On an Intaglio Head of Minerva

THE cunning hand that carved this face,
A little helmeted Minerva, —
The hand, I say, ere Phidias wrought,
Had lost its subtile skill and fervor.
Who was he ? Was he glad or sad,
Who knew to carve in such a fashion ?
Perchance he shaped this dainty head
For some brown girl that scorned his passion.
But he is dust: we may not know
His happy or unhappy story :
Nameless, and dead these thousand years,
His work outlives him, — there’s his glory !
Both man and jewel lay in earth
Beneath a lava-buried city ;
The thousand summers came and went,
With neither haste, nor hate, nor pity.
The years wiped out the man, but left
The jewel fresh as any blossom,
Till some Visconti dug it up,—
To rise and fall on Mabel’s bosom !
O Roman brother ! see how Time
Your gracious handiwork has guarded,
See how your loving, patient art
Has come, at last, to be rewarded !
Who would not suffer slights of men,
And pangs of hopeless passion also,
To have his carven agate-stone
On such a bosom rise and fall so !
Thomas Bailey Aldrich.