Dolores, er, Drusilla (Algernon Charles Swinburne)

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by Betsy Hanes Perry

Strong arms, partly veiled in white linen,
Sharp fangs, cloaked by lips like old wine,
Disguised as the frailest of women,
Masking power for which Atlas might pine,
Did he see what you'd be when he killed you,
When he forced your chaste lips to the vein,
O languid and lovely Drusilla,
Our Lady Insane?

When you met with a child in the gloaming,
Who had strayed from her mother or nurse,
And you made Death the end of her roaming,
While chanting a fragment of verse,
Did you murmur of plums and vanilla,
As your fingernails entered her brain,
Or of wandering lambs, sweet Drusilla
Our Lady Insane?

The world has spun mad in its gyre,
Since you put on your guise of sweet flesh,
Yet your face is as ageless as fire,
Your pallid perfection still fresh.
Will you prattle and wander for ever
As ephemeral stars flash and wane,
O timeless and tragic Drusilla,
Our Lady Insane?

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