Stephen Vincent Benet ( )


Alexander VI Dines with the Cardinal of Capua


Next, then, the peacock, gilt 
With all its feathers. Look, what gorgeous dyes 
Flow in the eyes! 
And how deep, lustrous greens are splashed and spilt 
Along the back, that like a sea-waves crest 
Scatters soft beauty oer th emblazoned breast! 

A strange fowl! But most fit 
For feasts like this, whereby I honor one 
Pure as the sun! 
Yet glowing with the fiery zeal of it! 
Some wine? Your goblets empty? Let it foam! 
It is not often that you come to Rome! 

You like the Venice glass? 
Rippled with lines that float like womens curls, 
Neck like a girls, 
Fierce-glowing as a chalice in the Mass? 
You start -- twas artist then, not Pope who spoke! 
Ave Maria stella! -- ah, it broke! 

Tis said they break alone 
When poison writhes within. A foolish tale! 
What, you look pale? 
Caraffa, fetch a silver cup! . . . You own 
A Birth of Venus, now -- or so Ive heard, 
Lovely as the breast-plumage of a bird. 

Also a Dancing Faun, 
Hewn with the lithe grace of Praxiteles; 
Globed pearls to please 
A sultan; golden veils that drop like lawn -- 
How happy I could be with but a tithe 
Of your possessions, fortunate one! Dont writhe 

But take these cushions here! 
Now for the fruit! Great peaches, satin-skinned, 
Rough tamarind, 
Pomegranates red as lips -- oh they come dear! 
But men like you we feast at any price -- 
A plum perhaps? Theyre looking rather nice! 

Ill cut the thing in half. 
Theres yours! Now, with a one-side-poisoned knife 
One might snuff life 
And leave ones friend with -- fool for epitaph! 
An old trick? Truth! But when one has the itch 
For pretty things and isnt very rich. . . . 

There, eat it all or Ill 
Be angry! You feel giddy? Well, its hot! 
This bergamot 
Take home and smell -- it purges blood of bile! 
And when you kiss Biancas dimpled knee, 
Think of the poor Pope in his misery! 

Now you may kiss my ring! 
Ho there, the Cardinals litter! -- You must dine 
When the new wine 
Is in, again with me -- hear Bice sing, 
Even admire my frescoes -- though theyre nought 
Beside the calm Greek glories you have bought! 

Godspeed, Sir Cardinal! 
And take a weak mans blessing! Help him there 
To the cool air! . . . 
Lucrezia here? Youre ready for the ball? 
-- Hell die within ten hours, I suppose -- 
Mhm! Kiss your poor old father, little rose!



Stephen Vincent Benet's other poems:
  1. Ghosts of a Lunatic Asylum
  2. The Congressmen Came out to See Bull Run
  3. 1936
  4. Colors
  5. Before an Examination


 . Poem to print (Print)

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