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Poem by Edward Dowden


In the Galleries


I. THE APOLLO BELVEDERE

Radiance invincible! Is that the brow
Which gleamed on Python while thy arrow sped?
Are those the lips for Hyacinthus dead
That grieved? Wherefore a God indeed art thou:
For all we toil with ill, and the hours bow
And break us, and at best when we have bled,
And are much marred, perchance propitiated
A little doubtful victory they allow:
We sorrow, and thenceforth the lip retains
A shade, and the eyes shine and wonder less.
O joyous Slayer of evil things! O great
And splendid Victor! God, whom no soil stains
Of passion or doubt, of grief or languidness,
   --Even to worship thee I come too late.


II. THE VENUS OF MELOS

Goddess, or woman nobler than the God,
No eyes a-gaze upon Ægean seas
Shifting and circling past their Cyclades
Saw thee. The Earth, the gracious Earth, wastrod
First by thy feet, while round thee lay her broad
Calm harvests, and great kine, and shadowing trees,
And flowers like queens, and a full years increase,
Clusters, ripe berry, and the bursting pod.
So thy victorious fairness, unallied
To bitter things or barren, doth bestow
And not exact; so thou art calm and wise;
Thy large allurement saves; a man may grow
Like Plutarchs men by standing at thy side,
And walk thenceforward with clear-visioned eyes!


III. ANTINOUS CROWNED AS BACCHUS

(In the British Museum)

Who crowned thy forehead with the ivy wreath
And clustered berries burdening the hair?
Who gave thee godhood, and dim rites? Beware
O beautiful, who breathest mortal breath,
Thou delicate flame great gloom environeth!
The gods are free, and drink a stainless air,
And lightly on calm shoulders they upbear
A weight of joy eternal, nor can Death
Cast oer their sleep the shadow of her shrine.
O thou confessed too mortal by the oer-fraught
Crowned forehead, must thy drooped eyes ever see
The glut of pleasure, those pale lips of thine
Still suck a bitter-sweet satiety,
Thy soul descend through cloudy realms of thought?


IV. LEONARDOS MONNA LISA

Make thyself known, Sibyl, or let despair
Of knowing thee be absolute; I wait
Hour-long and waste a soul. What word of fate
Hides twixt the lips which smile and still forbear?
Secret perfection! Mystery too fair!
Tangle the sense no more lest I should hate
Thy delicate tyranny, the inviolate
Poise of thy folded hands, thy fallen hair.
Nay, nay,--I wrong thee with rough words; still be
Serene, victorious, inaccessible;
Still smile but speak not; lightest irony
Lurk ever neath thine eyelids shadow; still
Oertop our knowledge; Sphinx of Italy
Allure us and reject us at thy will!


V. ST LUKE PAINTING THE VIRGIN

(By Van der Weyden)

It was Lukes will; and she, the mother-maid,
Would not gainsay; to please him pleased her best;
See, here she sits with dovelike heart at rest
Brooding, and smoothest brow; the babe is laid
On lap and arm, glad for the unarrayed
And swatheless limbs he stretches; lightly pressed
By soft maternal fingers the full breast
Seeks him, while half a sidelong glance is stayed
By her own bosom and half passes down
To reach the boy. Through doors and window-frame
Bright airs flow in; a river tranquilly
Washes the small, glad Netherlandish town.
Innocent calm! no token here of shame,
A pierced heart, sunless heaven, and Calvary.



Edward Dowden


Edward Dowden's other poems:
  1. On the Heights
  2. The Wanderer
  3. The Morning Star
  4. In the Cathedral
  5. La Révélation par le Désert


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