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Tasting the air this spicy night which turns
The unaccustomed head like Chianti wine !
Oh, the church knows ! don't misreport me, now
It 's natural a poor monk out of bounds
Should have his apt word to excuse himself:
And hearken how I plot to make amends.
I have bethought me : I shall paint a piece
... There 's for you! Give me six months, then go, see
Something in Sant'Ambrogio's! Bless the nuns !
They want a cast o' my office. I shall paint
God in the midst, Madonna and her babe,
Ringed by a bowery, flowery angel-brood,
Lilies and vestments and white faces, sweet
As puff on puff of grated orris-root
When ladies crowd to church at midsummer.
And then i' the front, of course a saint or two –
St. John, because he saves the Florentines,
St. Ambrose, who puts down in black and white
The convent's friends and gives them a long day,
And Job, I must have him there, past mistake,
The man of Uz, (and Us without the 2,
Painters who need his patience.) Well, all these
Secured at their devotion, up shall come
Out of a corner when you least expect,
As one by a dark stair into a great light,
Music and talking, who but Lippo! I!-
Mazed, motionless and moon-struck-I 'm the man !
Back I shrink-what is this I see and hear ?
I, caught up with my monk's things by mistake,
My old serge gown and rope that goes all round,
I, in this presence, this pure company !
Where 's a hole, where 's a corner for escape?
Then steps a sweet angelic slip of a thing
Forward, puts out a soft palm—“Not so fast !”
-Addresses the celestial presence, “nay-
“ He made you and devised you, after all,
“ Though he 's none of you ! Could Saint John there,
draw“ His camel-hair make up a painting brush? “We come to brother Lippo for all that, “ Iste perfecit opus !” So, all smileI shuffle sideways with my blushing face Under the cover of a hundred wings Thrown like a spread of kirtles when you 're gay And play hot cockles, all the doors being shut, : Till, wholly unexpected, in there pops The hothead husband! Thus I scuttle off To some safe bench behind, not letting go The palm of her, the little lily thing i That spoke the good word for me in the nick, Like the Prior's niece . . . Saint Lucy, I would say. And so all 's saved for me, and for the church A pretty picture gained. Go, six months hence ! Your hand, sir, and good bye : no lights, no lights ! The street 's hushed, and I know my own way back, Don't fear me! There 's the grey beginning. Zooks !
(CALLED “THE FAULTLESS PAINTER.")
But do not let us quarrel any more,
No, my Lucrezia ! bear with me for once :
Sit down and all shall happen as you wish.
You turn your face, but does it bring your heart ?
I 'll work then for your friend's friend, never fear,
Treat his own subject after his own way,
Fix his own time, accept too his own price,
And shut the money into this small hand
When next it takes mine. Will it? tenderly?
Oh, I 'll content him,—but to-morrow, Love !
I often am much wearier than you think,
This evening more than usual: and it seems
As if—forgive now—should you let me sit
Here by the window, with your hand in mine,
And look a half hour forth on Fiesole,
Both of one mind, as married people use,
Quietly, quietly the evening through,
I might get up to-morrow to my work
Cheerful and fresh as ever. Let us try.
Tomorrow, how you shall be glad for this !
Your soft hand is a woman of itselt,
And mine, the man's bared breast she curls inside.
Don't count the time lost, neither; you must serve
For each of the five pictures we require :
It saves a model. So ! keep looking so— '
My serpentining beauty, rounds on rounds!
-How could you ever prick those perfect ears,
Even to put the pearl there ! oh, so sweet,
My face, my moon, my everybody's moon,
Which everybody looks on and calls his,
And, I suppose, is looked on by in turn,
While she looks—no one's: very dear, no less.
You smile? why, there 's my picture ready made,
There 's what we painters call our harmony!
A common greyness silvers everything,
All in a twilight, you and I alike
-You, at the point of your first pride in me
(That 's gone, you know)—but I, at every point;
My youth, my hope, my art, being all toned down
To yonder sober pleasant Fiesole.
There 's the bell clinking from the chapel-top;
That length of convent-wall across the way
Holds the trees safer, huddled more inside ;
The last monk leaves the garden ; days decrease,
And autumn grows, autumn in everything.
Eh? the whole seems to fall into a shape,
As if I saw alike my work and self
And all that I was born to be and do,
A twilight-piece. Love, we are in God's hand.
How strange now, looks the life he makes us lead ;
So free we seem, so fettered -fast we are !
I feel he laid the fetter : let it lie !
This chamber, for example-turn your head ,
All that 's behind us! You don't understand
Nor care to understand about my art,
But you can hear at least when people speak :
And that cartoon, the second from the door
- It is the thing, Love! so such things should be:
Behold Madonna !-I am bold to say.
I can do with my pencil what I know,
What I see, what at bottom of my heart
I wish for, if I ever wish so deep-
Do easily, too—when I say, perfectly,
I do not boast, perhaps : yourself are judge,
Who listened to the Legate's talk last week;
And just as much they used to say in France.
At any rate 'tis easy, all of it!
No sketches first, no studies, that 's long past :
I do what many dream of, all their lives,
-Dream ? ,strive to do, and agonise to do,
And fail in doing. I could.count twenty such
On twice your fingers, and not leave this town,
Who strive-you don't know how the others strive
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat, -
Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,
(I know his name, no matter)-so much less !
Well, less is more, Lucrezia : I am judged.
There burns a truer light of God in them,
In their vexed beating stuffed and stopped-up brain,
Heart, or whate'er else, than goes on to prompt
This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand of mine.
Their works drop groundward, but themselves, I know,
Reach many a time a heaven that 's shut to me,
Enter and take their place there sure enough,