Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Card-Dealer

COULD you not drink her gaze like wine?	
  Yet though its splendor swoon	
Into the silence languidly	
  As a tune into a tune,	
Those eyes unravel the coiled night
  And know the stars at noon.	
The gold that’s heaped beside her hand,	
  In truth rich prize it were;	
And rich the dreams that wreathe her brows	
  With magic stillness there;
And he were rich who should unwind	
  That woven golden hair.	
Around her, where she sits, the dance	
  Now breathes its eager heat;	
And not more lightly or more true
  Fall there the dancers’ feet	
Than fall her cards on the bright board	
  As ’twere an heart that beat.	
Her fingers let them softly through,	
  Smooth polished silent things;
And each one as it falls reflects	
  In swift light-shadowings,	
Blood-red and purple, green and blue,	
  The great eyes of her rings.	
Whom plays she with? With thee, who lov’st
  Those gems upon her hand;	
With me, who search her secret brows;	
  With all men, blessed or banned.	
We play together, she and we,	
  Within a vain strange land:
A land without any order,—	
  Day even as night (one saith),—	
Where who lieth down ariseth not	
  Nor the sleeper awakeneth;	
A land of darkness as darkness itself
  And of the shadow of death.	
What be her cards, you ask? Even these:—	
  The heart, that doth but crave	
More, having fed; the diamond,	
  Skilled to make base seem brave;
The club, for smiting in the dark;	
  The spade, to dig a grave.	
And do you ask what game she plays?	
  With me ’tis lost or won;	
With thee it is playing still; with him
  It is not well begun;	
But ’tis a game she plays with all	
  Beneath the sway o’ the sun.	
Thou seest the card that falls,—she knows	
  The card that followeth:
Her game in thy tongue is called Life,	
  As ebbs thy daily breath:	
When she shall speak, thou’lt learn her tongue	
  And know she calls it Death.

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