ON A BUST OF DANTE
by: Thomas William Parsons
- EE, from this counterfeit of him
- Whom Arno shall remember long,
- How stern of lineament, how grim,
- The father was of Tuscan song:
- There but the burning sense of wrong,
- Perpetual care, and scorn, abide--
- Small friendship for the lordly throng;
- Distrust of all the world beside.
- Faithful if this wan image be,
- No dream his life was -- but a fight;
- Could any Beatrice see
- A lover in that anchorite?
- To that cold Ghibelline's gloomy sight
- Who could have guessed the visions came
- Of Beauty, veiled with heavenly light,
- In circles of eternal flame?
- The lips as Cumae's cavern close,
- The cheeks with fast and sorrow thin,
- The rigid front, almost morose,
- But for the patient hope within,
- Declare a life whose course hath been
- Unsullied still, though still severe,
- Which, through the wavering days of sin,
- Kept itself icy-chaste and clear.
- Not wholly such his haggard look
- When wandering once, forlorn, he strayed,
- With no companion save his book,
- To Corvo's hushed monastic shade;
- Where, as the Benedictine laid
- His palm upon the convent's guest,
- The single boon for which he prayed
- Was peace, that pilgrim's one request.
- Peace dwells not here -- this rugged face
- Betrays no spirit of repose;
- The sullen warrior sole we trace,
- The marble man of many woes.
- Such was his mien when first arose
- The thought of that strange tale divine--
- When hell he peopled with his foes,
- Dread scourge of many a guilty line.
- War to the last he waged with all
- The tyrant canker-worms of earth;
- Baron and duke, in hold and hall,
- Cursed the dark hour that gave him birth;
- He used Rome's harlot for his mirth;
- Plucked bare hypocrisy and crime;
- But valiant souls of knightly worth
- Transmitted to the rolls of Time.
- O Time! whose verdicts mock our own,
- The only righteous judge art thou;
- That poor, old exile, sad and lone,
- Is Latium's other Virgil now.
- Before his name the nations bow;
- His words are parcel of mankind,
- Deep in whose hearts, as on his brow,
- The marks have sunk of Dante's mind.
MORE POEMS BY THOMAS WILLIAM PARSONS
"On a Bust of Dante" is
reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900.
Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.