Pictura Mathesis

William Alexander

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Follow the pictured forms that Vandyck drew,
One life-wide lesson thou mayst learn;
Each happy gift, each perfect work and true,
Thou to thyself mayst turn.
Lo! here the fulness of his Flemish style,
Here the patrician of the opulent seas,
His golden Genoese,—
The noblest work comes last, the sorrow or the smile.
Early he strove to paint as Rubens did,
And then his charmèd soul he sets
Under a spell that doth the first outbid—
Titian's or Tintoret's.
Last he supremely paints, superbly drawn,
Kings that are kings, and forms that float in fold
Of olive-green and gold,
The immortal satin dress with ribbons red as dawn.

Nor only robe of state and courtly pride—
To Genius prophecy is lent—
Upon its wondrous work shadows abide
Of fine presentiment.
Rise above amber sleeve or lovely lace,
Turn thee to Charles, and question breathing low
Why thou art haunted so
By the pathetic king with long, proud, tragic face.
We too begin by being what we are taught,
And work in the traditional gyves,
Pierce not at first to our predestined thought
Nor lead our real lives.
Rise up, my soul! above the narrow shelf
Where thou wert pinion'd by thy former schools;
Wisely forget their rules,
And far more nobly taught, more nobly be thyself.

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