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THE WANDERER: 2. IN FRANCE: MADAME LA MARQUISE, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: The folds of her wine-dark violet dress
Last Line: ...Is it worth while to guess at all this?
Alternate Author Name(s): Meredith, Owen; Lytton, 1st Earl Of; Lytton, Robert
Subject(s): France; Travel; Journeys; Trips

THE folds of her wine-dark violet dress
Glow over the sofa, fall on fall,
As she sits in the air of her loveliness
With a smile for each and for all.

Half of her exquisite face in the shade
Which o'er it the screen in her soft hand flings:
Through the gloom glows her hair in its odorous braid:
In the firelight are sparkling her rings.

As she leans, -- the slow smile half shut up in her eyes
Beams the sleepy, long, silk-soft lashes beneath;
Through her crimson lips, stirred by her faint replies,
Breaks one gleam of her pearl-white teeth.

As she leans, -- where your eye, by her beauty subdued,
Droops -- from under warm fringes of broidery white
The slightest of feet -- silken-slippered, protrude,
For one moment, then slip out of sight.

As I bend o'er her bosom, to tell her the news,
The faint scent of her hair, the approach of her cheek,
The vague warmth of her breath, all my senses suffuse
With HERSELF: and I tremble to speak.

So she sits in the curtained, luxurious light
Of that room, with its porcelain, and pictures, and flowers,
When the dark day's half done, and the snow flutters white,
Past the windows in feathery showers.

All without is so cold, -- 'neath the low leaden sky!
Down the bald, empty street, like a ghost, the gendarme
Stalks surly: a distant carriage hums by: --
All within is so bright and so warm!

Here we talk of the schemes and the scandals of court,
How the courtesan pushes: the charlatan thrives:
We put horns on the heads of our friends, just for sport:
Put intrigues in the heads of their wives.

Her warm hand, at parting, so strangely thrilled mine,
That at dinner I scarcely remark what they say, --
Drop the ice in my soup, spill the salt in my wine,
Then go yawn at my favorite play.

But she drives after noon: -- then's the time to behold her,
With her fair face half hid, like a ripe peeping rose,
'Neath that veil, -- o'er the velvets and furs which enfold her,
Leaning back with a queenly repose, --

As she glides up the sunlight! ...You'd say she was made
To loll back in a carriage, all day, with a smile,
And at dusk, on a sofa, to lean in the shade
Of soft lamps, and be wooed for a while.

Could we find out her heart through that velvet and lace!
Can it beat without ruffling her sumptuous dress?
She will show us her shoulder, her bosom, her face;
But what the heart's like, we must guess.

With live women and men to be found in the world --
( -- Live with sorrow and sin, -- live with pain and with passion, -- )
Who could live with a doll, though its locks should be curled,
And its petticoats trimmed in the fashion?

'T is so fair! ...would my bite, if I bit it, draw blood?
Will it cry if I hurt it? or scold if I kiss?
Is it made, with its beauty, of wax or of wood?
...Is it worth while to guess at all this?

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