Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LAST SUPPER; A PICTURE BY LEONARDO DA VINCI, by LYDIA HUNTLEY SIGOURNEY



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THE LAST SUPPER; A PICTURE BY LEONARDO DA VINCI, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Behold that countenance, where grief and love
Last Line: Where there is no betrayer.
Subject(s): Last Supper, The; Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519); Paintings And Painters


BEHOLD that countenance, where grief and love
Blend with ineffable benignity,
And deep, unuttered majesty divine.

Whose is that eye which seems to read the heart,
And yet to have shed the tear of mortal woe?
Redeemer! is it thine? And is this feast,
Thy last on earth? Why do the chosen few,
Admitted to thy parting banquet, stand
As men transfix'd with horror?
Ah! I hear
The appalling answer, from those lips divine,
"One of you shall betray me."
One of these?
Who by thy hand was nurtured, heard thy prayers,
Received thy teachings, as the thirsty plant
Turns to the rain of summer? One of these!
Therefore, with deep and deadly paleness droops
The loved disciple, as if life's warm spring
Chilled to the ice of death, at such strange shock
Of unimagined guilt. See, his whole soul
Concentred in his eye, the man who walked
The waves with Jesus, all impetuous prompts
The horror struck inquiry -- "Is it I?
Lord! is it I?" while earnest pressing near,
His brother's lip, in ardent echo seems
Doubling the fearful thought. With brow upraised,
Andrew absolves his soul of charge so foul;
And springing eager from the table's foot,
Bartholomew bends forward, full of hope,
That by his ear, the Master's awful words
Had been misconstrued. To the side of Christ,
James, in the warmth of cherished friendship clings,
Yet trembles as the traitor's image steals
Into his throbbing heart; while he, whose hand
In sceptic doubt was soon to probe the wounds
Of him he loved, points upward to invoke
The avenging God. Philip, with startled gaze,
Stands in his crystal singleness of soul,
Attesting innocence -- while Matthew's voice,
Repeating fervently the Master's words,
Rouses to agony the listening group,
Who, half incredulous, with terror, seem
To shudder at his accents.
All the twelve
With strong emotion strive, save one false breast
By Mammon seared, which, brooding o'er its gain,
Weighs thirty pieces with the Saviour's blood.
Son of perdition! -- dost thou freely breathe
In such pure atmosphere? -- And canst thou hide,
'Neath the cold calmness of that settled brow,
The burden of a deed whose very name
Strikes all thy brethren pale?
But can it be
That the strange power of this soul-harrowing scene
Is the slight pencil's witchery? -- I would speak
Of him who pour'd such bold conception forth
O'er the dead canvass. But I dare not muse,
Now of a mortal's praise. Subdued I stand
In thy sole, sorrowing presence, Son of God --
I feel the breathing of those holy men,
From whom thy gospel, as on angel's wing,
Went out through all the earth. I see how deep
Sin in the soul may lurk, and fain would kneel
Low at thy blessed feet, and trembling ask --
"Lord! -- is it I?"
For who may tell, what dregs
Do slumber in his breast. Thou, who didst taste
Of man's infirmities, yet bar his sins
From thine unspotted soul, forsake us not
In our temptations; but so guide our feet,
That our Last Supper in this world may lead
To that immortal banquet by thy side,
Where there is no betrayer.





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