Leonardo da Vinci is said to have been four years employed upon the portrait of Mona Lisa, a fair Florentine, without being able to come up to the idea of her beauty.
Artist! lay the brush aside;
Twilight gathers chill and gray;
Turn the picture to the wall, -
Thou hast wrought in vain to-day.
Thrice twelve months have hastened by
Since thy canvas first grew bright
With that brow's bewitching beauty,
And that dark eye's melting light.
But the early morning shineth
On thy tireless labors yet,
And the portrait stands before thee
Till the evening sun has set.
Faultless is the robe that falleth
Round that form of matchless grace;
Faultless is the softened outline
Of the fair and oval face.
Thou hast caught the wondrous beauty
Of the round cheek's roseate hue,
And the full, red lips are smiling
As this morn they smiled on you.
To that Lady thou hast given
Wherefore then, with moody glances,
Dost thou from thy labor go?
From the living face of beauty
Beams the soul's expressive ray,
And with all thy god-like genius
This thou never canst portray.
Of the countless throng around me
Each hath labors like to thine,
Each, methinks, some Mona Lisa
In his spirit's inmost shrine.
Visions haunt us from our childhood
Of a love so pure, so true,
Time and tears, and care and anguish,
Leave it steadfast, fair and new; -
Visions that elude for ever,
As the silent years depart,
Some unhappy ones and weary, -
Mona Lisas of the heart.
Gleams of that divine completeness
God's angelic ones attain,
Pass amid our toils before us,
And we emulate in vain.
Poet fancies crowd the spirit,
We would print upon the scroll -
But that perfect utterance faileth -
Mona Lisas of the soul.