I said, “Full knowledge does not
This which upon my spirit dwells
Perhaps would have been sorrow else:
But I am glad ’tis Christmas Eve.”
Twelve struck. That sound, which
all the years
Hear in each hour, crept off; and then
The ruffled silence spread again,
Like water that a pebble stirs.
Our mother rose from where she sat.
Her needles, as she laid them down,
Met lightly, and her silken gown
Settled: no other noise than that.
“Glory unto the Newly Born!”
So, as said angels, she did say;
Because we were in Christmas-day,
Though it would still be long till dawn.
She stood a moment with her hands
Kept in each other, praying much;
A moment that the soul may touch
But the heart only understands.
Almost unwittingly, my mind
Repeated her words after her;
Perhaps tho’ my lips did not stir;
It was scarce thought, or cause assign’d.
Just then in the room over us
There was a pushing back of chairs,
As some who had sat unawares
So late, now heard the hour, and rose.
Anxious, with softly stepping haste,
Our mother went where Margaret lay,
Fearing the sounds o’erhead—should they
Have broken her long-watched for rest!
She stooped an instant, calm, and turned;
But suddenly turned back again;
And all her features seemed in pain
With woe, and her eyes gazed and yearned.
For my part, I but hid my face,
And held my breath, and spake no word:
There was none spoken; but I heard
The silence for a little space.
My mother bowed herself and wept.
And both my arms fell, and I said:
“God knows I knew that she was dead.”
And there, all white, my sister slept.
Then kneeling, upon Christmas morn
A little after twelve o’clock
We said, ere the first quarter struck,
“Christ’s blessing on the newly born!”
“Rivolsimi in quel lato
La ’nde venia la voce,
E parvemi una luce
Che lucea quanto stella:
La mia mente era quella.”
Bonaggiunta Urbiciani, (1250.)
Before any knowledge of painting was brought to Florence, there were already painters in Lucca, and Pisa, and Arezzo, who feared God and loved the art. The keen, grave workmen from Greece, whose trade it was to sell their own works in Italy and teach Italians to imitate them, had already found rivals of the soil with skill that could forestall their lessons and cheapen their crucifixes and addolorate, more years than is supposed before the art came at all into Florence. The pre-eminence to which Cimabue was raised at once by his contemporaries, and which