Christina Rossetti: Poems

Cousin Kate

I was a cottage maiden

Hardened by sun and air,

Contented with my cottage mates,

Not mindful I was fair.

Why did a great lord find me out,

And praise my flaxen hair?

Why did a great lord find me out

To fill my heart with care?

He lured me to his palace home--

Woe's me for joy thereof-- 10

To lead a shameless shameful life,

His plaything and his love.

He wore me like a silken knot,

He changed me like a glove;

So now I moan, an unclean thing,

Who might have been a dove.

O Lady Kate, my cousin Kate,

You grew more fair than I:

He saw you at your father's gate,

Chose you, and cast me by. 20

He watched your steps along the lane,

Your work among the rye;

He lifted you from mean estate

To sit with him on high.

Because you were so good and pure

He bound you with his ring:

The neighbours call you good and pure,

Call me an outcast thing.

Even so I sit and howl in dust,

You sit in gold and sing: 30

Now which of us has tenderer heart?

You had the stronger wing.

O cousin Kate, my love was true,

Your love was writ in sand:

If he had fooled not me but you,

If you stood where I stand,

He'd not have won me with his love

Nor bought me with his land;

I would have spit into his face

And not have taken his hand. 40

Yet I've a gift you have not got,

And seem not like to get:

For all your clothes and wedding-ring

I've little doubt you fret.

My fair-haired son, my shame, my pride,

Cling closer, closer yet:

Your father would give lands for one

To wear his coronet.