Christina Rossetti

Maude Clare

Out of the church she followed them
   With a lofty step and mien:
His bride was like a village maid,
   Maude Clare was like a queen.

“Son Thomas, ” his lady mother said,
   With smiles, almost with tears:
“May Nell and you but live as true
   As we have done for years;

“Your father thirty years ago
   Had just your tale to tell;
But he was not so pale as you,
   Nor I so pale as Nell.”

My lord was pale with inward strife,
   And Nell was pale with pride;
My lord gazed long on pale Maude Clare
   Or ever he kissed the bride.

“Lo, I have brought my gift, my lord,
   Have brought my gift, ” she said:
To bless the hearth, to bless the board,
   To bless the marriage-bed.

“Here’s my half of the golden chain
   You wore about your neck,
That day we waded ankle-deep
   For lilies in the beck:

“Here’s my half of the faded leaves
   We plucked from the budding bough,
With feet amongst the lily leaves, -
   The lilies are budding now.”

He strove to match her scorn with scorn,
   He faltered in his place:
“Lady, ” he said, - “Maude Clare, ” he said, -
   “Maude Clare, ” – and hid his face.

She turn’d to Nell: “My Lady Nell,
   I have a gift for you;
Though, were it fruit, the bloom were gone,
   Or, were it flowers, the dew.

“Take my share of a fickle heart,
   Mine of a paltry love:
Take it or leave it as you will,
   I wash my hands thereof.”

“And what you leave, ” said Nell, “I’ll take,
   And what you spurn, I’ll wear;
For he’s my lord for better and worse,
   And him I love Maude Clare.

“Yea, though you’re taller by the head,
   More wise and much more fair:
I’ll love him till he loves me best,
   Me best of all Maude Clare.