Christina Rossetti: Poems

A Bird's-Eye View

'Croak, croak, croak,'

Thus the Raven spoke,

Perched on his crooked tree

As hoarse as hoarse could be.

Shun him and fear him,

Lest the Bridegroom hear him;

Scout him and rout him

With his ominous eye about him.

Yet, 'Croak, croak, croak,'

Still tolled from the oak; 10

From that fatal black bird,

Whether heard or unheard:

'O ship upon the high seas,

Freighted with lives and spices,

Sink, O ship,' croaked the Raven:

'Let the Bride mount to heaven.'

In a far foreign land,

Upon the wave-edged sand,

Some friends gaze wistfully

Across the glittering sea. 20

'If we could clasp our sister,'

Three say, 'now we have missed her!'

'If we could kiss our daughter!'

Two sigh across the water.

Oh, the ship sails fast

With silken flags at the mast,

And the home-wind blows soft;

But a Raven sits aloft,

Chuckling and choking,

Croaking, croaking, croaking:-- 30

Let the beacon-fire blaze higher;

Bridegroom, watch; the Bride draws nigher.

On a sloped sandy beach,

Which the spring-tide billows reach,

Stand a watchful throng

Who have hoped and waited long:

'Fie on this ship, that tarries

With the priceless freight it carries.

The time seems long and longer:

O languid wind, wax stronger;'-- 40

Whilst the Raven perched at ease

Still croaks and does not cease,

One monotonous note

Tolled from his iron throat:

'No father, no mother,

But I have a sable brother:

He sees where ocean flows to,

And he knows what he knows, too.'

A day and a night

They kept watch worn and white; 50

A night and a day

For the swift ship on its way:

For the Bride and her maidens

--Clear chimes the bridal cadence--

For the tall ship that never

Hove in sight for ever.

On either shore, some

Stand in grief loud or dumb

As the dreadful dread

Grows certain though unsaid. 60

For laughter there is weeping,

And waking instead of sleeping,

And a desperate sorrow

Morrow after morrow.

Oh, who knows the truth,

How she perished in her youth,

And like a queen went down

Pale in her royal crown:

How she went up to glory

From the sea-foam chill and hoary, 70

From the sea-depth black and riven

To the calm that is in Heaven?

They went down, all the crew,

The silks and spices too,

The great ones and the small,

One and all, one and all.

Was it through stress of weather,

Quicksands, rocks, or all together?

Only the Raven knows this,

And he will not disclose this.-- 80

After a day and year

The bridal bells chime clear;

After a year and a day

The Bridegroom is brave and gay:

Love is sound, faith is rotten;

The old Bride is forgotten:--

Two ominous Ravens only

Remember, black and lonely.