To a Picture of the Madonna.

Ave Maria !  May our spirits dare
Look up to thine, and to thy Son’s above ?
Fair vision ! thou’rt from sunny skies,1
Born where the rose hath richest dyes ;2
To thee a southern heart hath given3
That glow of Love, that calm of Heaven,4
And round thee cast th’ ideal gleam,5
The light that is but of a dream.6
Far hence, where wandering music fills7
The haunted air of Roman hills,8
Or where Venetian waves of yore9
Heard melodies, they hear no more,10
Some proud old minster’s gorgeous aisle11
Hath known the sweetness of thy smile.12
Or haply, from a lone, dim shrine,13
’Mid forests of the Apennine,14
Whose breezy sounds of cave and dell15
Pass like a floating anthem-swell,16
Thy soft eyes o’er the pilgrim’s way17
Shed blessings with their gentle ray.18
Or gleaming through a chestnut wood,19
Perchance thine island-chapel stood,20
Where from the blue Sicilian sea,21
The sailor’s hymn hath come to thee,22
And bless’d thy power to guide, to save,23
Madonna ! watcher of the wave !24
Oh ! might a voice, a whisper low,25
Forth from those lips of beauty flow !26
Couldst thou but speak of all the tears,27
The conflicts, and the pangs of years,28
Which, at thy secret shrine reveal’d,29
Have gush’d from human hearts unseal’d !30
Surely to thee hath woman come,31
As a tired wanderer back to home !32
Unveiling many a timid guest,33
And treasured sorrow of her breast,34
A buried love—a wasting care35
Oh ! did those griefs win peace from prayer ?36
And did the poet’s fervid soul37
To thee lay bare its inmost scroll ?38
Those thoughts, which pour’d their quenchless fire39
And passion o’er th’ Italian lyre,40
Did they to still submission die,41
Beneath thy calm, religious eye ?42
And hath the crested helmet bow’d43
Before thee, ’midst the incense-cloud ?44
Hath the crown’d leader’s bosom lone,45
To thee its haughty griefs made known ?46
Did thy glance break their frozen sleep,47
And win the unconquer’d one to weep ?48
Hush’d is the anthem—closed the vow49
The votive garland wither’d now ;50
Yet holy still to me thou art,51
Thou that hast soothed so many a heart !52
And still must blessed influence flow53
From the meek glory of thy brow.54
Still speak to suffering woman’s love,55
Of rest for gentle hearts above ;56
Of Hope, that hath its treasure there,57
Of Home, that knows no changeful air !58
Bright form, lit up with thoughts divine,59
Ave ! such power be ever thine !60