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Poem by William Dean Howells

Saint Christopher

In the narrow Venetian street,
On the wall above the garden gate
(Within, the breath of the rose is sweet,
And the nightingale sings there, soon and late),

Stands Saint Christopher, craven in stone,
With the little child in huge caress,
And the arms of the baby Jesus thrown
About his gigantic tenderness;

And over the wall a wandering growth
Of darkest and greenest ivy clings,
And climbs around them, and holds them both
In its netted clasp of knots and rings,

Clothing the saint from foot to beard
In glittering leaves that whisper and dance
To the child, on his mighty arm upreared,
With a lusty summer exuberance.

To the child on his arm the faithful saint
Looks up with a broad and tranquil joy;
His brows and his heavy beard aslant
Under the dimpled chin of the boy,

Who plays with the world upon his palm,
And bends his smiling looks divine
On the face of the giant mild and calm,
And the glittering frolic of the vine.

He smiles on either with equal grace--
On the simple ivy's unconscious life,
And the soul in the giant's lifted face,
Strong from the peril of the strife:

For both are his own,--the innocence
That climbs from the heart of earth to heaven,
And the virture that gently rises thence
Through trial sent and victory given.

Grow, ivy, up to his countenance,
But it cannot smile on my face as on thine,
Look, Saint, with thy trustful, fearless glance,
Where I dare not lift these eyes of mine.

William Dean Howells

William Dean Howells's other poems:
  1. The Song the Oriole Sings
  2. In Earliest Spring
  3. The Sarcastic Fair
  4. What Shall It Profit?
  5. Vision

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