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Maude Clare

 Out of the church she followed them
With a lofty step and mien: 
His bride was like a village maid, 
Maude Clare was like a queen.
“Son Thomas, ” his lady mother said, With smiles, almost with tears: “May Nell and you but live as true As we have done for years; “Your father thirty years ago Had just your tale to tell; But he was not so pale as you, Nor I so pale as Nell.
” My lord was pale with inward strife, And Nell was pale with pride; My lord gazed long on pale Maude Clare Or ever he kissed the bride.
“Lo, I have brought my gift, my lord, Have brought my gift, ” she said: To bless the hearth, to bless the board, To bless the marriage-bed.
“Here’s my half of the golden chain You wore about your neck, That day we waded ankle-deep For lilies in the beck: “Here’s my half of the faded leaves We plucked from the budding bough, With feet amongst the lily leaves, - The lilies are budding now.
” He strove to match her scorn with scorn, He faltered in his place: “Lady, ” he said, - “Maude Clare, ” he said, - “Maude Clare, ” – and hid his face.
She turn’d to Nell: “My Lady Nell, I have a gift for you; Though, were it fruit, the blooms were gone, Or, were it flowers, the dew.
“Take my share of a fickle heart, Mine of a paltry love: Take it or leave it as you will, I wash my hands thereof.
” “And what you leave, ” said Nell, “I’ll take, And what you spurn, I’ll wear; For he’s my lord for better and worse, And him I love Maude Clare.
“Yea, though you’re taller by the head, More wise and much more fair: I’ll love him till he loves me best, Me best of all Maude Clare.

by Christina Rossetti
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