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SANTA MARIA NOVELLA,
Santa Maria Novella church. You pass
Saw one with set fair face as in a glass,
Rustling her silks in pauses of the mass,
When she left home, stark dead across her feet, The stair leads up to what Orgagna gave
Of Dante's dæmons; but you, passing it, Ascend the right stair of the farther nave,
To muse in a small chapel scarcely lit By Cimabue's Virgin. Bright and brave,
That picture was accounted, mark, of old !
A reverent people shouted to behold
Containing such a miracle, grew bold,
Which thrilled the artist, after work, to think That his ideal Mary-smile should stand
So very near him-- he, within the brink Of all that glory, let in by his hand
With too divine a rashness! Yet none shrink Who gaze here now,
albeit the thing is planned Sublimely in the thought's simplicity. The Virgin, throned in empyreal state,
Minds only the young babe upon her knee;
Wbile, each side, angels bear the royal weight,
Prostrated meekly, smiling tenderly Oblivion of their wings! the Child thereat
Stretches its hand like God. If any should, Because of some stiff draperies and loose joints,
Gaze scorn down from the heights of Raffaelhood, On Cimabue's picture, Heaven anoints
The head of no such critic, and his blood The poet's curse strikes full on, and appoints
To ague and cold spasms forevermore. A noble picture ! worthy of the shout
Wherewith along the streets the people bore Its cherub faces, which the sun threw out Until they stooped and entered the church door !
Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
ENCHASED with precious marbles, pure and rare,
, it From every polished stage to laugh and smile, Playing with sportive gleams of lucid air ! Fit resting-place methinks its summit were For a descended angel! happy isle, Mid life's rough sea of sorrow, force, and guile, For saint of royal race, or vestal fair, In this seclusion, - call it not a prison, Cloistering a bosom innocent and lonely. O Tuscan Priestess ! gladly would I watch All night one note of thy loud hymn to catch Sent forth to greet the sun, when first, new-risen, He shines on that aerial station only!
Aubrey de Vere.
W many lives, made beautiful and sweet
By self-devotion and by self-restraint, Whose pleasure is to run without complaint On unknown errands of the Paraclete, Wanting the reverence of unshodden feet, Fail of the nimbus which the artists paint Around the shining forehead of the saint, And are in their completeness incomplete ! In the old Tuscan town stands Giotto's tower, The lily of Florence blossoming in stone, A vision, a delight, and a desire, The builder's perfect and centennial flower, That in the night of ages bloomed alone, But wanting still the glory of the spire.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
THE OLD BRIDGE AT FLORENCE.
NADDEO GADDI built me. I am old,
Five centuries old. I plant my foot of stone Upon the Arno, as St. Michael's own Was planted on the dragon. Fold by fold Beneath me as it struggles, I behold Its glistening scales. Twice hath it overthrown My kindred and companions. Me alone It moveth not, but is by me controlled. I can remember when the Medici Were driven from Florence; longer still ago
The final wars of Ghibelline and Guelf.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
WHILE slow on Miniato's height I roam,
And backward look to Brunelleschi's dome,
CASA GUIDI WINDOWS.
HE came, whom Casa Guidi's chambers knew,
The air without a star was shivered through
Sealed weary lids with sleep, together pressed
Now, looking through these windows, where the day
The quiet brow; the face so frail and fair
Who could forget those features, having known ?
Ah, in the silence she has left behind
The tablet tells you, “Here she wrote and died,”