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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Margaret Junkin Preston (1820–1897)

The Boy Van Dyck

A.D. 1608

IN the gray old Flemish city

Sat a comely, fair-haired dame,

At a window’s deep embrasure,

Bending o’er her broidery-frame.

Round her played her merry children,

As they wound about their heads

Fillets, pilfered in their mischief,

From her skeins of arras-threads.

Oft she turned her glance upon them,

Softly smiling at their play,

All the while her busy needle

Pricking in and out its way;

From the open casement gazing,

Where the landscape lay in view,

Striving from her silken treasures

To portray each varied hue.

“Nay, I cannot,” sighed she sadly,

As the threads dropped from her hold,

“Cannot match that steely sapphire,

Or that line of burnished gold.

How it sparkles as it stretches

Straight as any lance across!

Never hint of such a lustre

Lives within my brightest floss!

“Ah, that blaze of splendid color!

I could kneel with folded hands,

As I watch it slowly dying

Off the emerald pasture-lands.

How my crimson pales to ashen

In this flood of sunset hue,

Mocking all my poor endeavor,

Foiling all my skill can do!”

As they heard her sigh, the children

Pressed around their mother’s knees:

“Nay”—they clamored—“where in Antwerp

Are there broideries such as these?

Why, the famous master, Rubens,

Craves the piece we think so rare,—

Asks our father’s leave to paint it

Flung across the Emperor’s chair!”

“How ye talk!”—she smiled, “Yet often,

As I draw my needle through,

Gloating o’er my tints, I fancy

I might be a painter too:

I, a woman, wife, and mother,

What have I to do with Art!

Are not ye my noblest pictures?

Portraits painted from my heart!

“Yet I think, if midst my seven

One should show the master’s bent,—

One should do the things I dream of,—

All my soul would rest content.”

Straight the four-year-old Antonio

Answered, sobbing half aloud:—

“I will be your painter, painting

Pictures that shall make you proud!”

Quick she snatched this youngest darling,

Smoothing down his golden hair,

Kissing with a crazy rapture

Mouth and cheek and forehead fair—

Saying mid her sobbing laughter,

“So! my baby! you would like

To be named with Flemish Masters,

Rembrandt, Rubens, and—Van Dyck!”