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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

John Addington Symonds 1840–93

An Episode


VASARI tells that Luca Signorelli,

The morning star of Michael Angelo,

Had but one son, a youth of seventeen summers,

Who died. That day the master at his easel

Wielded the liberal brush wherewith he painted

At Orvieto, on the Duomo’s walls,

Stern forms of Death and Heaven and Hell and Judgment.

Then came they to him, and cried: “Thy son is dead,

Slain in a duel; but the bloom of life

Yet lingers round red lips and downy cheek.”

Luca spoke not, but listen’d. Next they bore

His dead son to the silent painting-room,

And left on tiptoe son and sire alone.

Still Luca spoke and groan’d not; but he rais’d

The wonderful dead youth, and smooth’d his hair,

Wash’d his red wounds, and laid him on a bed,

Naked and beautiful, where rosy curtains

Shed a soft glimmer of uncertain splendor

Life-like upon the marble limbs below.

Then Luca seiz’d his palette: hour by hour

Silence was in the room; none durst approach:

Morn wore to noon, and noon to eve, when shyly

A little maid peep’d in, and saw the painter

Painting his dead son with unerring hand-stroke,

Firm and dry-ey’d before the lordly canvas.