by: Charles Godfrey Leland (1824-1903)

      SAW you first upon a gem set in a Roman ring,
      And I burned for it with longing as for a living thing.
      The Greek who sees his heart's own love sold in a Turkish mart
      Is not more grieved to think his purse is smaller than his heart,
      Than I with many wishes and ducats very few
      Was grieved to leave that lovely face behind me with the Jew.

      Again I met you ripening and kindling into life
      Beneath a skilful painter's brush as Vulcan's lovely wife,
      From the foam and flood of colour, out-blushing lusciously,
      As Venus Aphrodite rose from the summer sea;
      And I waited with the patience of one whom fate entwines,
      And sees a new strange destiny around him spin its lines.

      With doubting curiosity I watched the painter's face,
      Yet earnestly and half in fear, to see if I could trace
      A knowledge of the secret hope awaking with his art,
      And how each crimson pencil-touch made blood leap in my heart.
      In vain--for as he painted on, the likeness passed away,
      And the rosy morning ended in a grim and cloudy day.
      I meet you now in mortal form--a lovely living thing,
      Still fairer than the vanished sketch, as that surpassed the ring,
      And with new light the solemn text comes often to my mind,
      That he who seeks right earnestly at last shall surely find.
      Let others swear they find you fair and still fresh incense bring:
      They did not know you, love, of old, upon the Roman ring.

"The Roman Ring" is reprinted from The Music-Lesson of Confucius and Other Poems. Charles Godfrey Leland. Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1872.




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