Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The Choice
By Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)
EAT thou and drink; to-morrow thou shalt die.
  Surely the earth, that ’s wise being very old,
  Needs not our help. Then loose me, love, and hold
Thy sultry hair up from my face; that I
May pour for thee this golden wine, brim-high,        5
  Till round the glass thy fingers glow like gold.
  We’ll drown all hours: thy song, while hours are toll’d,
Shall leap, as fountains veil the changing sky.
Now kiss, and think that there are really those,
  My own high-bosom’d beauty, who increase        10
    Vain gold, vain lore, and yet might choose our way!
    Through many years they toil; then on a day
  They die not,—for their life was death,—but cease;
And round their narrow lips the mould falls close.
Watch thou and fear; to-morrow thou shalt die.
  Or art thou sure thou shalt have time for death?
  Is not the day which God’s word promiseth
To come man knows not when? In yonder sky,
Now while we speak, the sun speeds forth: can I
  Or thou assure him of his goal? God’s breath        20
  Even at this moment haply quickeneth
The air to a flame; till spirits, always nigh
Though screened and hid, shall walk the daylight here.
  And dost thou prate of all that man shall do?
    Canst thou, who hast but plagues, presume to be        25
    Glad in his gladness that comes after thee?
  Will his strength slay thy worm in Hell? Go to:
Cover thy countenance, and watch, and fear!
Think thou and act; to-morrow thou shalt die.
  Outstretch’d in the sun’s warmth upon the shore,        30
  Thou say’st: ‘Man’s measured path is all gone o’er:
Up all his years, steeply, with strain and sigh,
Man clomb until he touch’d the truth; and I,
  Even I, am he whom it was destined for.’
  How should this be? Art thou then so much more        35
Than they who sow’d, that thou shouldst reap thereby?
Nay, come up hither. From this wave-wash’d mound
  Unto the furthest flood-brim look with me;
Then reach on with thy thought till it be drown’d.
  Miles and miles distant though the last line be,        40
And though thy soul sail leagues and leagues beyond,—
  Still, leagues beyond those leagues, there is more sea.

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