Fiorenzo di Lorenzo
The Städel’sche Institut at Frankfurt
A HOLY Picture—variably fair
In colour and fantastic in device !
With what an ecstasy is laid
The pattern of this red brocade,
Blood-red above Madonna's seat for glory ;
But gold and black behind the victor-two
Who, full in view
Of the great, central form, in thought
Live through the martyrdom they wrought ;
Afresh, with finer senses, suffer and despair.
Why is their story
Set in such splendour one must note the nice
Edge of the arras and the glancing tone
Of jacinth floor, pale rose before the Virgin's throne ?
A young St. Christopher, with Umbria's blue
Clear in his eyes, stands nobly to the right
And questions how the thing may hap
The little, curious, curled-up chap,
That clings almost astride upon his shoulder
And with uncertain baby-fingers lays
A pat of praise
On the crisp, propping head, should press
Upon him to acute distress.
Vainly he turns ; within the child's eyes is no clue ;
And he with colder
Heart must give succour to the sad in plight :
To him no secrets of his doom are known ;
Who suffers fate to load must bear the load alone.
And wherefore doth Madonna thus look down
So wistful toward the book upon her knees ?
Has she no comfort ? Is there need
Within the Scriptures she should read
Who to the living Word her bosom presses ?
With bliss of her young Babe so near,
Is it not drear
Darkly from books to understand
What bodes his coming to the land ?
Alas, as any other child he catches at her gown
And, with caresses.
Breaks on her still Magnificat : to ease
And give air to her spirit with her own
Christ she must hold communion in great songs alone.
She bows and sheds no comfort on the boy
Whose face turns on her full of bleeding tears,
Sebastian, with the arrows' thrill
Intolerable to him still,
Full of an agony that has no measure,
That cannot rise, grow to the height and wane,
Being simple pain
That to his nature is as bound
As anguish to the viol's sound :
He suffers as the sensitive enjoy ;
And, as their pleasure.
His pain is hid from common eyes and ears.
Wide-gaping as for air, breathing no moan,
His delicate, exhausted lips are open thrown.
And now back to the picture's self we come,
Its subtle, glowing spirit ; turn our eyes
From those grave, isolated, strange
Figures, to feel how sweet the range
Of colour in the marbles, with what grace is
Sebastian's porphyry-column reared aloft !
How waving, soft
And fringed the palm-branch of the stave
Saint Christopher exalts !—they must have all things brave
About them who are born for martyrdom :
The fine, stern faces
Refuse so steadily what they despise ;
The world will never mix them with her own—
They choose the best, and with the best are left alone.