Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.


The Dream

By Elizabeth Akers Allen (1832–1911)

A Bust Seen in the Studio of an Artist at Rome

A SUMMER night in Rome,—

Dear Rome of Art and Song and Love the home!

An eve of rare delight,—

A murmuring, soft, immeasurable night,

A summer night in Rome!

No frigid Northern skies

Chill us from far, mocking our longing eyes

And yearning sympathies,—

Ah, no! the heaven bends kind and clasping here,

And in the ether clear

The stars seem warm and near.

This is the artist’s room,

Hushed in its purple gloom,—

The dim birth-chamber of his vital thought,

Which, into marble wrought,

Asserts sublime and beautiful, control,

Charming the raptured sight,

Hushing the world in wondering delight,

Touching the fainting soul,

Fettered and cramped by sin and grief and strife,

To newer, holier life.

Pulsing along the air,

A strange and sacred presence seems to fill

The studio dark and still;

Dark, saving only where

Through the broad window, with a wondrous glow

Of golden light, unhindered in its flow,

Looks in the mellow moon,

The bright Italian moon;—

Still, save the tremor light

Which the thick vines yield to the wooing night,

And the soul-soothing tune

Breathing among the distant olive-trees,

Where bland airs sing their dreamful symphonies,

Their chants of Love and June.

Behold! a vision there,

Where the slant moonlight floods the fragrant air,—

A dreaming marble face

Exquisite in its grace,

Gentle and young and fair,

Amid its luminous waves of flowing hair;

A brow with earnest meaning softly fraught

Bowed in a trance of thought,

As though, enraptured by some vision rare,

Some picture in the air,

The musing eyes see what is else unseen;

And while it lingers there,

The beautiful lips serene

Seem parting unaware

To utter softly, “Stay! thou art so fair!”

This is the Artist’s Dream,

This sweet and noble face. Does it not seem

A word might break the charm,—

Might startle the dropped lids with quick alarm,

Might wake warm color in the snowy cheek

And make the dreamer speak?

Nay, breathe more softly,—hush!

Did not the rare lips move?

Pygmalion trembled when the rosy flush

Of conscious being thrilled his marble love;

I dare not stay to prove

If I am stronger. So, farewell to thee,

Most dainty dream! The artist will not see

That thou hast lost by giving unto me

A beautiful memory,

A joy forevermore!

Now close the studio door,

And leave the haunted room

To all pure spirits dear;

Leave not a footprint on the sacred floor,

Wake not the echoes in the classic gloom,

The artist’s soul is here,

Where in the eloquent silence, strange and dim,

His beautiful creations wait for him.