Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Poems Subjective and Reminiscent
Raphael
 
   Suggested by the portrait of Raphael, at the age of fifteen.

I SHALL not soon forget that sight:
  The glow of Autumn’s westering day,
A hazy warmth, a dreamy light,
  On Raphael’s picture lay.
 
It was a simple print I saw,        5
  The fair face of a musing boy;
Yet, while I gazed, a sense of awe
  Seemed blending with my joy.
 
A simple print,—the graceful flow
  Of boyhood’s soft and wavy hair,        10
And fresh young lip and cheek, and brow
  Unmarked and clear, were there.
 
Yet through its sweet and calm repose
  I saw the inward spirit shine;
It was as if before me rose        15
  The white veil of a shrine.
 
As if, as Gothland’s sage has told,
  The hidden life, the man within,
Dissevered from its frame and mould,
  By mortal eye were seen.        20
 
Was it the lifting of that eye,
  The waving of that pictured hand?
Loose as a cloud-wreath on the sky,
  I saw the walls expand.
 
The narrow room had vanished,—space,        25
  Broad, luminous, remained alone,
Through which all hues and shapes of grace
  And beauty looked or shone.
 
Around the mighty master came
  The marvels which his pencil wrought,        30
Those miracles of power whose fame
  Is wide as human thought.
 
There drooped thy more than mortal face,
  O Mother, beautiful and mild!
Enfolding in one dear embrace        35
  Thy Saviour and thy Child!
 
The rapt brow of the Desert John;
  The awful glory of that day
When all the Father’s brightness shone
  Through manhood’s veil of clay.        40
 
And, midst gray prophet forms, and wild
  Dark visions of the days of old,
How sweetly woman’s beauty smiled
  Through locks of brown and gold!
 
There Fornarina’s fair young face        45
  Once more upon her lover shone,
Whose model of an angel’s grace
  He borrowed from her own.
 
Slow passed that vision from my view,
  But not the lesson which it taught;        50
The soft, calm shadows which it threw
  Still rested on my thought:
 
The truth, that painter, bard, and sage,
  Even in Earth’s cold and changeful clime,
Plant for their deathless heritage        55
  The fruits and flowers of time.
 
We shape ourselves the joy or fear
  Of which the coming life is made,
And fill our Future’s atmosphere
  With sunshine or with shade.        60
 
The tissue of the Life to be
  We weave with colors all our own,
And in the field of Destiny
  We reap as we have sown.
 
Still shall the soul around it call        65
  The shadows which it gathered here,
And, painted on the eternal wall,
  The Past shall reappear.
 
Think ye the notes of holy song
  On Milton’s tuneful ear have died?        70
Think ye that Raphael’s angel throng
  Has vanished from his side?
 
Oh no!—We live our life again;
  Or warmly touched, or coldly dim,
The pictures of the Past remain,—        75
  Man’s works shall follow him!

  1842.
 
 
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