Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward

(1844-1911 / Andover, Massachusetts)

Only A Chromo - Poem by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward

A blessing on the Art that dares
(Cold critic, call it what you may!)
Bring precious things to common homes;
A blessing fall on it, I say!

Like Heaven's happy rain, that loves
Upon the just and unjust to fall;
Th' impartial shelter of the skies,
Or sun's heart beating warm for all;

So be it Art's high privilege
To hold a language and a speech
With humble needs; to lay its gifts-
And gladly-in the common reach.

So be it Art's insignia
Of undisputed royalty,
That out of largeness groweth love,
And out of choiceness, charity.

There is my picture, caught and throned
Within four walls for me at last;
My eyes, which never thought to see
Fit semblance of her, hold her fast.

Murillo's Mary! that one face
We call the Immaculate. Ah, see
How goddess-like she fills the room,
How woman-like she leans to me.

I would not garner in my home,
I could not gather to my heart,
A dim gray mockery of that face
Chilled under the engraver's art.

These human colors deepen, glow;
This human flesh will palpitate;
These human eyes,-like human eyes
Alight, alive,-stir, watch, and wait.

Perhaps you wonder why I chose
This single-windowed little room
Where only at the evenfall,
A moment's space, the sunlight's bloom

Shall open out upon the face
I prize so dear; I think, indeed,
There 's something of a whim in that,
And something of a certain need

I could not make you understand,
That solitude or sickness gives
To take in somewhat solemn guise
The blessings that enrich our lives.

I like to watch the late, soft light,-
No spirit could more softly come,-
The picture is the only thing
It touches in the darkening room.

I wonder if to her indeed,
The maiden of the spotless name,
In holier guise or tenderer touch
The annunciating angel came.

Madonna Mary! Here she lives!
See how my sun has wrapped her in!
O solemn sun! O maiden face!
O joy that never knoweth sin!

How shall I name thee? How express
The thoughts that unto thee belong?
Sometimes a sigh interprets them,
At other times, perhaps, a song.

More often still it chanceth me
They grow and group into a prayer
That guards me down my sleepless hours,
A sentry on the midnight air.

But when the morning's monotone
Begins of sickness or of pain,
They catch the key, and, striking it,
They turn into a song again.

Great Master, whose enraptured eyes
Saw maiden Mary's holy face,
Whose human hand could lift and move
An earthly passion from its place,

And set therein the spotless shape
Which Heavenly love itself might wear,
And set thereon the dazzling look
Which Heavenly purity must bear;

Thy blessing on the Art must fall
(If thou couldst speak as thou canst see)
Which brings thy best to common homes,
Thy mighty picture unto me.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, September 7, 2010

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