A 'Sant' Imagine'

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. 

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.