William Bell Scott

(1811-1890 / Scotland)

Dante In Exile

In life we judge and estimate,
With our dearest even debate,
And strive to hold the balance true
Between the brown eyes and the blue.
But with the dead we do not so;
Shrined in the past we let them go
Their mystic journey high and far,
Until they pass the starlit bar
Dividing gods from things below:
And thus at last on chancel stones
We worship before empty thrones.

Could we wind back the skean of time
Ere Giotto's tower could bellman climb,
We might see Gemma, weary wife,
Nursing her babes in threadbare quoif—
One, two, three, four—alas they're seven,
Left to the charities of heaven!
We might see Dante, foiled in strife,
Thankless over strangers' bread,
Raking hell's fires on the dead;

Casting back on Florence fair
His bloodshot eyes, a hateful stare.
Not wise in guile or strong of arm,
To shield himself from bale or harm;
With powerless hate and childish lies
Inventing undreamt cruelties.

Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010
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