Bayard Taylor image

Bayard Taylor

Jan. 11, 1825 - Dec 19, 1878


The Torso.

by Bayard Taylor


In clay the statue stood complete,
As beautiful a form, and fair,
As ever walked a Roman street
Or breathed the blue Athenian air:
The perfect limbs, divinely bare,
Their old, heroic freedom kept,
And in the features, fine and rare,
A calm, immortal sweetness slept.


O'er common men it towered, a god,
And smote their meaner life with shame,
For while its feet the highway trod,
Its lifted brow was crowned with flame
And purified from touch of blame:
Yet wholly human was the face,
And over them who saw it came
The knowledge of their own disgrace.


It stood, regardless of the crowd,
And simply showed what men might be:
Its solemn beauty disavowed
The curse of lost humanity.
Erect and proud, and pure and free,
It overlooked each loathsome law
Whereunto others bend the knee,
And only what was noble saw.


The patience and the hope of years
Their final hour of triumph caught;
The clay was tempered with my tears,
The forces of my spirit wrought
With hands of fire to shape my thought,
That when, complete, the statue stood,
To marble resurrection brought,
The Master might pronounce it good.


But in the night an enemy,
Who could not bear the wreath should grace
My ready forehead, stole the key
And hurled my statue from its base;
And now its fragments strew the place
Where I had dreamed its shrine might be:
The stains of common earth deface
Its beauty and its majesty.


The torso prone before me lies;
The cloven brow is knit with pain:
Mute lips, and blank, reproachful eyes
Unto my hands appeal in vain.
My hands shall never work again:
My hope is dead, my strength is spent:
This fatal wreck shall now remain
The ruined sculptor's monument.


The Poet's Journal
Copyright 1863
Ticknor and Fields, Boston