And still with questions vain he probes his grief,
Till thought is wearied out, and dreams grow dim.
What bitter chance, what woe beyond belief
Could keep his lady’s heart so hid from him?
Or was her love indeed but light and brief,
A passing thought, a moment’s dreamy whim?
Aye there it stings, the woe that never sleeps:
Poor Nino leans upon his book, and weeps.
Until at length the sudden grief that shook
His pierced bosom like a gust is past,
And laid full weary on the wide-spread book,
His eyes grow dim with slumber light and fast;
But scarcely have his dreams had time to look
On lands of kindlier promise, when aghast
He starts up softly, and in wondering wise
Listens atremble with wide open eyes.
What sound was that? Who knocks like one in dread
With such swift hands upon his outer door?
Perhaps some beggar driven from his bed
By gnawing hunger he can bear no more,
Or questing traveller with confused tread,
Straying, bewildered in the midnight hoar.
Nino uprises, scared, he knows not how,
The dreams still pale about his burdened brow.
The heavy bolt he draws, and unawares
A stranger enters with slow steps, unsought,
A long robed monk, and in his hand he bears,
A jewelled goblet curiously wrought;
But of his face beneath the cowl he wears
For all his searching Nino seeth nought;
And slowly past him with long stride he hies,
While Nino follows with bewildered eyes.
Straight on he goes with dusky rustling gown
His steps are soft, his hands are white and fine;
And still he bears the goblet on whose crown
A hundred jewels in the lamplight shine;
And ever from its edges dripping down
Falls with dark stain the rich and lustrous wine,
Wherefrom through all the chamber’s shadowy deeps
A deadly perfume like a vapour creeps.
And now he sets it down with careful hands
On the slim table’s polished ebony;
And for a space as if in dreams he stands,
Close hidden in his sombre drapery.
“Oh lover, by thy lady’s last commands,
I bid thee hearken, for I bear with me
A gift to give thee and a tale to tell
From her who loved thee, while she lived too well.”
The stranger’s voice falls slow and solemnly.
Tis soft, and rich, and wondrous deep of tone;
And Nino’s face grows white as ivory,
Listening fast-rooted like a shape of stone.
Ah, blessed saints, can such a dark thing be?
And was it death, and is Leonora gone?
Oh, love is harsh, and life is frail indeed,
That gives men joy, and then so makes them bleed.