Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ON AN INTAGLIO HEAD OF MINERVA (1), by THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

ON AN INTAGLIO HEAD OF MINERVA (1), by             Poem Explanation     Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: Beneath the warrior's helm, behold
Last Line: On such a bosom rise and fall so!
Subject(s): Art & Artists; Minerva; Sculpture & Sculptors

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
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;
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
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.
Who was he? Was he glad or sad,
Who knew to carve in such a fashion?
Perchance he grayed the dainty head
For some brown girl that scorned his passion.
Perchance, in some still garden-place,
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;
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,
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!
O 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,
And pangs of hopeless passion also,
To have his carven agate-stone
On such a bosom rise and fall so!

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