Verse > Anthologies > Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. > Yale Book of American Verse
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse.  1912.
 
Thomas Bailey Aldrich. 1836–1907
 
192. On an Intaglio Head of Minerva
 
BENEATH the warrior's helm, behold 
  The flowing tresses of the woman! 
Minerva, Pallas, what you will— 
  A winsome creature, Greek or Roman. 
  
Minerva? No! 't is some sly minx         5
  In cousin's helmet masquerading; 
If not—then Wisdom was a dame 
  For sonnets and for serenading! 
  
I thought the goddess cold, austere, 
  Not made for love's despairs and blisses:  10
Did Pallas wear her hair like that? 
  Was Wisdom's mouth so shaped for kisses? 
  
The Nightingale should be her bird, 
  And not the Owl, big-eyed and solemn: 
How very fresh she looks, and yet  15
  She 's older far than Trajan's Column! 
  
The magic hand that carved this face, 
  And set this vine-work round it running, 
Perhaps ere mighty Phidias wrought 
  Had lost its subtle skill and cunning.  20
  
Who was he? Was he glad or sad, 
  Who knew to carve in such a fashion? 
Perchance he graved the dainty head 
  For some brown girl that scorned his passion. 
  
Perchance, in some still garden-place,  25
  Where neither fount nor tree to-day is, 
He flung the jewel at the feet 
  Of Phryne, or perhaps 't was Lais. 
  
But he is dust; we may not know 
  His happy or unhappy story:  30
Nameless and dead these centuries, 
  His work outlives him—there 's his glory! 
  
Both man and jewel lay in earth 
  Beneath a lava-buried city; 
The countless summers came and went  35
  With neither haste, nor hate, nor pity. 
  
Years blotted out the man, but left 
  The jewel fresh as any blossom, 
Till some Visconti dug it up— 
  To rise and fall on Mabel's bosom!  40
  
Oh nameless brother! see how Time 
  Your gracious handiwork has guarded: 
See how your loving, patient art 
  Has come, at last, to be rewarded. 
  
Who would not suffer slights of men,  45
  And pangs of hopeless passion also, 
To have his carven agate-stone 
  On such a bosom rise and fall so! 
 
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