They stood before Him in the public way.
“Had’st Thou been with him, Lord, upon that day,
He had not died,” she said, drooping her eyes.
Mary and Martha with bowed faces kept
Holding His garments, one on each side.—“Where
Have ye laid him?” He asked. “Lord, come and see.”
The sound of grieving voices heavily
And universally was round Him there,
A sound that smote His spirit. Jesus wept.
Sonnets for Pictures
1. For a Virgin and Child, by Hans Memmelinck; in the Academy of Bruges
Mystery: God, Man’s Life, born
Of woman. There abideth on her brow
The ended pang of knowledge, the which now
Is calm assured. Since first her task began,
She hath known all. What more of anguish than
Endurance oft hath lived through, the whole space
Through night till night, passed weak upon her face
While like a heavy flood the darkness ran?
All hath been told her touching her dear Son,
And all shall be accomplished. Where he sits
Even now, a babe, he holds the symbol fruit
Perfect and chosen. Until God permits,
His soul’s elect still have the absolute
Harsh nether darkness, and make painful moan.
2. A Marriage of St. Katharine, by the same; in the Hospital of St. John at Bruges.
Mystery: Katharine, the bride of
She kneels, and on her hand the holy Child
Setteth the ring. Her life is sad and mild,
Laid in God’s knowledge—ever unenticed
From Him, and in the end thus fitly priced.
Awe, and the music that is near her, wrought
Of Angels, hath possessed her eyes in thought:
Her utter joy is her’s, and hath sufficed.
There is a pause while Mary Virgin turns
The leaf, and reads. With eyes on the spread book,
That damsel at her knees reads after her.
John whom He loved and John His harbinger
Listen and watch. Whereon soe’er thou look,
The light is starred in gems, and the gold burns.
3. A Dance of Nymphs, by Andrea Mantegna; in the Louvre.
(It is necessary to mention, that this picture would appear to have been in the artist’s mind an allegory, which the modern spectator may seek vainly to interpret.)
Scarcely, I think; yet it indeed may
The meaning reached him, when this music rang
Sharp through his brain, a distinct rapid pang,
And he beheld these rocks and that ridg’d sea.
But I believe he just leaned passively,
And felt their hair carried across his face
As each nymph passed him; nor gave ear to trace
How many feet; nor bent assuredly
His eyes from the blind fixedness of thought
To see the dancers. It is bitter glad
Even unto tears. Its meaning filleth it,
A portion of most secret life: to wit:—
Each human pulse shall keep the sense it had
With all, though the mind’s labour run to nought.