Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white;
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk;
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font;
The firefly wakens, waken thou with me.
Now droops the milk-white peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.
Now lies the Earth all Danae to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.
Now slides the silent meteor on, and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts, in me.
Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake.
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal
The image, via Wikimedia, is ‘An Idyll’ by Maurice William Greiffenhagen (1862 – 1931)
When I was a young woman, Lady Antonia Fraser was held up to us all as the model to aim at. She was the daughter of an earl to begin with. She was a Pakenham, definitely part of the ruling class. She had been to Oxford (Lady Margaret Hall). She was married to the MP Hugh Fraser, and she gave elegant dinner parties at their house in Holland Park. The recipes and a description of these parties and the dress that she had worn appeared in Vogue the following month. She had six children (three girls and three boys, naturally). Oh, and in her spare time she wrote brilliant books about history, such as her seminal biography of Mary, Queen of Scots. And she was beautiful (in the above photograph she is 80 years old, but she is still beautiful). If you, dear reader, detect a green-eyed monster behind these words, you are absolutely right. But, what was even worse, she was impossible to hate because she was amusing and a brilliant conversationalist as well.
I do remember vividly one occasion when she explained that in her generation at Oxford, the men regarded this poem as surefire seduction material. I pass on this information in case it may be of sufficient efficacy to work similar wonders in the 21st century.
Here Stephen Petch sings this set to music by Roger Quilter.