Poem of the day

The Card-Dealer
by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882)

Could you not drink her gaze like wine?
      Yet though its splendour 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 a 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, bless’d or bann’d.
We play together, she and we,
      Within a vain strange land:

A land without any order,β€”
      Day even as night, (one saith,)β€”
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:β€”
      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,β€”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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