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


The Guardian-Angel

By Robert Browning (1812–1889)

DEAR and great angel, wouldst thou only leave

That child, when thou hast done with him, for me!

Let me sit all the day here, that when eve

Shall find performed thy special ministry

And time come for departure, thou, suspending

Thy flight, mayst see another child for tending,

Another still, to quiet and retrieve.

Then I shall feel thee step one step, no more,

From where thou standest now, to where I gaze,

And suddenly my head be covered o’er

With those wings, white above the child who prays

Now on that tomb,—and I shall feel thee guarding

Me, out of all the world; for me discarding

Yon heaven thy home, that waits and opes its door!

I would not look up thither past thy head

Because the door opes, like that child, I know,

For I should have thy gracious face instead,

Thou bird of God! and wilt thou bend me low

Like him, and lay, like his, my hands together,

And lift them up to pray, and gently tether

Me, as thy lamb there, with thy garment’s spread?

If this was ever granted, I would rest

My head beneath thine, while thy healing hands

Close-covered both my eyes beside thy breast,

Pressing the brain, which too much thought expands,

Back to its proper size again, and smoothing

Distortion down till every nerve had soothing,

And all lay quiet, happy, and supprest.

How soon all worldly wrong would be repaired!

I think how I should view the earth and skies

And sea, when once again my brow was bared

After thy healing, with such different eyes.

O world, as God has made it! all is beauty:

And knowing this, is love, and love is duty.

What further may be sought for or declared?

Guercino drew this angel I saw teach

(Alfred, dear friend)—that little child to pray,

Holding the little hands up, each to each

Pressed gently,—with his own head turned away

Over the earth where so much lay before him

Of work to do, though heaven was opening o’er him,

And he was left at Fano by the beach.

We were at Fano, and three times we went

To sit and see him in his chapel there,

And drink his beauty to our soul’s content,—

My angel with me too; and since I care

For dear Guercino’s fame (to which in power

And glory comes this picture for a dower,

Fraught with a pathos so magnificent),

And since he did not work so earnestly

At all times, and has else endured some wrong,

I took one thought his picture struck from me,

And spread it out, translating it to song.

My Love is here. Where are you, dear old friend?

How rolls the Wairoa at your world’s far end?

This is Ancona, yonder is the sea.