by: William Wetmore Story (1819-1895)

      THOUSAND silent years ago,
      The twilight faint and pale
      Was drawing o'er the sunset glow
      Its soft and shadowy veil;
      When from his work the Sculptor stayed
      His hand, and, turned to one
      Who stood beside him, half in shade,
      Said, with a sigh, "'T is done.
      "Thus much is saved from chance and change,
      That waits for me and thee;
      Thus much -- how little! -- from the range
      Of Death and Destiny.
      "Phryne, thy human lips shall pale,
      Thy rounded limbs decay,--
      Nor love nor prayers can aught avail
      To bid thy beauty stay;
      "But there thy smile for centuries
      On marble lips shall live,--
      For Art can grant what Love denies,
      And fix the fugitive.
      "Sad thought! nor age nor death shall fade
      The youth of this cold bust;
      When this quick brain and hand that made,
      And thou and I are dust!
      "When all our hopes and fears are dead,
      And both our hearts are cold,
      And love is like a tune that's played,
      And life a tale that's told,
      "This senseless stone, so coldly fair,
      That love nor life can warm,
      The same enchanting look shall wear,
      The same enchanting form.
      "Its peace no sorrow shall destroy;
      Its beauty age shall spare
      The bitterness of vanished joy,
      The wearing waste of care.
      "And there upon that silent face
      Shall unborn ages see
      Perennial youth, perennial grace,
      And sealed serenity.
      "And strangers, when we sleep in peace,
      Shall say, not quite unmoved,
      'So smiled upon Praxiteles
      The Phryne whom he loved!'"

"Praxiteles and Phryne" is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.




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