H, H. H. [Rossetti, Dante Gabriel]. "The Card Dealer; or, Vingt-et-Un." Athenaeum 1304 (23 Oct. 1852), 1147.

full text



Ambition, Cupidité,

Et déliceuse Volupté,

Sont les sœurs de la Destinée,

Après la vingt-première annee.

Calendrier de la Vie, 1630.

Could you not drink her gaze like wine?

Yet, though their splendour swoon

Into the lamplight languidly

As a tune into a tune,

Those eyes are wide and clear, as if

They saw 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 silence there;

And he were rich who should unwind

That woven golden hair.

Some music surely fans the sense,

A breath like closing plumes:

You know it by the spark called up

From her eyes' purple glooms;

You almost feel the instant thrill

Pulse through the lighted rooms.

And surely, where she sits, the dance

Now pants its eager heat

But not more lightly or more true

Fall there the dancers' feet,

Than fall her cards upon the board

As 'twere a heart that beat.

Her ingers let them softly through,–

Smooth, polished, silent things;

And each one, as it falls, reflects,

In swift light-shadowings,

Crimson and orange, green and blue,

The great eyes of her rings.

Whom plays she with?–With thee: thou lov'st

Those gems upon her hand.

With me: I search her secret will.

All deem her bosom grand.

We play together, she and we,

Within a vain strange land:–

A land without any order,

Whose substance is as breath;

Where one lying 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 does but crave

More, being 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 him, 'tis lost or won;

With him it is playing still; with him

It is not yet begun;

But 'tis a game she plays with all,

The game of Twenty-One.

H. H. H.

* The picture is one painted by the late Theodore von Holst; and represents a beautiful woman, richly dressed, who is sitting at a lamp-lit table, dealing out cards, with a peculiar fixedness of expression.

This document was scanned/transcribed from the original source.

Copyright © 1998 Thomas J. Tobin.

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