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

Edward Dowden 1843–1913

Leonardo’s “Monna Lisa”


MAKE thyself known, Sibyl, or let despair

Of knowing thee be absolute: I wait

Hour-long and waste a soul. What word of fate

Hides ’twixt the lips which smile and still forbear?

Secret perfection! Mystery too fair!

Tangle the sense no more, lest I should hate

The delicate tyranny, the inviolate

Poise of thy folded hands, the fallen hair.

Nay, nay,—I wrong thee with rough words; still be

Serene, victorious, inaccessible;

Still smile but speak not; lightest irony

Lurk ever’ neath thy eyelids’ shadow; still

O’ertop our knowledge; Sphinx of Italy,

Allure us and reject us at thy will!