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Edwin Arnold (Эдвин Арнольд)

Quentin Matsys

A memory of the past hath wondrous power
To gild the present, and to throw a veil
Of rare enchantment o'er the spot it haunts,
Blinding the rapt soul's vision to all else
But what is beautiful. And thus a tale
An old sweet tale of love hath lent a charm
To every painted wall and pointed roof,
And quaint bye lane in Antwerp. You should hear
The Flemish girls at evening telling it,
Till their blue, laughing eyes grow sad for pity
And bright again for joy. How, on a time
Close where the court-house stands, there lived a smith,
One Quentin Matsys, and his calling was
To torture stubborn iron into form
Of swords, and helms, and spears, and coats of mail
For gallant knights; and figured canopies
To roof their tombs; aye, and fine glittering chains
For dainty ladies' necks. The massy hammer
Was his best friend, and its deep ringing song
Early and late came cheerly. 'Till at mass
His eye one instant from the missal wandered
And met another's,-oh! so starry bright
That he forgot his prayers to gaze upon it.
And in the feast that day, mid many forms,
Hers-only hers, he saw-rich music sounded,
But it seemed dull, when smilingly and soft,
She thanked him for some service. Wonder ye
That thought of furnaces and Spanish steel
Was gone from out his heart, all to make room
For that soft smile? alas, 'twas even so!
The hammer's song was still; its master's arm
Was with his heart; and in the silent forge
Helms lay unriveted, and shields unbraced;
Swords, hiltless and unpolished; till at last,
From her own lips he heard half-uttered words,
That told him he was loved, even as he loved.

She was a Painter's daughter,-bold for love
He told his earnest suit, and prayed her hand
In words that his full heart made eloquence.
Silent the Father heard; then as he sate
In jewelled silks, and velvet furbelowed,
With works of mighty masters on the wall,
And all his art's appliances about him,
A thin smile curled his pale patrician lip,
And cold and slow the cruel sentence came:
'A painter's daughter may not wed a smith;
'Paint me like this and these, and thou shalt have her.'
Died then his love? Listen! The maiden wept
Such pearly tears, that in his bursting heart
Grew up strange hopes. Alas! to few is given
The magic skill that limns in lifelike hues,
A speaking lip, an eye that beams and loves,
A moving majesty like nature's own,
Save that this may not die: it is a gift
Higher and holier than a common man
May dare to reach at; oh! by what right then
Dared he to dream of it? by what right! Love's!
The love that lifts a peasant to a king,
The love that knows no doubting! Well he knew,
Too well for his fond hopes, that brawny arms
Guide not the pencil, and that smithy strokes
Fix not the fancies of a painter's mind;
But still for that. To gaze into the eyes
That sparkled all for him, was inspiration
Better than painter's best: long days and nights
He strove as only lovers strive; at last
The passport to the haven of his hopes
Came in a touch, as if some angel hand
Had dipt his brush in life; and as the form
His fancy pictured, slowly,-slowly grew,
And woke into broad being, then at last
He knew that he had won his golden prize-
That she was his for ever.

Antwerp's bells
Rang out right merrily one sunny day
Blue kirtles and bright hose, and brighter faces;-
Rhenish and sack, dancing and songs there were,
Feasting and music, and mad revelry,
And all to keep the wedding:-cavaliers
And high-born ladies stood to see them pass,
He, Quentin Matsys, and his blooming bride;
With witching smiles, and nods, and waving hands.
And how the caps flew up! and how they cried,
'No knight so gallant as the artist smith,'
'No dame so lovely as the Painter's daughter;'
'Sweet May Mother! guard them!'

It must end
Like an old Wife's tale, with a 'they lived happy;'
But 'tis most true; and if ye doubt its truth,
Go where proud Windsor rises like a rock
In a green sea of summer meadows; pace
From hall to hall, through echoing corridors
And vaulted galleries, till the enchanted eye
Rest on a painting, where the limner's art
Hath caught the trick of life; there shall you see
The miser's withered cheek and rugged brow
And cold unfeeling eye; nay, almost hear
His cursed florins ring; then think of him,
Whose passionate love taught him such lore as this,
And hope on joyously; remembering ever
There are no kings on earth but loving hearts,
And these rule Earth and Heaven!- 

Edwin Arnold's other poems:
  1. The Rhine and The Moselle
  2. The Division of Poland
  3. With a Bracelet in the Form of a Snake
  4. The Falcon-Feast
  5. The Eygptian Princess

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