Rhymes On The Road. Extract XV. Rome.

A poem by Thomas Moore

Mary Magdalen.--Her Story.--Numerous Pictures of her.--Correggio--Guido --Raphael, etc.--Canova's two exquisite Statues.--The Somariva Magdalen. --Chantrey's Admiration of Canova's Works.

No wonder, MARY, that thy story
Touches all hearts--for there we see thee.
The soul's corruption and its glory,
Its death and life combine in thee.

From the first moment when we find
Thy spirit haunted by a swarm
Of dark desires,--like demons shrined
Unholily in that fair form,--
Till when by touch of Heaven set free,
Thou camest, with those bright locks of gold
(So oft the gaze of BETHANY),
And covering in their precious fold
Thy Saviour's feet didst shed such tears
As paid, each drop, the sins of years!--
Thence on thro' all thy course of love
To Him, thy Heavenly Master,--Him
Whose bitter death-cup from above
Had yet this cordial round the brim,
That woman's faith and love stood fast
And fearless by Him to the last:--
Till, oh! blest boon for truth like thine!
Thou wert of all the chosen one,
Before whose eyes that Face Divine
When risen from the dead first shone;
That thou might'st see how, like a cloud,
Had past away its mortal shroud,
And make that bright revealment known
To hearts less trusting than thy own.
All is affecting, cheering, grand;
The kindliest record ever given,
Even under God's own kindly hand,
Of what repentance wins from Heaven!

No wonder, MARY, that thy face,
In all its touching light of tears,
Should meet us in each holy place,
Where Man before his God appears,
Hopeless--were he not taught to see
All hope in Him who pardoned thee!
No wonder that the painter's skill
Should oft have triumpht in the power
Of keeping thee all lovely still
Even in thy sorrow's bitterest hour;
That soft CORREGGIO should diffuse
His melting shadows round thy form;
That GUIDO'S pale, unearthly hues
Should in portraying thee grow warm;
That all--from the ideal, grand,
Inimitable Roman hand,
Down to the small, enameling touch
Of smooth CARLINO--should delight
In picturing her, "who loved so much,"
And was, in spite of sin, so bright!

But MARY, 'mong these bold essays
Of Genius and of Art to raise
A semblance of those weeping eyes--
A vision worthy of the sphere
Thy faith has earned thee in the skies,
And in the hearts of all men here,--
None e'er hath matched, in grief or grace,
CANOVA'S day-dream of thy face,
In those bright sculptured forms, more bright
With true expression's breathing light,
Than ever yet beneath the stroke
Of chisel into life awoke.
The one,[1] portraying what thou wert
In thy first grief,--while yet the flower
Of those young beauties was unhurt
By sorrow's slow, consuming power;
And mingling earth's seductive grace
With heaven's subliming thoughts so well,
We doubt, while gazing, in which place
Such beauty was most formed to dwell!--
The other, as thou look'dst, when years
Of fasting, penitence and tears
Had worn thy frame;--and ne'er did Art
With half such speaking power express
The ruin which a breaking heart
Spreads by degrees o'er loveliness.
Those wasting arms, that keep the trace,
Even still, of all their youthful grace,
That loosened hair of which thy brow
Was once so proud,--neglected now!--
Those features even in fading worth
The freshest bloom to others given,
And those sunk eyes now lost to earth
But to the last still full of heaven!

Wonderful artist! praise, like mine--
Tho' springing from a soul that feels
Deep worship of those works divine
Where Genius all his light reveals--
How weak 'tis to the words that came
From him, thy peer in art and fame,[2]
Whom I have known, by day, by night,
Hang o'er thy marble with delight;
And while his lingering hand would steal
O'er every grace the taper's rays[3]
Give thee with all the generous zeal
Such master spirits only feel,
That best of fame, a rival's prize!

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