By the Aurelian Wall and Other Elegies

by Bliss Carman


 

TO RAPHAEL


 

MASTER of adored Madonnas,
What is this men say of thee?
Thou wert something less than honor's
Most exact epitome?

Yes, they say you loved too many,

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Loved too often, loved too well.
Just as if there could be any
Over-loving, Raphael!

Was it, "Sir, and how came this tress,
Long and raven? Mine are gold!"

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You should have made Art your mistress,
Lived an anchorite and old!

Ah, no doubt these dear good people
On familiar terms with God,
Could devise a parish steeple

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Built to heaven without a hod.

You and Solomon and Caesar
Were three fellows of a kind;
Not a woman but to please her
You would leave your soul behind.

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Those dead women with their beauty,
How they must have loved you well,—
Dared to make desire a duty,
With the heretics in hell!

And your brother, that Catullus,

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What a plight he must be in,
If those silver songs that lull us
Were result of mortal sin!

If the artist were ungodly,
Prurient of mind and heart,

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I must think they argue oddly
Who make shrines before his art.

Not the meanest aspiration
Ever sprung from soul depraved
Into art, but art's elation

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Was the sanctity it craved.

Oh, no doubt you had your troubles,
Devils blue that blanched your hope.
I dare say your fancy's bubbles,
Breaking, had a taste of soap.

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Did your lady-loves undo you
In some mediæval way?
Ah, my Raphael, here's to you!
It is much the same to-day.

Did their tantalizing laughter

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Make your wisdom overbold?
Were you fire at first; and after,
Did their kisses leave you cold?

Did some fine perfidious Nancy,
With the roses in her hair,

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Play the marsh-fire to your fancy
Over quagmires of despair?

My poor boy, were there more flowers
In your Florence and your Rome,
Wasting through the gorgeous hours,

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Than your two hands could bring home?

Be content; you have your glory;
Life was full and sleep is well.
What the end is of the story,
There's no paragraph to tell.

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