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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Praxiteles and Phryne

By William Wetmore Story (1819–1895)

[From Graffiti d’Italia. 1868.]

A THOUSAND silent years ago,

The twilight faint and pale

Was drawing o’er the sunset glow

Its soft and shadowy veil;

When from his work the Sculptor stayed

His hand, and, turned to one

Who stood beside him, half in shade,

Said, with a sigh, “’Tis done.

“Thus much is saved from chance and change,

That waits for me and thee;

Thus much—how little!—from the range

Of Death and Destiny.

“Phryne, thy human lips shall pale,

Thy rounded limbs decay,—

Nor love nor prayers can aught avail

To bid thy beauty stay;

“But there thy smile for centuries

On marble lips shall live,—

For Art can grant what love denies,

And fix the fugitive.

“Sad thought! nor age nor death shall fade

The youth of this cold bust;

When this quick brain and hand that made

And thou and I are dust!

“When all our hopes and fears are dead,

And both our hearts are cold,

And love is like a tune that’s played,

And life a tale that’s told,

“This senseless stone, so coldly fair,

That love nor life can warm,

The same enchanting look shall wear,

The same enchanting form.

“Its peace no sorrow shall destroy;

Its beauty age shall spare

The bitterness of vanished joy,

The wearing waste of care.

“And there upon that silent face

Shall unborn ages see

Perennial youth, perennial grace,

And sealed serenity.

“And strangers, when we sleep in peace,

Shall say, not quite unmoved,

So smiled upon Praxiteles

The Phryne whom he loved.”