William Morris Archive

Poems and Fragments Preserved Only in Copyist’s hand in British Library Add. MS 45,298B

*B-1. “They have no song, the sedge is dry"

British Library MS 45,298B

[f. 50]
They have no song, the sedges dry
And still they sing,
It is within my breast they sing
As I pass by.
Within my breast they touch a string
They wake a sigh
There is but sound of sedges dry
In me they sing.


B-2. Three Chances and One Answer (O love, if all the pleasures of the earth)

Copyist’s version in B. L. Add. Ms. 45,298B, f. 14.

Three chances and one answer

O love, if all the pleasures of the earth
Can give one life if new and happy birth
Were given me now, how could I weigh their worth
     If low and soft thy sweet voice said to me
     “We, who were twain, one loved soul let us be.”

Love if they showed me plenteous rest and peace,
A summer land, and fruitful years increase,
Thou knowest how my soul would turn from these,
     If thou shouldst say, “one kiss love, ere the cold
     The lonely dark, and the sad year grown old.”

And now that thou art silent, and thine eyes
Must turn no more to these my miseries,
Thou wilt not think me grown so bitter-wise
     That I, the dream of what thy lips might say
     For all the good of life, could give away.


B-3. Song from Orpheus: “While agone my words had wings”

Published CW, XXIV, 251-53. Copyist’s version in B. L. Add. Ms. 45,298B, ff. 31-32.

B. L. Add. Ms. 45,298B, f. 31 titled, Songs from Orpheus

[f. 31]

While agone my words had wings
And might tell of noble things
The wide warring of the kings.
And the going to and fro
Of the wise that the world do know.

Then the sea was in my song
And the wind blew rough and strong
And the swift steeds swept along,
And the grinding of the spears
Reached the heart through the ears.

So a slim youth sang I then
Mid the beards of warring men
Till the great hall rang again.
And the swords were on their knees
As they hearkened words like these.

Or before the maids hat led
The white oxen sleek full-fed
When th4e field gave up its dead,
The dead lover of the sun
Sweet I sang when day was done.

Hearts I gladdened, limbs made light
When the feet of girls gleamed white
In the odorous torch-lit night,
And belike my heart did flame
Through my cheek told lies of shame.

Or in days not long agone
Would I sit as if alone
Though around stood many a one.
Each as if alone we were
For of fresh love sang I there.

All such things could I sing now,
And to this dull silence show
How the life of man doth grow
Of all love and hope and hate
And unseen slow-creeping fate.

But of this how shall I sing?
The sick hope whereto I cling.
The despair that every-thing
Moaneth with about mine eyes
This dull cage of miseries?


B-4. Song from Orpheus: “O ye who sit alone, and bend above the earth”

Published CW, XXIV, 253-54 [not published separately but as a part of “The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice]. Copyist’s version in B. L. Add. Ms. 45,298B, ff. 33-34.

[f. 33]

Oh ye, who sit alone,      and bend above the earth[,]
So great that the world’s gain      Is but a hollow dearth,
And pain forgot like laughter,      And love of fleeting worth[,]
Did ye teach me how to sing [?]      Or where else did I gain
The tears slow[-]born of bliss,      The sweetness drawn from pain.

I stand alone and longing Nor know if aught doth live
Except myself and sorrow Nor know with whom to strive[,]
Nor know if ye have might To hold back or to give[,]
Nor know if ye can love, Or what your hate shall be
Or if ye are my foes, Or the love that burns in me.

Can ye hearken as men hearken, Can I move you as erewhile
I moved the happy kings, And the wise men did beguile[,]
When the lover unbeloved[,] Must sigh with rest and smile
For the sweetness of the song[,] That made not light of woe,
And the youngling stand apart, and learn that life must go.

O ye who ne’er were fettered, By the bonds of time and ill[,]
Give, give, if ye are worthy Or leave me worthier still[;]
For the measure of my love, No gain of love should fill.
If I held the hands I love, If I pressed her who is gone,
Living, breathing, to my heart, Not e’en so were all well won.

[f. 34] O be satisfied with this, That no end my longing knows
If the years might not be counted, For we twain to sit all close
As on earth we sat a little. Twixt the lily and the rose.
Sat a little and were gone, Ere we mingled in the strife,
Ere we learned how best to love, Ere we knew the ways of life.

Folk pray to us of earth, To be loved, and sick at heart
Must turn their eyes away, And from every hope depart[:]
We are lone who cannot give[,] And grow hard beneath the smart
But ye have wealth and might, Ye can hearken and can give[,]
What gain is there in death, O be wise and make alive.

CW, XXIV, 253-54 [not published separately but as a part of “The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice”

Oh ye, who sit alone, and bend above the earth
So great that the world’s gain Is but a hollow dearth,
And pain forgot like laughter, And love of fleeting worth,
Did ye teach me how to sing Or where else did I gain
The tears slow-born of bliss, The sweetness drawn from pain?

I stand alone and longing Nor know if aught doth live
Except myself and sorrow Nor know with whom to strive,
Nor know if ye have might To hold back or to give,
Nor know if ye can love, Or what your hate shall be
Or if ye are my foes, Or the love that burns in me.

Can ye hearken as men hearken, Can I move you as erewhile
I moved the happy kings, And the wise men did beguile?
When the lover unbeloved Must sigh with rest and smile
For the sweetness of the song That made not light of woe,
And the youngling stand apart, and learn that life must go.

[p. 254]
O ye who ne’er were fettered, By the bonds of time and ill,
Give give, if ye ware worthy Or leave me worthier still:
For the measure of my love No gain of love should fill.
If I held the hands I love, If I pressed her who is gone,
Living, breathing, to my breast, Not e’en so were all well won.

O be satisfied with this, That no end my longing knows
If the years might not be counted, For we twain to sit all close
As on earth we sat a little Twixt the lily and the rose,
Sat a little and were gone Ere we mingled in the strife,
Ere we learned how best to love, Ere we knew the ways of life.

Folk pray to us of earth To be loved, and sick at heart
Must turn their eyes away, And from every hope depart:
We are lone who cannot give, And grow hard beneath the smart
But ye have wealth and might, Ye can hearken and can give,

What gain is there in death? O be wise and make alive!


B-5. Song from Orpheus: “Once a white house there was”

Never published as a separate poem in Morris's lifetime. Included in CW, XXIV, 255-57. Copyist’s version in B. L. Add. Ms. 45,298B, ff. 35-38

B. L. 45,298B, [ff. 35-38]

Once a white house there was

Set amid the Thracian grass,
And the wood-dove moaned thereover,
And the Thracian loved and lover,
Passing by the garden close
Speaking words that no one knows,
Stopped awhile to smile and say
“Orpheus shall be wed today![”]
[“]The white feet of Eurydice
Fair, as thou art fair to me
Soft beneath the lilies white.”
“Bear her forth to full delight
Till the night and morn shall touch[.]”
“Come then[,] love, for overmuch
Them and us the Gods do bless
With enduring happiness.”
“Yea love, for the grass is green
Still, and thrushes run between
The faint mallows overworn,
And the berries of the thorn
Know no ruddy threat of death.”

So they felt each other’s breath
[f. 36] And each other’s shoulders warm,
And the weight of hand and arm
As they went amid the grass.
There her naked feet did pass
And her hand touched blossoms fair
By the poison lurking there
In the yellow-throated snake,
But their beauty did not wake
His dull heart and evil eyes
And belike in happy wise
They abide now, and shall come
Yet again unto that home.

Ah, the gate is open wide,
And the wild bees only hide
In the long-cupped blossoms there,
And the garden-god is bare
Of the flowers he used to have,
And no scythe the sward doth shave
And the wilding grasses meet
High above their faltering feet
Where the lilies used to grow
And unnailed the peach hangs now,
[f. 37] No more is the fountain full
And the dial’s gold is dull;
And the foot-worn pink-veined stone
Of the porch all green hath grown:
Through the empty chambers cold
Moans the wind as it did hold
Dull winter mid the summer’s heart.

Think ye that the twain depart
Glad that they alone are glad?
They who saw the clothes that clad
Her fair body that fair night,
Yellowing as the jasmine white
Yellows as it fades away,
And how withered roses lay
On the pillows of the bed
That ne’er touched her golden head?

They who looked so close they saw
The bed-gear into creases draw,
Drawn that noon so by my mouth
Feverish with half-happy drought.

[f. 38] And the threshold, saw they not
Where my lips thereon were hot
Ere she came, that she might feel
As her feet there o’er did steal
Trembling sweet, and know not why,
Fluutering hope so soon to die
In the heart of utter bliss
As the still night saw our kiss.

Think ye that these twain might rest
Till they knew why they so blessed
Such a sorrow of heart should feel?
Through the summer day they steal,
E’en as folk who dwell alone
In a land whence all are gone
Where their shame hath wrought the thing.
For their hands forget to cling
Each to each, and their sweet eyes
Are distraught with mysteries
Hard to solve and hard to leave.
Till at ending of the eve
Folk to meet at last to tell
How the death of joy befell.

CW 24 [255-57]

[p. 255]
O me, a white house there was
Set amid the Thracian grass
And the wood-dove moaned thereover,
And the Thracian loved and lover,
Passing by the garden-close
Speaking words that no one knows,
Stopped awhile to smile and say
“Orpheus shall be wed today—”
“The white feet of Eurydice
Fair as thou art fair to me
Soft beneath the lilies white—”
“Bear her forth to full delight
Till the night and morn shall touch.”
“Come then, love, for overmuch
Them and us the Gods do bless
With enduring happiness.”
“Yea love, for the grass is green
Still, and thrushes run between

[p. 256]
The faint mallows overworn,
And the berries of the thorn
Know no ruddy threat of death!”

So they felt each other’s breath
And each other’s shoulders warm,
And the weight of hand and arm
As they went amid the grass;
There her naked feet did pass
And her hand touched blossoms fair
By the poison lurking there
In the yellow-throated snake;

But their beauty did not wake
His dull heart and evil eyes
And belike in happy wise
They abide now, and shall come
Yet again unto that home.

Ah, the gate is open wide
And the wild bees only hide
In the long-cupped blossoms there,
And the garden-god is bare
Of the flowers he used to have,
And no scythe the sward doth shave
And the wilding grasses meet
High above their faltering feet
Where the lilies used to grow
And unnailed the peach hangs now,
No more is the fountain full
And the dial’s gold is dull;
And the foot-worn pink-veined stone

Of the porch all green hath grown;
Through the empty chambers cold
Moans the wind as it did hold
Dull winter mid the summer’s heart.

Think ye that the twain depart
Glad that they alone are glad?
[p. 257]
They who saw the clothes that clad
Her fair body that fair night,
Yellowing as the jasmine white
Yellows as it fades away,
And how withered roses lay
On the pillows of the bed
That ne’er touched her golden head?

They who looked so close they saw
The bed-gear into creases draw;
Drawn that noon so by my mouth
Feverish with half-happy drought.

And the threshold, saw they not
Where my lips thereon were hot
Ere she came, that she might feel
As her feet thereo’er did steal
Trembling sweet, and know not why,
Fluutering hope so soon to die
In the heart of utter bliss

As the still night saw our kiss?

Think ye that these twain might rest
Till they knew why they, so blessed
Such a sorrow of heart should feel?
Through the summer day they steal,
E’en as folk who dwell alone
In a land whence all are gone
Where their shame hath wrought the thing.
For their hands forget to cling
Each to each, and their sweet eyes
Are distraught with mysteries
Hard to solve and hard to leave.
Till at ending of the eve
Folk they meet at last to tell
How the death of joy befell.


B-6. Song from Orpheus: “O if ye laugh, then am I grown”

Published CW, XXIV, 258-60. Copyist’s version in B. L. Add. Ms. 45,298B, ff. 39-41.

B. L. Add. Ms. 45,298B [ff. 39-41]

O if ye laugh, then am I grown
O Gods, and here I stand alone
The body of a ceaseless moan,
Yet better than ye are, a part
Of the world's woe and the world's heart.

For the world laughed not on the morn
When my full woe from night was born [ms. shorn]
When first I called on you forlorn.
The world laughed not, although I feared
When first its waking breath I heard.

O me! the morn was bright enow,
A little westering wind did blow
Across the ripe field's outer row,
Across her white breast no more warm
Across my numbed enfolding arm.

The July morn was bright and clear
No more the cock's cry did I hear,
Now when the sparrows wakened there
Now when all things awoke around
Mine arms about her heart unwound.

[f. 40] Then o'er the edge of earth and sky
The sun arose, and silently
Lit up the lily heads anigh;
The sun stole through the room to light
Her arm hung down, her fingers white.

Higher and higher arose the sun
Until unto our breasts it won
And burned there till the noon was done;
Uopn my heart the sun was hot
And scorched me sore, but harmed her not.

Then toward the west it gan to wend,
No wind was left the rye to bend
Till drew the day unto an end,
No wind until the night grew cold
Above the face my hands did hold.

Yet all that bright day mocked me nought.
Through sunny hours its end was wrought.
Yet was it sad enow methought;
Its end was wrought mid calm and peace
Yet mournfully did it decrease.

[f. 41] And if men went upon their ways
E'en as in other summmer days,
Surely they toiled with no glad face,
Amid the bright day did they seem
To toil as in a hapless dream.

And so at first I thought indeed
The world was kind to help my need;
No thing therein, from man to weed.
But it was kind my love to lack[,]
To help my need and wish her back.

But ye help not, nor know how I
Would help the whole world's misery
And give it bliss ne'er passing by,
Ne'er passing by, if I might sit
Above the world, and yearn to it.

CW 24 [pp. 258-60]

O if ye laugh, then am I grown,

O Gods, as here I stand alone
The body of a ceaseless moan,
Yet better than ye are, a part
Of the world's woe and the world's heart.

For the world laughed not on the morn
When my full woe from night was born
When first I called on you forlorn:
The world laughed not, although I feared
When first its waking breath I heard.

O me! the morn was bright enow;
A little westering wind did blow
Across the rye-field's outer row,
Across her white breast no more warm,
Across my numbed enfolding arm.

[p. 259]

The July morn was bright and clear,
No more the cock's cry did I hear,
Now when the sparrows wakened there,
Now when all things awoke around
Mine arms about her heart enwound.

Then o'er the edge of earth and sky
The sun arose, and silently
Lit up the lily-heads anigh;
The sun stole through the room to light
Her arm hung down, her fingers white.

Higher and higher arose the sun
Until unto our breast it won
And burned there till the noon was done;
Uopn my heart the sun was hot
And scorched me sore, but harmed her not.

Then toward the west it 'gan to wend,
No wind was left the rye to bed
Till drew the day unto an end;
No wind until the night grew cold
Above the face my hands did hold.

Yet all that bright day mocked me nought,
Through sunny hours its end was wrought
Yet was it sad enow methought;
It end was wrought mid calm and peace
Yet mournfully did it decresase.

And if men went upon their ways
E'en as in other summmer days,
Surely they toiled with no glad face,
Amid the bright day did they seem
To toil as in a hapless dream.

[p. 260]

And so at first I thought indeed
The world was kind to help my need;
No thing therein, from man to weed,
But it was kind my love to lack,
To help my need and wish her back.

But ye help not nor know how I
Would help the whole world's misery
And give it bliss ne'er passing by,
Ne'er passing by, if I might sit
Above the world, and yearn to it.


B-7. Song from Orpheus: “O my love how could it be”

Published CW, XXIV, 273. Copyist’s version in B. L. Add. Ms. 298B, ff. 42-43.

B. L. Add. Ms. 298B [ff. 42-43]

O my love, how could it be

But summer must be brought to me
Brought to the world by thy full love?
Long within thee did it move,
Move and bud and change and grow,
Till it wraps me wholly now,
And I turn from thee awhile
Its o'er-sweetnesss to beguile
With a little thought of rest.

Ah me! have I gained the best,
Have I no more to desire
No more hope to vex and tire
No more fear to sicken me,
Nought but the full gift of thee,
All my soul to satisfy.

Ah sweet[,] le[s]t my longing die
E'en a moment, rise and come,
For the roses of our home,
For the rose and lily here,
Are too sweet for us to bear.
[f. 43] Let us wander through the wood
Till a little rest seem[s] good
To our weary limbs, till we
(As the eve dies silently)
Neath the chestnut boughts are laid
Faint with love, but not downweighed
By the summer's restlessness,
Wearied, but most fain to bless,
Pity-laden, summer: sad
With the hope the spring once had.

CW 24 [p. 273]

O my love, how could it be

But summer must be brought to me
Brought to the world by thy full love?
Long within thee did it move,
Move and bud and change and grow,
Till it wraps me wholly now,
And I turn from thee a while
Its o'er-sweetnesss to beguile
With a little thought of rest.

Ah me, have I gained the best,
Have I no more to desire
No more hope to vex and tire
No more fear to sicken me,
Nought but the full gift of thee,
All my soul to satisfy.

Ah sweet, lest my longing die
E'en a moment, rise and come,
For the roses of our home,
For the rose and lily here
Are too sweet for us to bear.
Let us wander through the wood
Till a little rest seem[s] good
To our weary limbs, till we,
As the even dies silently,
Neath the chestnut boughts are laid
Faint with love but not downweighed
By the summer's restlessness,
Wearied but most fain to bless
Pity-laden summer, sad
With the hope the spring once had.


B-8. “They have no song, the sedge is dry”

Unpublished. B. L. Ms. 45,298B f. 50, in copyist’s hand.

B. L. Add. Ms. 45,298B, f. 50

[f. 50]

They have no song, the sedges dry
And still they sing,
It is within my breast they sing
As I pass by.
Within my breast they touch a string
They wake a sigh
There is but sound of sedges dry
In me they sing.