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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 114 pages of information about Ballad of Reading Gaol.

Ah! surely once some urn of Attic clay
Held thy wan dust, and thou hast come again
Back to this common world so dull and vain,
For thou wert weary of the sunless day,
The heavy fields of scentless asphodel,
The loveless lips with which men kiss in Hell.

Poem:  Portia

(To Ellen Terry)

I marvel not Bassanio was so bold
To peril all he had upon the lead,
Or that proud Aragon bent low his head
Or that Morocco’s fiery heart grew cold: 
For in that gorgeous dress of beaten gold
Which is more golden than the golden sun
No woman Veronese looked upon
Was half so fair as thou whom I behold. 
Yet fairer when with wisdom as your shield
The sober-suited lawyer’s gown you donned,
And would not let the laws of Venice yield
Antonio’s heart to that accursed Jew—­
O Portia! take my heart:  it is thy due: 
I think I will not quarrel with the Bond.

Poem:  Queen Henrietta Maria

(To Ellen Terry)

In the lone tent, waiting for victory,
She stands with eyes marred by the mists of pain,
Like some wan lily overdrenched with rain: 
The clamorous clang of arms, the ensanguined sky,
War’s ruin, and the wreck of chivalry
To her proud soul no common fear can bring: 
Bravely she tarrieth for her Lord the King,
Her soul a-flame with passionate ecstasy. 
O Hair of Gold!  O Crimson Lips!  O Face
Made for the luring and the love of man! 
With thee I do forget the toil and stress,
The loveless road that knows no resting place,
Time’s straitened pulse, the soul’s dread weariness,
My freedom, and my life republican!

Poem:  Camma

(To Ellen Terry)

As one who poring on a Grecian urn
Scans the fair shapes some Attic hand hath made,
God with slim goddess, goodly man with maid,
And for their beauty’s sake is loth to turn
And face the obvious day, must I not yearn
For many a secret moon of indolent bliss,
When in midmost shrine of Artemis
I see thee standing, antique-limbed, and stern?

And yet—­methinks I’d rather see thee play
That serpent of old Nile, whose witchery
Made Emperors drunken,—­come, great Egypt, shake
Our stage with all thy mimic pageants!  Nay,
I am grown sick of unreal passions, make
The world thine Actium, me thine Anthony!

Poem:  Panthea

Nay, let us walk from fire unto fire,
From passionate pain to deadlier delight,—­
I am too young to live without desire,
Too young art thou to waste this summer night
Asking those idle questions which of old
Man sought of seer and oracle, and no reply was told.

For, sweet, to feel is better than to know,
And wisdom is a childless heritage,
One pulse of passion—­youth’s first fiery glow,—­
Are worth the hoarded proverbs of the sage: 
Vex not thy soul with dead philosophy,
Have we not lips to kiss with, hearts to love and eyes to see!

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