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She hinted nothing. Feeble as she was, And clung around it, buffeting the air
The Count resumed : “I came not here to grieve, “O blesséd soul ! with nothing to confess Nor see my sorrow in another's eyes Save virtues and good deeds, which she mis- Who'll paint the Countess, as she lies to-night takes
In state within the chapel ? Shall it be So humble is she - for our human sins!” That earth must lose her wholly ? that no hint Praying for death, she tossed upon her bed Of her gold tresses, beaming eyes, and lips Day after day; as might a shipwrecked bark
That talked in silence, and the eager soul That rocks upon one billow, and can make That ever seemed outbreaking through her clay, No onward motion towards her port of hope. And scattering glory round it, shall all these At length, one morn, when those around her said, Be dull corruption's heritage, and we, “Surely the Countess mends, so fresh a light Poor beggars, have no legacy to show Beams from her eyes and beautifies her face," That love she bore us ? That were shame to love, One morn in spring, when every flower of earth And shame to you, my masters.” Carlo stalked Was opening to the sun, and breathing up Forth from his easel stiflly as a thing Its votive incense, her impatient soul
Moved by mechanic impulse. His thin lips, Opened itself, and so exhaled to heaven. And sharpened nostrils, and wan, sunken cheeks, When the Count heard it, he reeled back a pace; And the cold glimmer in his dusky eyes, Then turned with anger on the messenger ; Made him a ghastly sight. The throng drew back Then craved his pardon, and wept out his heart As though they let a spectre through. Then he, Before the menial; tears, ah me! such tears Fronting the Count, and speaking in a voice As love sheds only, and love only once. Sounding remote and hollow, made reply : Then he bethought him, “Shall this wonder die, “Count, I shall paint the Countess. 'Tis my And leave behind no shadow ? not a trace
fate, Of all the glory that environed her,
Not pleasure, no, nor duty." But the Count, That mellow nimbus circling round my star ?" Astray in woe, but understood assent, So, with his sorrow glooming in his face, Not the strange words that bore it; and he flung He paced along his gallery of art,
His arm round Carlo, drew him to his breast, And strode among the painters, where they stood, And kissed his forehead. At which Carlo shrank: With Carlo, the Venetian, at their head, Perhaps 't was at the honor. Then the Count, Studying the Masters by the dawning light A little reddening at his public state, Of his transcendent genius. Through the groups Unseemly to his near and recent loss, Of gayly-vestured artists moved the Count, Withdrew in haste between the downcast eyes As some lone cloud of thick and leaden hue, That did him reverence as he rustled by. Packed with the secret of a coming storm, Moves through the gold and crimson evening Night fell on Padua. In the chapel lay mists,
The Countess Laura at the altar's foot. Deadening their splendor. In a moment still Her coronet glittered on her pallid brows; Was Carlo's voice, and still the prattling crowd ; A crimson pall
, weighed down with golden work, And a great shadow overwhelmed them all, Sown thick with pearls, and heaped with early As their white faces and their anxious eyes
flowers, Pursued Fernando in his moody walk.
Draped her still body almost to the chin; He paused, as one who balances a doubt, And over all a thousand candles flamed Weighing two courses, then burst out with this : Against the winking jewels, or streamed down “Ye all have seen the tidings in my face ; The marble aisle, and flashed along the guard Or has the dial ceased to register
Of men-at-arms that slowly wove their turns, The workings of my heart? Then hear the bell, Backward and forward, through th distant gloom. That almost cracks its frame in utterance ; When Carlo entered, his unsteady feet The Countess,
she is dead !" -- " Dead !" | Scarce bore him to the altar, and his head Carlo groaned.
Drooped down so low that all his shining curls And if a bolt from middle heaven had struck Poured on his breast, and veiled his countenance His splendid features full upon the brow, Upon his easel a half-finished work, He could not have appeared more scathed and the secret labor of his studio, blanched.
Said from the canvas, so that none might err, “Dead !— dead !" He staggered to his easel
I am the Countess Laura.” Carlo kneeled, frame,
And gazed upon the picture ; as if thus,
Through those cleareyes, he saw the way to heaven. | Made eager struggles to maintain thy bloom, Then he arose ; and as a swimmer comes And gladdened heaven dropped down in gracious Forth from the waves, he shook his locks aside,
dews Emerging from his dream, and standing firm On its transplanted darling? Hear me now! Upon a purpose with his sovereign will. I say this but in justice, not in pride, He took his palette, murmuring, “Not yet !” Not to insult thy high nobility, Confidingly and softly to the corpse ;
But that the poise of things in God's own sight And as the veriest drudge, who plies his art May be adjusted ; and hereafter I Against his fancy, he addressed himself
May urge a claim that all the powers of heaven With stolid resolution to his task.
Shall sanction, and with clarions blow abroad. — Turning his vision on his memory,
Laura, you loved me! Look not so severe, And shutting out the present, till the dead, With your cold brows, and deadly, close-drawn The gilded pall, the lights, the pacing guard,
lips ! And all the meaning of that solemn scene You proved it, Countess, when you died for it, Became as nothing, and creative Art
Let it consume you in the wearing strife
I knew it ever since that summer day
O Heaven ! -- the warmth and moisture of your The settled purpose of Omnipotence.
breath And it was wondrous how the red, the white, Blow through my hair, as with your eager soul The ochre, and the umber, and the blue, Forgetting soul and body go as one From mottled blotches, hazy and opaque, You leaned across my easel till our cheeks — Grew into rounded forms and sensuous lines; Ah me! 't was not your purpose – touched, and How just beneath the lucid skin the blood
I did not go ; I put my fortune by.
It was but natural, it was no way strange,
Those tender eyes, unless they did a wrong
Of softness spoken by those gentle lips ;
Nor to save sin or suffering or remorse,
And hold myself ennobled! Answer me, Do with her at thy pleasure !” Something grand, If I had wronged you, you would answer me And radiant as a sun beam, touched the head Out of the dusty porches of the tomb :
He bent in awful sorrow. “Mortal, see — Is this a dream, a falsehood ? or have I
“Dare not! As Christ was sinless, I abjure Spoken the very truth ?” “The very
truth !" These vile abominations! Shall she bear A voice replied ; and at his side he saw
Life's burden twice, and life's temptations twice, A forin, half shadow and half substance, stand, While God is justice ?” “Who has made you Or, rather, rest ; for on the solid earth
judge It had no footing, more than some dense mist Of what you call God's good, and what you think That wavers o'er the surface of the ground God's evil? One to him, the source of both, It scarcely touches. With a reverent look The God of good and of permitted ill. The shadow's waste and wretched face was bent Have you no dream of days that might have been, Above the picture; as though greater awe Had you and Laura filled another fate? Subdued its awful being, and appalled,
Soine cottage on the sloping Apennines, With memories of terrible delight
Roses and lilies, and the rest all love ? And fearful wonder, its devouring gaze.
I tell you that this tranquil dream may be “You make what God makes, — beauty,” said Filled to repletion. Speak, and in the shade the shape.
Of my dark pinions I shall bear you hence, “And might not this, this second Eve, console And land you where the mountain-goat himself The emptiest heart? Will not this thing outlast Struggles for footing." He outspread his wings, The fairest creature fashioned in the flesh ? And all the chapel darkened, as though hell Before that figure, Time, and Death himself, Had swallowed up the tapers ; and the air Stand baffled and disarmed. What would you ask Grew thick, and, like a current sensible, More than God's power, from nothing to create ?" | Flowed round the person, with a wash and dash, The artist gazed upon the boding form,
As of the waters of a nether sea. And answered : “Goblin, if you had a heart, Slowly and calmly through the dense obscure, That were an idle question. What to me Dove-like and gentle, rose the artist's voice : Is my creative power, bereft of love?
“I dare not bring her spirit to that shame! Or what to God would be that selfsame power, Know my full meaning, - I who neither fear If so bereaved ?” “And yet the love, thus Your mystic person nor your dreadful power. mourned,
Nor shall I now invoke God's potent name You calmly forfeited. For had you said For my deliverance from your toils. I stand To living Laura -- in her burning ears — Upon the founded structure of his law, One half that you professed to Laura dead, Established from the first, and thence defy She would have been your own. These contraries Your arts, reposing all my trust in that !" Sort not with my intelligence. But speak, The darkness eddied off ; and Carlo saw Were Laura living, would the same stale play The figure gathering, as from outer space, Of raging passion tearing out its heart
Brightness on brightness; and his former shape Upon the rock of duty be performed !”
Fell from him, like the ashes that fall off, The same, O phantom, while the heart I bear And show a core of mellow fire within. Trembled, but turned not its magnetic faith Adown his wings there poured a lambent flood, From God's fixed centre.” “If I wake for you That seemed as molten gold, which plashing tell This Laura, – give her all the bloom and glow Upon the floor, enringing him with flame ; Of that midsummer day you hold so dear, And o'er the tresses of his beaming head The smile, the motion, the impulsive soul, Arose a stream of many-colored light, The love of genius, – yea, the very love, Like that which crowns the morning. Carlo stood The mortal, hungry, passionate, hot love, Steadfast, for all the splendor, reaching up She bore you, flesh to flesh, — would you receive the outstretched palms of his untainted soul That gift, in all its glory, at my hands ?" Towards heaven for strength. A moment thus ; A smile of malice curled the tempter's lips,
then asked, And glittered in the caverns of his eyes, With reverential wonder quivering through Mocking the answer. Carlo paled and shook ; His sinking voice, “Who, spirit, and what, art A woful spasm went shuddering through his thou?" frame,
“I am that blessing which men fly from, Curdling his blood, and twisting his fair face
Death." With nameless torture. But he cried aloud, “Then take my hand, if so God orders it; Out of the clouds of anguish, from the smoke For Laura waits me." But, bethink thee, man, Of very martyrdom, "O God, she is thine! What the world loses in the loss of thee !