She holds the iron balance in her hand,
And lends her nature to the jeweler's art,
Where virtue needs no maker's mark to brand
The pearl of worthiness beneath her heart
As being stamped by one born of the sea
To beauty wrapped in furs against its cold
Corrosion, on the barren strand — as he
Shapes truth that commerce weighed against its gold,
And in the space where skill and passion mesh,
Forever lights a candle in her flesh.
What is this sheltered place, where quiet reigns,
Where wealth and humble dignity reside?
There is no safety where the seawall strains,
Because that rising roar is not the tide
That tames the shoreline, and is tamed in turn,
That takes, and gives, and bears the pearly sail
Across the world, where diligence may earn
Contempt and rage, if shining theories fail
To calm the waves of dust and plague that swept
The sleeping sentries from the watch they kept.
I walked there once, in gardens where the will
To grace the tulip-cups for my delight
With fragrance honey-sweet enough to fill
Remembrances that must replace my sight;
To paint perfection in the fountain glade
With red and white, with hyacinth divine,
Was all at once embodied by the shade
Of that dark master, with his eyes on mine;
Through blurred impressions of my Sunday stroll,
He said to me, "Thou art," and I was whole.
Within the sparkling bubble of an age
When innocence had asked, "What hath gold wrought,"
I traveled homewards in my silver cage,
But could not take away more than I brought
To pale and placid rooms, cool and obscure,
Where northern suns may paint a souvenir
In striking common things with light so pure,
The wise eye knows my keepsake was Vermeer,
Whose ruby saw the jewels that she had worn
Draw beauty from the jewels that they adorn.
How does she gauge the weight of silent veils,
With her young daughter lying in the street?
Will fear and anger tip those empty scales
As flowers die beneath profaning feet
That bear the burden of the overawed,
Who lack the key to what they must enshrine;
Who poke and daub at what was never flawed
By the poor dregs of pearls dissolved in wine;
And if these beauties quail behind blue glass,
Are we too frail to ride an earth of brass?
He sat out on the dykes in '44,
With frozen ears, with bowels left to rot,
And trained his sights upon the wintry shore,
Defending what was Dutch from what was not.
Then, through the snow that lashed the wretched shelf,
The light of Delft strode forth, and spoke his mind:
"I am God's graven image of Himself —
Protect me for the best of humankind,
Who covet most what they do not consume:
Gold of the feathered crest, the gorse in bloom."
© 2007 by Ellin Anderson. All rights reserved. No part
of this work may be copied or used in any way without written
permission from the author.