The Other Half-Rome
Little Pompilia, with the patient brow
And lamentable smile on those poor lips,
And, under the white hospital-array,
A flower-like body, to frighten at a bruise
Youd think, yet now, stabbed through and through again,
Alive i the ruins. Tis a miracle.
It seems that, when her husband struck her first,
She prayed Madonna just that she might live
So long as to confess and be absolved; (10)
And whether it was that, all her sad life long,
Never before successful in a prayer,
This prayer rose with authority too dread,
Or whether, because earth was hell to her,
By compensation, when the blackness broke
She got one glimpse of quiet and the cool blue,
To show her for a moment such things were,
Or else,as the Augustinian Brother thinks,
The friar who took confession from her lip,
When a probationary soul that moves (20)
From nobleness to nobleness, as she,
Over the rough way of the world, succumbs,
Bloodies its last thorn with unflinching foot,
The angels love to do their work betimes,
Staunch some wounds here nor leave so much for God.
Who knows? However it be, confessed, absolved,
She lies, with overplus of life beside
To speak and right herself from first to last,
Right the friend also, lamb-pure, lion-brave,
Care for the boys concerns, to save the son (30)
From the sire, her two-weeks infant orphaned thus,
Andwith best smile of all reserved for him
Pardon that sire and husband from the heart.
A miracle, so tell your Molinists!
There she lies in the long white lazar-house.
Rome has besieged, these two days, never doubt,
Saint Annas where she waits her death, to hear
Though but the chink o the bell, turn o the hinge
When the reluctant wicket opes at last,
Lets in, on now this and now that pretence, (40)
Too many by half,complain the men of art,
For a patient in such plight. The lawyers first
Paid the due visitjustice must be done;
They took her witness, why the murder was;
Then the priests followed properly,a soul
To shrive; twas Brother Celestines own right,
The same who noises thus her gifts abroad:
But many more, who found they were old friends,
Pushed in to have their stare and take their talk
And go forth boasting of it and to boast. (50)
Old Monna Baldi chatters like a jay,
Swearsbut that, prematurely trundled out
Just as she felt the benefit begin,
The miracle was snapped up by somebody,
Her palsied limb gan prick and promise life
At touch o the bedclothes merely,how much more
Had she but brushed the body as she tried!
Cavalier Carlowell, theres some excuse
For himMaratta who paints Virgins so
He too must fee the porter and slip by (60)
With pencil cut and paper squared, and straight
There was he figuring away at face
A lovelier face is not in Rome, cried he,
Shaped like a peacocks egg, the pure as pearl,
That hatches you anon a snow-white chick.
Then, oh that pair of eyes, that pendent hair,
Black this, and black the other! Mighty fine
But nobody cared ask to paint the same,
Nor grew a poet over hair and eyes
Four little years ago when, ask and have, (70)
The woman who wakes all this rapture leaned
Flower-like from out her window long enough,
As much uncomplimented as uncropped
By comers and goers in Via Vittoria: eh?
Tis just a flowers fate: past parterre we trip,
Till peradventure some one plucks our sleeve
Yon blossom at the briars end, thats the rose
Two jealous people fought for yesterday
And killed each other: see, theres undisturbed
A pretty pool at the root, of rival red! (80)
Then cry we, Ah, the perfect paragon!
Then crave we, Just one keepsake-leaf for us!
Of seventeen years, whether a flower or weed,
Ruined: who did it shall account to Christ
Having no pity on the harmless life
And gentle face and girlish form he found,
And thus flings back: go practise if you please
With men and women: leave a child alone
For Christs particular loves sake!so I say. (90)
Took on him to explain the secret cause
O the crime: quoth he, Such crimes are very rife,
Explode nor make us wonder now-a-days,
Seeing that Antichrist disseminates
That doctrine of the Philosophic Sin:
Molinos sect will soon make earth too hot!
Nay, groaned the Augustinian, whats there new?
Crime will not fail to flare up from mens hearts
While hearts are mens and so born criminal (100)
Which one fact, always old yet ever new,
Accounts for so much crime that, for my part,
Molinos may go whistle to the wind
That waits outside a certain church, you know!
Pompilia, living so and dying thus,
Has undue experience how much crime
A heart can hatch. Why was she made to learn
Not you, not I, not even Molinos self
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