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Helen Gray Cone (Хелен Грей Коун)

Madonna Pia

  Ricordati di me, che son la Pia.
  Siena mi fe; disfecomi Maremma;
  Salsi colui, che, inanellata pria,
  Disposato m'avea colla sua gemma.

  Purgatorio, Canto V.

  To westward lies the unseen sea,
    Blue sea the live winds wander o'er.
  The many-colored sails can flee,
    And leave the dead, low-lying shore.
  Her longing does not seek the main,
    Her face turns northward first at morn;
  There, crowning all the wide champaign,
    Siena stood, where she was born.

  Siena stands, and still shall stand;
    She ne'er shall see or town or tower.
  Warm life and beauty, hand in hand,
    Steal farther from her hour by hour.
  Yet forth she leans, with trembling knees,
    And northward will she stare and stare
  Through that thick wall of cypress-trees,
    And sigh adown the stirless air:

  "Shall no remembrance in Siena linger
    Of me, once fair, whom slow Maremma slays?
  As well he knows, whose ring upon my finger
    Hath sealed for his alone mine earthly days!"

  From wilds where shudders through the weeds
    The dull, mean-headed, silent snake,
  Like voiceless doubt that creeps and breeds;
    From swamps where sluggish waters take,
  As lives unblest a passing love,
    The flag-flower's image in the spring,
  Or seem, when flits the bird above,
    To stir within with shadowed wing,

  A Presence mounts in pallid mist
    To fold her close: she breathes its breath;
  She waxes wan, by Fever kissed,
    Who weds her for his master, Death,
  Aside are set her dimmed hopes all,
    She counts no more the uncurrent hoard;
  On gray Death's neck she fain would fall,
    To own him for her proper lord.

  She minds the journey here by night:
    When some red sudden torch would blaze,
  She saw by fits, with childish fright,
    The cork-trees twist beside the ways.
  Like dancing demon shapes they showed,
    With malice drunk; the bat beat by,
  The owlet sobbed; on, on they rode,
    She knew not where, she knows not why.

  For Nello—when in piteous wise
    She lifted up her look to ask,
  Except the ever-burning eyes
    His face was like a marble mask.
  And so it always meets her now;
    The tomb wherein at last he lies
  Shall bear such carven lips and brow,
    All save the ever-burning eyes.

  Perchance it is his form alone
    Doth stroke his hound, at meat doth sit,
  And, for the soul that was his own,
    A fiend awhile inhabits it;
  While he sinks through the fiery throng,
    Down, to fill an evil bond,
  Since false conceit of others' wrong
    Hath wrought him to a sin beyond.

  But she—if when her years were glad
    Vain fluttering thoughts were hers, that hid
  Behind that gracious fame she had;
    If e'er observance hard she did
  That sinful men might call her saint,—
    White-handed Pia, dovelike-eyed,—
  The sick blank hours shall yet acquaint
    Her heart with all her blameful pride.

  And Death shall find her kneeling low,
    And lift her to the porphyry stair,
  And she from ledge to ledge shall go,
    Stayed by the staff of that last prayer,
  Until the high, sweet-singing wood
    Whence folk are rapt to heaven, she win;
  Therein the unpardoned never stood,
    Nor may one Sorrow nest therein.

  But through the Tuscan land shall beat
    Her Sorrow, like a wounded bird;
  And if her suit at Mary's feet
    Avail, its moan shall yet be heard
  By some just poet, who shall shed,
    Whate'er the theme that leads his rhyme
  Bright words like tears above her, dead,
    Entreating of the after time:

  "Among you let her mournful memory linger!
    Siena bare her, whom Maremma slew;
  And this dark lord, who gave her maiden finger
    His ancient gem, the secret only knew."

Helen Gray Cone's other poems:
  1. King Raedwald
  2. When Willows Green
  3. The Trumpeter
  4. The Arrowmaker
  5. Sere Wisdom

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