Casa Guidi Windows

RETURNED to warm existence, — even as one
Sentenced, then blotted from the headsman’s book,
Accepts with doubt the life again begun,—
I leave the duress of my couch, and look
Through Casa Guidi windows to the sun.
A fate like Farinata’s held me fast
In some devouring pit of fever-fire,
Until, from ceaseless forms of toil that cast
Their will upon me, whirled in endless gyre,
The Spirit of the house brought help at last.
With Giotto wrestling, through the desperate hours
A thousand crowded frescos must I paint.
Or snatch from twilight’s dim and dusky bowers
Alternate forms of bacchanal and saint,
The streets of Florence and her beauteous towers.
Weak, wasted with those torments of the brain,
The circles of the Tuscan master’s hell
Were dreams no more; but when their fiery strain
Was fiercest, deep and sudden stillness fell
Athwart the storm, and all was peace again.
She came, whom Casa Guidi’s chambers knew,
And know more proudly an immortal now ;
The air without a star was shivered through
With the resistless radiance of her brow.
And glimmering landscapes from the darkness grew.
Thin, phantom-like ; and yet she brought me rest.
Unspoken words, an understood command
Sealed weary lids with sleep, together pressed
In clasping quiet wandering hand to hand,
And smoothed the folded cloth above the breast.
Now, looking through these windows, where the day
Shines on a terrace splendid with the gold
Of autumn shrub, and green with glossy bay,
Once more her face, re-made from dust, I hold
In light so clear it cannot pass away,—
The quiet brow; the face so frail and fair
For such a voice of song; the steady eye,
Where shone the spirit fated to outwear
Its fragile house ; — and on her features lie
The soft half-shadows of her drooping hair.
Who could forget those features, having known?
Whose memory do his kindling reverence wrong
That heard the soft Ionian flute, whose lone
Changed with the silver trumpet of her song ?
No sweeter airs from woman’s lips were blown.
Ah, in the silence she has left behind
How many a sorrowing voice of life is still!
Songless she left the land that cannot find
Song for its heroes : and the Roman hill,
Once free, shall for her ghost the laurel wind.
The tablet tells you, “ Here site wrote and died,”
And grateful Florence bids the record stand :
Here bend Italian love and English pride
Above her grave,—and one remoter land,
Free as her prayers would make it, at their side.
I will not doubt the vision : yonder see
The moving clouds that speak of freedom won !
And life, new-lighted, with a lark-like glee
Through Casa Guidi windows hails the sun.
Grown front the rest her spirit gave to me.