Dead or alive I issued, scarce sure which.
High overhead Giotto’s tower soared;
Behind, the Duomo rose all white and black;
Then pealed a sudden jargoning of bells,
And down the darkling street I wildly fled,
Led by a little, cold, and wandering moon,
Which seemed as lonely and as lost as I.
I had no aim, save to reach warmth and light
And human touch; but still my witless steps
Led to my husband’s door, and there I stopped,
By instinct, knocked, and called.
A window oped.
A voice—t’was his—demanded: “Who is there?”
“Tis I, Ginevra.” Then I heard the tone
Change into horror, and he prayed aloud
And called upon the saints, the while I urged,
“O, let me in, Francesco; let me in!
I am so cold, so frightened, let me in!”
Then, with a crash, the window was shut fast;
And, though I cried and beat upon the door
And wailed aloud, no other answer came.
Weeping, I turned away, and feebly strove
Down the hard distance towards my father’s house.
“They will have pity and will let me in,”
I thought. “They loved me and will let me in.”
Cowards! At the high window overhead
They stood and trembled, while I plead and prayed:
“I am your child, Ginevra. Let me in!
I am not dead. In mercy, let me in!”
“The holy saints forbid!” declared my sire.
My mother sobbed and vowed whole pounds of wax
To St. Eustachio, would he but remove
This fearful presence from her door. Then sharp
Came click of lock, and a long tube was thrust
From out the window, and my brother cried,
“Spirit or devil, go! or else I fire!”
Where should I go? Back to the ghastly tomb
And the cold coffined ones? Up the long street,
Wringing my hands and sobbing low, I went.
My feet were bare and bleeding from the stones;
My hands were bleeding too; my hair hung loose
Over my shroud. So wild and strange a shape
Saw never Florence since. The people call
That street through which I walked and wrung my hands
“Street of the Dead One,” even to this day.
The sleeping houses stood in midnight black,
And not a soul was in the streets but I.
At last I saw a flickering point of light
High overhead, in a dim window set.
I had lain down to die; but at the sight
I rose, crawled on, and with expiring strength
Knocked, sank again, and knew not even then
It was Antonio’s door by which I lay.
A window opened, and a voice called out:
“Qui e?” “I am Ginevra.” And I thought,
“Now he will fall to trembling, like the rest,
And bid me hence.” But, lo! a moment more
The bolts were drawn, and arms whose very touch
Was life, lifted and clasped and bore me in.
“O ghost or angel of my buried love,
I know not, care not which, be welcome here!
Welcome, thrice welcome, to this heart of mine!”
I heard him say, and then I heard no more.