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Old Pictures In Florence
by [?]

 The morn when first it thunders in March,
The eel in the pond gives a leap, they say;
As I leaned and looked over the aloed arch
Of the villa-gate this warm March day,
No flash snapped, no dumb thunder rolled 5
In the valley beneath where, white and wide
And washed by the morning water-gold,
Florence lay out on the mountain-side.

River and bridge and street and square
Lay mine, as much at my beck and call, 10
Through the live translucent bath of air,
As the sights in a magic crystal ball.
And of all I saw and of all I praised,
The most to praise and the best to see
Was the startling bell-tower Giotto raised; 15
But why did it more than startle me?

Giotto, how, with that soul of yours,
Could you play me false who loved you so?
Some slights if a certain heart endures
Yet it feels, I would have your fellows know! 20
I’ faith, I perceive not why I should care
To break a silence that suits them best,
But the thing grows somewhat hard to bear
When I find a Giotto join the rest.

On the arch where olives overhead 25
Print the blue sky with twig and leaf
(That sharp-curled leaf which they never shed)
‘Twixt the aloes, I used to lean in chief,
And mark through the winter afternoons,
By a gift God grants me now and then, 30
In the mild decline of those suns like moons,
Who walked in Florence, besides her men.

They might chirp and chaffer, come and go
For pleasure or profit, her men alive–
My business was hardly with them, I trow, 35
But with empty cells of the human hive–
With the chapter-room, the cloister-porch,
The church’s apsis, aisle, or nave,
Its crypt, one fingers along with a torch,
Its face set full for the sun to shave. 40

Wherever a fresco peels and drops,
Wherever an outline weakens and wanes
Till the latest life in the painting stops,
Stands One whom each fainter pulse-tick pains;
One, wishful each scrap should clutch the brick, 45
Each tinge not wholly escape the plaster,
–A lion who dies of an ass’s kick,
The wronged great soul of an ancient Master.

For oh, this world and the wrong it does!
They are safe in heaven with their backs to it, 50
The Michaels and Rafaels, you hum and buzz
Round the works of, you of the little wit!
Do their eyes contract to the earth’s old scope,
Now that they see God face to face,
And have all attained to be poets, I hope? 55
‘Tis their holiday now, in any case.