The twilight o'er Italia's sky
Had spread a shadowy veil,
And one by one the solemn stars
Looked forth, serene and pale;
As quietly the waning light
Through a high casement stole,
And fell on one with silver hair,
Who shrived a passing soul.
No costly pomp or luxury
Relieved that chamber's gloom,
But glowing forms, by limner's art
Created, thronged the room:
And as the low winds carried far
The chime for evening prayer,
The dying painter's earnest tones
Fell on the languid air.
"The spectral form of Death is nigh,
The thread of life is spun:
Ave Maria! I have looked
Upon my latest sun.
And yet 't is not with pale disease
This frame is worn away;
Nor yet - nor yet with length of years; -
A child but yesterday,"
"I found within my father's hall
No fervent love to claim,
The curse that marked me at my birth
Devoted me to shame.
I saw that on my brother's brow
Angelic beauty lay;
The mirror gave me back a form
That thrilled me with dismay."
"And soon I learned to shrink from all,
The lowly and the high;
To see but scorn on every lip,
Contempt in every eye.
And for a time e'en Nature's smile
A bitter mockery wore,
For beauty stamped each living thing
The wide creation o'er,"
"And I alone was cursed and loathed:
'T was in a garden bower
I mused one eve, and scalding tears
Fell fast on many a flower;
And when I rose, I marked, with awe
And agonizing grief,
A frail mimosa at my feet
Fold close each fragile leaf."
"Alas! how dark my lot, if thus
A plant could shrink from me!
But when I looked again, I saw
That from the honey-bee,
The falling leaf, the bird's gay wing.
It shrank with pain or fear:
A kindred presence I had found, -
Life waxed sublimely clear."
"I climbed the lofty mountain height,
And communed with the skies,
And felt within my grateful heart
New aspirations rise.
Then, thirsting for a higher lore,
I left my childhood's home,
And stayed not till I gazed upon
The hills of fallen Rome."
"I stood amid the glorious forms
Immortal and divine,
The painter's wand had summoned from
The dim Ideal's shrine;
And felt within my fevered soul
Ambition's wasting fire,
And seized the pencil, with a vague
And passionate desire"
"To shadow forth, with lineaments
Of earth, the phantom throng
That swept before my sight in thought,
And lived in storied song.
Vain, vain the dream; - as well might I
Aspire to light a star,
Or pile the gorgeous sunset-clouds
That glitter from afar."
"The threads of life have worn away;
Discordantly they thrill;
And soon the sounding chords will be
For ever mute and still.
And in the spirit-land that lies
Beyond, so calm and gray,
I shall aspire with truer aim: -
Ave Maria! pray!"