Like life on his canvas,—glowing and fair,
A perilous face—and an angel’s, too.
Angel and maiden, and all in one.
All but the eyes.—They were there, but yet
They seemed somehow like a soul half done;—
What was the matter?—Did God forget? . . .
But he wrought them at last with a skill so sure
That her eyes were the eyes of a deathless woman,—
With a gleam of heaven to make them pure,
And a glimmer of hell to make them human.
God never forgets.—And he worships her
There in that same still room of his,
For his wife, and his constant arbiter
Of the world that was and the world that is.
And he wonders yet what her love could be
To punish him after that strife so grim;—
But the longer he lives with her eyes to see,
The plainer it all comes back to him.
The master and the slave go hand in hand,
Though touch be lost. The poet is a slave,
And there be kings do sorrowfully crave
The joyance that a scullion may command.
But ah, the sonnet-slave must understand
The mission of his bondage, or the grave
May clasp his bones or ever he shall save
The perfect word that is the poet's wand.
The sonnet is a crown, whereof the rhymes
Are for Thought's purest gold the jewel-stones;
But shapes and echoes that are never done
Will haunt the workshop, as regret sometimes
Will bring with human yearning to sad thrones
The crash of battles that are never won.