Page:Aurora Leigh a Poem.djvu/13

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4
AURORA LEIGH.


In that great square of the Santissima,
There drifted past him (scarcely marked enough
To move his comfortable island-scorn,)
A train of priestly banners, cross and psalm,—
The white-veiled rose-crowned maidens holding up
Tall tapers, weighty for such wrists, aslant
To the blue luminous tremor of the air,
And letting drop the white wax as they went
To eat the bishop’s wafer at the church;
From which long trail of chanting priests and girls,
A face flashed like a cymbal on his face,
And shook with silent clangour brain and heart,
Transfiguring him to music. Thus, even thus,
He too received his sacramental gift
With eucharistic meanings; for he loved.

And thus beloved, she died. I’ve heard it said
That but to see him in the first surprise
Of widower and father, nursing me,
Unmothered little child of four years old,
His large man’s hands afraid to touch my curls,
As if the gold would tarnish,—his grave lips
Contriving such a miserable smile,
As if he knew needs must, or I should die,
And yet ’twas hard,—would almost make the stones
Cry out for pity. There’s a verse he set
In Santa Croce to her memory,
‘Weep for an infant too young to weep much
When death removed this mother’—stops the mirth
To-day, on women’s faces when they walk