Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, EFFIGY OF A NUN (SIXTEENTH CENTURY), by SARA TEASDALE



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EFFIGY OF A NUN (SIXTEENTH CENTURY), by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Infinite gentleness, infinite irony
Last Line: How empty wisdom is, even to the wise.
Alternate Author Name(s): Filsinger, Ernest B., Mrs.
Subject(s): Nuns; Wisdom


Infinite gentleness, infinite irony
Are in this face with fast-sealed eyes,
And around this mouth that learned in loneliness
How useless their wisdom is to the wise.

In her nun's habit carved, patiently, lovingly,
By one who knew the ways of womankind,
This woman's face still keeps, in its cold wistful calm,
All of the subtle pride of her mind.

These long patrician hands, clasping the crucifix,
Show she had weighed the world, her will was set;
These pale curved lips of hers, holding their hidden smile,
Once having made their choice, knew no regret.

She was of those who hoard their own thoughts carefully,
Feeling them far too dear to give away,
Content to look at life with the high, insolent
Air of an audience watching a play.

If she was curious, if she was passionate
She must have told herself that love was great,
But that the lacking it might be as great a thing
If she held fast to it, challenging fate.

She who so loved herself and her own warring thoughts,
Watching their humorous, tragic rebound,
In her thick habit's fold, sleeping, sleeping,
Is she amused at dreams she has found?

Infinite tenderness, infinite irony
Are hidden forever in her closed eyes,
Who must have learned too well in her long loneliness
How empty wisdom is, even to the wise.





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