Last Sonnets At Paris

Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828 (London) – 1882 (Birchington-on-Sea)

I

Chins that might serve the new Jerusalem;
Streets footsore; minute whisking milliners,
Dubbed graceful, but at whom one's eye demurs,
Knowing of England; ladies, much the same;
Bland smiling dogs with manes—a few of them
At pains to look like sporting characters;
Vast humming tabbies smothered in their furs;
Groseille, orgeat, meringues à la crême—
Good things to study; ditto bad—the maps
Of sloshy colour in the Louvre; cinq-francs
The largest coin; and at the restaurants
Large Ibrahim Pachas in Turkish caps
To pocket them. Un million d'habitants:
Cast up, they'll make an Englishman—perhaps.

II

Tiled floors in bedrooms; trees (now run to seed—
Such seed as the wind takes) of Liberty;
Squares with new names that no one seems to see;
Scrambling Briarean passages, which lead
To the first place you came from; urgent need
Of unperturbed nasal philosophy;
Through Paris (what with church and gallery)
Some forty first-rate paintings,—or indeed
Fifty mayhap; fine churches; splendid inns;
Fierce sentinels (toy-size without the stands)
Who spit their oaths at you and grind their r's
If at a fountain you would wash your hands;
One Frenchman (this is fact) who thinks he spars:—
Can even good dinners cover all these sins?

III

Yet in the mighty French metropolis
Our time has not gone from us utterly
In waste. The wise man saith, “An ample fee
For toil, to work thine end.” Aye that it is.
Should England ask, “Was narrow prejudice
Stretched to its utmost point unflinchingly,
Even unto lying, at all times, by ye?”
We can say firmly: “Lord, thou knowest this,
Our soil may own us.” Having but small French,
Hunt passed for a stern Spartan all the while,
Uncompromising, of few words: for me—
I think I was accounted generally
A fool, and just a little cracked. Thy smile
May light on us, Britannia, healthy wench.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was an English poet, illustrator, painter and translator. more…

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