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

Laman Blanchard 1804–45

Nell Gwynne’s Looking-Glass

GLASS antique, ’twixt thee and Nell

Draw we here a parallel.

She, like thee, was forced to bear

All reflections, foul or fair.

Thou art deep and bright within,

Depths as bright belong’d to Gwynne;

Thou art very frail as well,

Frail as flesh is,—so was Nell.

Thou, her glass, art silver-lin’d,

She too, had a silver mind:

Thine is fresh till this far day,

Hers till death ne’er wore away:

Thou dost to thy surface win

Wandering glances, so did Gwynne;

Eyes on thee long love to dwell,

So men’s eyes would do on Nell.

Life-like forms in thee are sought,

Such the forms the actress wrought;

Truth unfailing rests in you,

Nell, whate’er she was, was true.

Clear as virtue, dull as sin,

Thou art oft, as oft was Gwynne;

Breathe on thee, and drops will swell:

Bright tears dimm’d the eyes of Nell.

Thine ’s a frame to charm the sight,

Fram’d was she to give delight,

Waxen forms here truly show

Charles above and Nell below;

But between them, chin with chin,

Stuart stands as low as Gwynne,—

Paired, yet parted,—meant to tell

Charles was opposite to Nell.

Round the glass wherein her face

Smil’d so oft, her “arms” we trace;

Thou, her mirror, hast the pair,

Lion here, and leopard there.

She had part in these,—akin

To the lion-heart was Gwynne;

And the leopard’s beauty fell

With its spots to bounding Nell.

Oft inspected, ne’er seen through,

Thou art firm, if brittle too;

So her will, on good intent,

Might be broken, never bent.

What the glass was, when therein

Beam’d the face of glad Nell Gwynne,

Was that face by beauty’s spell

To the honest soul of Nell.