Edmund Clarence Stedman

1833-1908

 

The Old Picture-Dealer

by Edmund Clarence Stedman

The second landing-place. Above,
Sun-pictures for a shilling each.
Below, a haunt that Teutons love, --
Beer, smoke and pretzels all in reach.
Between the two, a mouldy nook
Where loungers hunt for things of worth --
Engraving, curio, or book --
Here drifted from all over Earth.

Be the day's traffic more or less,
Old Brian seeks his Leyden chair
Placed in the ante-room's recess,
Our connoisseur's securest lair:
Here, turning full the burner's rays,
Holds long his treasure-trove in sight, --
Upon a painting sets his gaze
Like some devoted eremite.

The book-worms rummage as they will,
Loud roars the wonted Broadway din,
Life runs its hackneyed round, -- but still
One tireless boon can Brian win, --
Can picture in this modern time
A life no more the world shall know,
And dream of Beauty at her prime
In Parma, with Correggio.

Withered the dealer's face, and old,
But wearing yet the first surprise
Of him whose eyes the light behold
Of Italy and Paradise:
Forever blest, forever young,
The rapt Madonna poises there,
Her praise by hovering cherubs sung,
Her robes by ether buoyed, not air.

See from the graybeard's meerschaum float
A cloud of incense! Day or night,
He needs must steal apart to note
Her grace, her consecrating light.
With less ecstatic worship lay,
Before his marble goddess prone,
The crippled poet, that last day
When in the Louvre he made his moan.

Warm grows the radiant masterpiece,
The sweetness of Correggio!
The visionary hues increase,
Angelic lustres come and go;
And still, as still in Parma too, --
In Rome, Bologna, Florence, all, --
Goes on the outer world's ado,
Life's transitory, harsh recall.

A real Correggio? And here!
Yes, to the one impassioned heart,
Transfiguring all, the strokes appear
That mark the perfect master's art.
You question of the proof? You owe
More faith to fact than fancy? Hush!
Look with expectant eyes, and know,
With him, the hand that held the brush!

The same wild thought that warmed from stone
The Venus of the monkish Gest,
The image of Pygmalion,
Here finds Correggio confest.
And Art requires its votary:
The Queen of Heaven herself may pine
When these quaint rooms no longer see
The one that knew her all divine.

Ah, me! ah me, for centuries veiled!
(The desolate Virgin then may say,)
Once more my rainbow tints are paled
With that unquestioning soul away --
Whose faith compelled the sun, the stars,
To yield their halos for my sake,
And saw through Time's obscuring bars
The Parmese master's glory break!

1883

Source:

Poems now first collected:
Copyright 1897
Houghton, Mifflin And Company
Boston And New York
 
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