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The Model

Harriet Monroe 1860 (Chicago) – 1936 (Arequipa)

Have you forgotten—you, the chief,
The art-director, president,
What not, of the establishment—
Forgot how for a moment brief
The whole show, all our strife and stir,
Went out—for her?

You led me through your galleries
And dreams—the pictures new and old
And good and bad, the battles bold
You fought with principalities
And powers. We chaffed and laughed away
Such woes that day!

And built such castles domed and towered
For Art to live in by and by,
When men should know the How and Why;
For Art to live in, throned and dowered,
When the world's works and ways should be
Both fair and free.

From hope to rage and back again
We flashed, flung curses red as bombs
At the dull age, lit hecatombs
Of lies and laws and flaws, and then
Reached for the stars and plucked them down
To make man's crown.

The Truth!—that was our cry—the Truth,
Whose heart and mind, whose lips and eyes,
Her first glance and her last surprise,
Are Beauty. All the while, forsooth,
Bold Chance, the blind interpreter,
Led us—to her.

A school door swung—and she was there !
Strange, how the proud world slunk away
And left her with the waning day
Alone. All vanished unaware—
The class, the great high-windowed hall,
And we, and all.

Yes, all our plans, the futile show
Of art, wherewith rash man aspires
To breathe into the dust life's fires,
And be as God. She stood aglow
Fresh from God's hand. 'Twas all in vain

Our hope, our pain.
God beat us at the game. For her
The dim day flared with rose and gold.
A slim moon softly aureoled,
She shone apart and would not stir,
Hesitant at the rim of space,
Veiling her face.

Out in the dream she rose—afar—
With Eve, new-flowered in paradise;
With Helen, whose effulgent eyes
Men sang to through the crash of war;
With Aphrodite, foam-empearled,
Kindling the world.

The winds of doom grew soft for her,
Nor dared even touch the curls that hid
Her face in dusky gold; nor chid
With change, that recreant pillager,
Her still, immortal loveliness,
So brave to bless.

The place a temple was, and we
So brave to bless.
The place a temple was, and we,
Tricked out with odds and ends of faith—
Mere rags worn thin by life and death—
Profaned the immaculate mystery,
Looked on the truth with blasphemous eyes,
Afraid to rise.

The moment met us and was gone,
The proof of all and the despair.
We sought the dark, growing aware
Of our stript souls; and then anon
Tried all in vain to tread again
The ways of men.

The bold words died upon our lips,
The clatter of our feet grew still.
Even now—ah, does it waft your will
Through ether-seas in winged ships—
The sight of her beyond shut eyes,
The white surprise?

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:26 min read

Harriet Monroe

Harriet Monroe was an American editor, scholar, literary critic, poet and patron of the arts. more…

All Harriet Monroe poems | Harriet Monroe Books

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    "The Model" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 17 Sep. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/16926/the-model>.

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