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


The Sleeping Figure

By Bryan Waller Procter (1787–1874)

UPON a couch of silk and gold

A pale enchanted lady lies,

And o’er her many a frowning fold

Of crimson shades her closed eyes;

And shadowy creatures round her rise,

And ghosts of women masqued in woe,

And many a phantom pleasure flies,

And lovers slain—ah, long ago!

The lady, pale as now she sleeps,

An age upon that couch hath lain,

Yet in one spot a spirit keeps

His mansion, like a red-rose stain;

And, when lovers’ ghosts complain,

Blushes like a new-born flower,

Or as some bright dream of pain

Dawneth through the darkest hour.

Once,—but many a thought hath fled

Since the time whereof I speak,—

Once, the sleeping lady bred

Beauty in her burning cheek,

And the lovely morn did break

Through the azure of her eyes,

And her heart was warm and meek,

And her hope was in the skies.

But the lady loved at last,

And the passion pained her soul,

And her hope away was cast

Far beyond her own control;

And the clouded thoughts that roll

Through the midnight of the mind

O’er her eyes of azure stole,

Till they grew deject and blind.

He to whom her heart was given,

When May-music was in tune,

Dared forsake that amorous heaven,

Changed and careless soon!—

O, what is all beneath the moon

When his heart will answer not!

What are all the dreams of noon

With our love forgot!

Heedless of the world she went,

Sorrow’s daughter, meek and lone,

Till some spirit downwards bent

And struck her to this sleep of stone.

Look! Did old Pygmalion

Sculpture thus, or more prevail,

When he drew the living tone

From the marble pale?