Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Italy
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII.  1876–79.
 
Rome, Palaces and Villas of
Palazzo Farnese
Walter Thornbury (1828–1876)
 
GUIDO RENI in a Roman palace chamber
Sat one pleasant summer afternoon
(’T was the old Farnese’s sumptuous palace).
The walls were blazoned with the gilded moon
In crescent, and sweet tangles of those flowers        5
That blossom into faces, while birds play,
Fluttering from twig to twig, and lizards run
Below, and jewelled beetles crawl from spray to spray.
 
The great hall window, reaching to the floor,
Stood open for the vine to ramble in;        10
The birds were in the garden down below;
The silver-columned fountain, tall and thin
As a magician’s wand, rose in the air;
Great yellow clouds, laden with sunshine, passed;
The sky, one flawless sapphire, floated there.        15
 
Guido was painting, half entranced in thought;
Quietly painting that pure, gentle face
You ’ve seen in lonely chapels oft and oft;
Calm, sweet, and radiant, with a saintly grace;
Chaste as a virgin martyr glorified;        20
Without one thought of earth, pure as the snow
Upon the Alp-peak, with no stain of sin
Sullying her form, save where one rapturous glow
 
Of coldest sunshine lit her marbly breast;
The dove-like eyes were all intent on heaven.        25
A Sabbath sanctity was in the air,
And not one glare of passion’s burning leven.
Where was the proud and dark-eyed beauty then,
The painter’s model? Where the peasant girl
All love and happiness? Where, then, was she        30
With throbbing bosom and with lavish curl?
 
Only a blear-eyed crone in a low chair,
Facing the central window, dozed or prayed.
Her cheeks were wrinkled leather, and her hair,
In one gray half-starved knot of grizzled braid,        35
Crowned her old nodding, semi-palsied head.
Her breviary was resting on her knees,
Nor recked she what the chiding painter said.
 
In came the cardinal, grave, and coldly wise.
His scarlet gown and robes of cobweb lace        40
Trailed on the marble floor; with convex glass
He bent o’er Guido’s shoulder; soon his face
Grew wistful, and then curdled to a smile,
As he beheld the crone, and looked again.
“Where is thy model, Guido?” Guido said,        45
“I keep her, cardinal, locked up in my brain.”
 
 
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