William Bell Scott

(1811-1890 / Scotland)

Raphael’s Madonna Di San Sisto - Poem by William Bell Scott

Once and once only, and no more,
Art hath reached the topmost bough;
The goodliest fruit of all his store
Our well-filled garner holds till now.

Lo! from a life-filled atmosphere
She comes with silent step, with mild
And plaintive eyes bent sadly here
Holding her prize of prizes, her man-child,
King of the world-expected year,
Safe within her queenly arms
Above all harms.

Once and once only, and no more,
Out of the sensuous classic night,
Born of the dusk mid-christian lore,
Into our midday's questioning light:
Behold! Ideal womanhood,
Maternity, supremely good,
Self sacrificing, without stain;
Goddess eternally serene,
Yet robed in thoughtful mortal mien;

And once, no more, the painter's art
Hath touched this mystery on the heart.
Behold her here, untouched by pain
But with foreknowledge of the day
Still far away
In darkness on the mount of death
Defiled by malefactor's breath—
When 'It is finished' he shall cry,
And the immortal seem to die.
Finished? nay, but just begun
Beneath the sun.
Look at him here a child to-day.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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