

I love thee, and I was not true,

And that was why I died.

“If I might judge thee, thou shouldst be

First of the saints on high;

But ah, I fear God loveth thee

Not half so dear as I!”