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Dante Gabriel Rossetti

(12 May 1828 – 9 April 1882 / London / England)

Sonnets LXXIV: LXXV:LXXVI: Old and New Art


I. ST. LUKE THE PAINTER

Give honour unto Luke Evangelist;
For he it was (the aged legends say)
Who first taught Art to fold her hands and pray.
Scarcely at once she dared to rend the mist
Of devious symbols: but soon having wist
How sky-breadth and field-silence and this day
Are symbols also in some deeper way,
She looked through these to God and was God's priest.
And if, past noon, her toil began to irk,
And she sought talismans, and turned in vain
To soulless self-reflections of man's skill,—
Yet now, in this the twilight, she might still
Kneel in the latter grass to pray again,
Ere the night cometh and she may not work.


II. NOT AS THESE

'I am not as these are,” the poet saith
In youth's pride, and the painter, among men
At bay, where never pencil comes nor pen,
And shut about with his own frozen breath.
To others for whom only rhyme wins faith
As poets,—only paint as painters,—then
He turns in the cold silence; and again
Shrinking, “I am not as these are,” he saith.
And say that this is so, what follows it?
For were thine eyes set backwards in thine head,
Such words were well; but they see on, and far.
Unto the lights of the great Past, new-lit
Fair for the Future's track, look thou instead,—
Say thou instead, “I am not as these are.”


III. THE HUSBANDMEN

Though God, as one that is an householder,
Called these to labour in His vineyard first,
Before the husk of darkness was well burst
Bidding them grope their way out and bestir,
(Who, questioned of their wages, answered, “Sir,
Unto each man a penny:”) though the worst
Burthen of heat was theirs and the dry thirst:
Though God has since found none such as these were
To do their work like them:—Because of this
Stand not ye idle in the market-place.
Which of ye knoweth he is not that last
Who may be first by faith and will?—yea, his
The hand which after the appointed days
And hours shall give a Future to their Past?

Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010

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