As it’s National Poetry Day, I’d like to share my favourite Dante Gabriel Rossetti poem. (Besides the one rhyming ‘wombat’ with ‘flings a bomb at’, lest we forget).
Sudden Light was written in 1854, when life was relatively good for Rossetti. This was the period when he and Lizzie Siddal were holidaying in Hastings together, and the romantic optimism of the poem makes it a lovely window into that time.
I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.
You have been mine before,—
How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow’s soar
Your neck turned so,
Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.
Then, now,—perchance again! . . .
O round mine eyes your tresses shake!
Shall we not lie as we have lain
Thus for Love’s sake,
And sleep, and wake, yet never break the chain?
There are two versions, with differing final stanzas. This is the earlier of the two – the other was published some time after Siddal’s death, with a more melancholy slant. I prefer the first, but make up your own mind.
Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time’s eddying flight
Still with our lives our love restore
In death’s despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?