Thomas Lovell Beddoes

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Thomas Lovell Beddoes in 1824

Thomas Lovell Beddoes (June 30, 1803January 26, 1849) was an English poet and dramatist.


  • A cypress-bough, and a rose-wreath sweet,
    A wedding-robe, and a winding-sheet,
    A bridal bed and a bier.
    Thine be the kisses, maid,
    And smiling Love’s alarms;
    And thou, pale youth, be laid
    In the grave’s cold arms.
    Each in his own charms,
    Death and Hymen both are here;
    So up with scythe and torch,
    And to the old church porch,
    While all the bells ring clear:
    And rosy, rosy the bed shall bloom,
    And earthy, earthy heap up the tomb.
    • "A Cypress-Bough, and A Rose-Wreath Sweet", as printed in Poetical Works (1890)
  • Shivering in fever, weak, and parched to sand,
    My ears, those entrances of word-dressed thoughts,
    My pictured eyes, and my assuring touch,
    Fell from me, and my body turned me forth
    From its beloved abode: then I was dead;
    And in my grave beside my corpse I sat,
    In vain attempting to return: meantime
    There came the untimely spectres of two babes,
    And played in my abandoned body’s ruins;
    They went away; and, one by one, by snakes
    My limbs were swallowed; and, at last, I sat
    With only one, blue-eyed, curled round my ribs,
    Eating the last remainder of my heart,
    And hissing to himself. O sleep, thou fiend!
    Thou blackness of the night! how sad and frightful
    Are these thy dreams!
    • "Dream of Dying", as printed in Poetical Works (1890)
  • If there were dreams to sell,
        What would you buy?
    Some cost a passing bell;
        Some a light sigh,
    That shakes from Life’s fresh crown
    Only a rose-leaf down.
    If there were dreams to sell,
    Merry and sad to tell,
    And the crier rang the bell,
        What would you buy?
    A cottage lone and still,
        With bowers nigh,
    Shadowy, my woes to still,
        Until I die.
    Such pearl from Life’s fresh crown
    Fain would I shake me down.
    Were dreams to have at will,
    This would best heal my ill,
        This would I buy.
    • "Dream-Pedlary", as anthologised by FitzRoy Carrington in The Quiet Hour (1915), pp. 89–90
  • How many times do I love thee, dear?
      Tell me how many thoughts there be
            In the atmosphere
            Of a new-fall’n year,
    Whose white and sable hours appear
      The latest flake of Eternity:
    So many times do I love thee, dear.
    How many times do I love again?
      Tell me how many beads there are
            In a silver chain
            Of evening rain,
    Unravell’d from the tumbling main,
      And threading the eye of a yellow star:
    So many times do I love again.
    • "Song from Torrismond", as anthologised by Edmund H. Garrett in Victorian Songs (1895), p. 38
  • The swallow leaves her nest,
    The soul my weary breast;
    But therefore let the rain
      On my grave
    Fall pure; for why complain?
    Since both will come again
      O’er the wave.
    The wind dead leaves and snow
    Doth hurry to and fro;
    And, once, a day shall break
      O’er the wave,
    When a storm of ghosts shall shake
    The dead, until they wake
      In the grave.
  • A ghost, that loved a lady fair,
    Ever in the starry air
    Of midnight at her pillow stood;
    And, with a sweetness skies above
    The luring words of human love,
    Her soul the phantom wooed.
    Sweet and sweet is their poisoned note,
    The little snakes of silver throat,
    In mossy skulls that nest and lie,
    Ever singing, “Die, oh! die.”
    Young soul put off your flesh, and come
    With me into the quiet tomb,
    Our bed is lovely, dark and sweet;
    The earth will swing us, as she goes,
    Beneath our coverlid of snows,
    And the warm leaden sheet.
    Dear and dear is their poisoned note,
    The little snakes of silver throat,
    In mossy skulls that nest and lie,
    Ever singing, “Die, oh! die.”
    • "The Phantom Wooer" (1849)
  • I’ll take that fainting rose
    Out of his breast; perhaps some sigh of his
    Lives in the gyre of its kiss-coloured leaves.
    O pretty rose, hast thou thy flowery passions?
    Then put thyself into a scented rage,
    And breathe on me some poisonous revenge.
    For it was I, thou languid, silken blush,
    Who orphaned thy green family of thee,
    In their closed infancy: therefore receive
    My life, and spread it on thy shrunken petals,
    And give to me thy pink, reclining death.
    • "Rosily Dying" (Kelsall, 1851)
  • Hard by the lilied Nile I saw
    A duskish river-dragon stretched along,
    The brown habergeon of his limbs enamelled
    With sanguine almandines and rainy pearl:
    And on his back there lay a young one sleeping
    No bigger than a mouse; with eyes like beads,
    And a small fragment of its speckled egg
    Remaining on its harmless, pulpy snout;
    A thing to laugh at, as it gaped to catch
    The baulking, merry flies. In the iron jaws
    Of the great devil-beast, like a pale soul
    Fluttering in rocky hell, lightsomely flew
    A snowy troculus, with roseate beak
    Tearing the hairy leeches from his throat.
  • Is it not sweet to die? for, what is death,
    But sighing that we ne’er may sigh again,
    Getting a length beyond our tedious selves;
    But trampling the last tear from poisonous sorrow,
    Spilling our woes, crushing our frozen hopes,
    And passing like an incense out of man?
    Then, if the body felt, what were its sense,
    Turning to daisies gently in the grave,
    If not the soul’s most delicate delight
    When it does filtrate, through the pores of thought,
    In love and the enamelled flowers of song?
    • "Death Sweet" (wr. 1823-5; pub. 1851), as anthologised by Ricks (1987), no. 2
  • Why, Rome was naked once, a bastard smudge,
    Tumbled on straw, the denfellow of whelps,
    Fattened on roots, and, when a-thirst for milk,
    He crept beneath and drank the swagging udder
    Of Tyber’s brave she-wolf; and Heaven’s Judea
    Was folded in a pannier.
    • "Humble Beginnings" (wr. 1823-5; pub. 1851), as anthologised by Ricks (1987), no. 4
  •                                                 A lake
    Is a river curled and asleep like a snake.
    • "A Lake" (wr. 1823-5; pub. 1935), as anthologised by Ricks (1987), no. 6

Death's Jest-Book

Death’s Jest-Book; or, The Fool’s Tragedy (wr. 1825-49; pub. 1850)
  • To sea, to sea! The calm is o’er;
      The wanton water leaps in sport,
    And rattles down the pebbly shore;
      The dolphin wheels, the sea-cows snort,
    And unseen Mermaids’ pearly song
    Comes bubbling up, the weeds among.
      Fling broad the sail, dip deep the oar:
      To sea, to sea! the calm is o’er.
    To sea, to sea! our wide-wing’d bark
      Shall billowy cleave its sunny way,
    And with its shadow, fleet and dark,
     Break the caved Tritons’ azure day,
    Like mighty eagle soaring light
    O’er antelopes on Alpine height.
      The anchor heaves, the ship swings free,
      The sails swell full. To sea, to sea!
    • "Mariners’ Song (From the Ship)", Act I, scene i
  • If thou wilt ease thine heart
    Of love and all its smart,
      Then sleep, dear, sleep;
    And not a sorrow
      Hang any tear on your eyelashes;
        Lie still and deep,
      Sad soul, until the sea-wave washes
    The rim o’ the sun to-morrow,
        In eastern sky.
    But wilt thou cure thine heart
    Of love and all its smart,
      Then die, dear, die;
    ’Tis deeper, sweeter,
      Than on a rose-bank to lie dreaming
        With folded eye;
      And there alone, amid the beaming
    Of Love’s stars, thou’lt meet her
        In eastern sky.
    • "Wolfram’s Dirge", Act II, scene i
  • Squats on a toad-stool under a tree
      A bodiless childfull of life in the gloom,
    Crying with frog voice, “What shall I be?
    Poor unborn ghost, for my mother killed me
      Scarcely alive in her wicked womb.
    What shall I be? shall I creep to the egg
      That’s cracking asunder yonder by Nile,
        And with eighteen toes,
        And a snuff-taking nose,
      Make an Egyptian crocodile?
    Sing, ‘Catch a mummy by the leg
        And crunch him with an upper jaw,
        Wagging tail and clenching claw;
        Take a bill-full from my craw,
        Neighbour raven, caw, O caw,
        Grunt, my crocky, pretty maw!”
    “Swine, shall I be you? Thou’rt a dear dog;
      But for a smile, and kiss, and pout,
      I much prefer your black-lipped snout,
        Little, gruntless, fairy hog,
        Godson of the hawthorn hedge.
      For, when Ringwood snuffs me out,
        And ’gins my tender paunch to grapple,
        Sing, ’Twixt your ancles visage wedge,
          And roll up like an apple.”
    “Serpent Lucifer, how do you do?
    Of your worms and your snakes I’d be one or two;
      For in this dear planet of wool and of leather
    ’Tis pleasant to need neither shirt, sleeve, nor shoe,
      And have arm, leg, and belly together.
      Then aches your head, or are you lazy?
      Sing, ‘Round your neck your belly wrap,
      Tail-a-top, and make your cap
        Any bee and daisy.”
    “I’ll not be a fool, like the nightingale
    Who sits up all midnight without any ale,
        Making a noise with his nose;
    Nor a camel, although ’tis a beautiful back;
    Nor a duck, notwithstanding the music of quack,
        And the webby, mud-patting toes.
    I’ll be a new bird with the head of an ass,
        Two pigs’ feet, two mens’ feet, and two of a hen;
    Devil-winged; dragon-bellied; grave-jawed, because grass
      Is a beard that’s soon shaved, and grows seldom again
        Before it is summer; so cow all the rest;
        The new Dodo is finished. O! come to my nest.”
    • "Song by Isbrand", Act III, scene 3
  • By female voices
    We have bathed, where none have seen us,
      In the lake and in the fountain,
        Underneath the charmèd statue
    Of the timid, bending Venus,
      When the water-nymphs were counting
    In the waves the stars of night,
        And those maidens started at you,
    Your limbs shone through so soft and bright.
        But no secrets dare we tell,
          For thy slaves unlace thee,
          And he, who shall embrace thee,
        Waits to try thy beauty’s spell.
    By male voices
    We have crowned thee queen of women,
      Since love’s love, the rose, hath kept her
        Court within thy lips and blushes,
    And thine eye, in beauty swimming,
      Kissing, we rendered up the sceptre,
    At whose touch the startled soul
        Like an ocean bounds and gushes,
    And spirits bend at thy controul.
        But no secrets dare we tell,
          For thy slaves unlace thee,
          And he, who shall embrace thee,
        Is at hand, and so farewell.
    • "Bridal Song to Amala", Act IV, scene iii
    • Variants: Stanza 2, line 1: "Swine, shall I be one? ’Tis a dear dog;"
  • Old Adam, the carrion crow,
      The old crow of Cairo;
    He sat in the shower, and let it flow
      Under his tail and over his crest;
        And through every feather
        Leak’d the wet weather;
      And the bough swung under his nest;
      For his beak it was heavy with marrow.
        Is that the wind dying? O no;
        It’s only two devils, that blow
        Through a murderer’s bones, to and fro,
          In the ghosts’ moonshine.
    Ho! Eve, my grey carrion wife,
      When we have supped on kings’ marrow,
    Where shall we drink and make merry our life?
      Our nest it is queen Cleopatra’s skull,
        ’Tis cloven and crack’d,
        And batter’d and hack’d,
      But with tears of blue eyes it is full:
      Let us drink then, my raven of Cairo!
        Is that the wind dying? O no;
        It’s only two devils, that blow
        Through a murderer’s bones, to and fro,
          In the ghosts’ moonshine.
    • "Wolfram’s Song", Act V, scene iv
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