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GINEVRA. *

WILD, pale, and wonder-stricken, even as one
Who staggers forth into the air and sun
From the dark chamber of a mortal fever,
Bewildered, and incapable, and ever
Fancying strange comments in her dizzy brain
Of usual shapes, till the familiar train
Of objects and of persons passed like things
Strange as a dreamer's mad imaginings,
Ginevra from the nuptial altar went;
The vows to which her lips had sworn assent
Rung in her brain still with a jarring din,
Deafening the lost intelligence within.

And so she moved under the bridal veil,
Which made the paleness of her cheek more pale,
And deepened the faint crimson of her mouth,
And darkened her dark locks, as moonlight doth, —
And of the gold and jewels glittering there
She scarce felt conscious, but the weary glare
Lay like a chaos of unwelcome light,
Vexing the sense with gorgeous undelight.
A moonbeam in the shadow of a cloud
Was less heavenly fair—her face was bowed,
And as she passed, the diamonds in her hair
Were mirrored in the polished marble stair
Which led from the cathedral to the street ;

* This fragment is part of a poem which Shelley intended to write, founded on a story to be found in the first volume of a book entitled “L'Osservatore Fiorentino."

And even as she went her light fair feet
Erased these images.

The bride-maidens who round her thronging came, Some with a sense of self-rebuke and shame, Envying the unenviable; and others Making the joy which should have been another's Their own by gentle sympathy; and some Sighing to think of an unhappy home; Some few admiring what can ever lure Maidens to leave the heaven serene and pure Of parents' smiles for life's great cheat; a thing Bitter to taste, sweet in imagining.

But they are all dispersed—and lo! she stands
Looking in idle grief on her white hands,
Alone within the garden now her own;
And through the sunny air, with jangling tone,
The music of the merry marriage-bells,
Killing the azure silence, sinks and swells ;-
Absorbed like one within a dream who dreams
That he is dreaming, until slumber seems
A mockery of itself—when suddenly
Antonio stood before her, pale as she.
With
agony,

with

sorrow, and with pride, He lifted his wan eyes upon the bride, And said—“ Is this thy faith ?” and then as one Whose sleeping face is stricken by the sun With light like a harsh voice, which bids him rise And look upon his day of life with eyes Which

weep in vain that they can dream no more, Ginevra saw her lover, and forbore To shriek or faint, and checked the stifling blood Rushing upon her heart, and unsubdued Said—"Friend, if earthly violence or ill,

Suspicion, doubt, or the tyrannic will
Of parents, chance, or custom, time, or change,
Or circumstance, or terror, or revenge,
Or wildered looks, or words, or evil speech,
With all their stings and venom, can impeach
Our love,—we love not :-if the grave, which hides
The victim from the tyrant, and divides
The cheek that whitens from the eyes that dart
Imperious inquisition to the heart
That is another's, could dissever ours,
We love not." _“ What! do not the silent hours
Beckon thee to Gherardi's bridal bed ?
Is not that ring” La pledge, he would have said,
Of broken vows, but she with patient look
The golden circle from her finger took
And said—“ Accept this token of my faith,
The pledge of vows to be absolved by death;
And I am dead or shall be soon-my knell
Will mix its music with that

merry
Does it not sound as if they sweetly said,

We toll a corpse out of the marriage bed ? ' The flowers upon my bridal chamber strewn Will serve unfaded for my bier-so soon That even the dying violet will not die Before Ginevra." The strong fantasy Had made her accents weaker and more weak, And quenched the crimson life upon her cheek, And glazed her eyes, and spread an atmosphere Round her, which chilled the burning noon with fear, Making her but an image of the thought, Which, like a prophet or a shadow, brought News of the terrors of the coming time. Like an accuser branded with the crime He would have cast on a beloved friend, Whose dying eyes reproach not to the end

bell;

The pale betrayer—he then with vain repentance
Would share, he cannot now avert, the sentence-
Antonio stood and would have spoken, when
The compound voice of women and of men
Was heard approaching; he retired, while she
Was led amid the admiring company
Back to the palace,—and her maidens soon
Changed her attire for the afternoon,
And left her at her own request to keep
An hour of quiet and rest :-like one asleep
With

open eyes and folded hands she lay, Pale in the light of the declining day.

Meanwhile the day sinks fast, the sun is set, And in the lighted hall the guests are met; The beautiful looked lovelier in the light Of love, and admiration, and delight, Reflected from a thousand hearts and eyes Kindling a momentary Paradise. This crowd is safer than the silent wood, Where love's own doubts disturb the solitude ; On frozen hearts the fiery rain of wine Falls, and the dew of music more divine Tempers the deep emotions of the time To spirits cradled in a sunny clime:How many meet, who never yet have met, To part too soon, but never to forget ? How many saw the beauty, power, and wit Of looks and words which ne'er enchanted yet! But life's familiar veil was now withdrawn, As the world leaps before an earthquake's dawn, And unprophetic of the coming hours, The matin winds from the expanded flowers Scatter their hoarded incense, and awaken The earth, until the dewy sleep is shaken

1

From every living heart which it possesses,
Through seas and winds, cities and wildernesses,
As if the future and the past were all
Treasured i' the instant;—so Gherardi's hall
Laughed in the mirth of its lord's festival,
Till some one asked—“ Where is the Bride ?" And then
A bride's maid went, and ere she came again
A silence fell upon the guests—a pause
Of expectation, as when beauty awes
All hearts with its approach, though unbeheld ;
Then wonder, and then fear that wonder quelled ;-
For whispers passed from mouth to ear which drew
The colour from the hearer's cheeks, and flew
Louder and swifter round the company;
And then Gherardi entered with an eye
Of ostentatious trouble, and a crowd
Surrounded him, and some were weeping loud.

They found Ginevra dead ! if it be death,
To lie without motion, or pulse, or breath,
With waxen cheeks, and limbs cold, stiff, and white,
And open eyes, whose fixed and glassy light
Mocked at the speculation they had owned.
If it be death, when there is felt around
A smell of clay, a pale and icy glare,
And silence, and a sense that lifts the hair
From the scalp to the ankles, as it were
Corruption from the spirit passing forth,
And giving all it shrouded to the earth,
And leaving as swift lightning in its flight
Ashes, and smoke, and darkness : in our night
Of thought we know thus much of death,—no more
Than the unborn dream of our life before
Their barks are wrecked on its inhospitable shore.
The marriage feast and its solemnity

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