by Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830 - 1894)

'Too late for love, too late for joy
Language: English 
'Too late for love, too late for joy,
 Too late, too late!
You loitered on the road too long,
 You trifled at the gate:
The enchanted dove upon her branch
 Died without a mate;  
The enchanted princess in her tower
 Slept, died, behind the grate;
Her heart was starving all this while
 You made it wait.

'Ten years ago, five years ago,
 One year ago,
Even then you had arrived in time,
 Though somewhat slow;
Then you had known her living face
 Which now you cannot know:  
The frozen fountain would have leaped,
 The buds gone on to blow,
The warm south wind would have awaked
 To melt the snow.

'Is she fair now as she lies?
 Once she was fair;
Meet queen for any kingly king,
 With gold-dust on her hair.
Now these are poppies in her locks,
 White poppies she must wear;  
Must wear a veil to shroud her face
 And the want graven there:
Or is the hunger fed at length,
 Cast off the care?

'We never saw her with a smile
 Or with a frown;
Her bed seemed never soft to her,
 Though tossed of down;
She little heeded what she wore,
 Kirtle, or wreath, or gown;  
We think her white brows often ached
 Beneath her crown,
Till silvery hairs showed in her locks
 That used to be so brown.

'We never heard her speak in haste;
 Her tones were sweet,
And modulated just so much
 As it was meet:
Her heart sat silent through the noise
 And concourse of the street.  
There was no hurry in her hands,
 No hurry in her feet;
There was no bliss drew nigh to her,
 That she might run to greet.

'You should have wept her yesterday,
 Wasting upon her bed:
But wherefore should you weep to-day
 That she is dead?
Lo, we who love weep not to-day,
 But crown her royal head.  
Let be these poppies that we strew,
 Your roses are too red:
Let be these poppies, not for you
 Cut down and spread.'

S. Coleridge-Taylor sets stanzas 1, 2, 6

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View text with footnotes

The final, bride-song section of Rossetti's epic poem "The Prince's Progress"

Confirmed with Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market, The Prince's Progress, and Other Poems, London, etc.: Oxford University Press/Project Gutenburg, 2005.


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Garrett Medlock [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website: 2007-09-30
Line count: 60
Word count: 337