A Celebration of Women Writers

"Properzia Rossi" by Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) Records of Woman: With Other Poems. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, & London: T. Cadell, 1828, second edition. pp. 45-54.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


[Page 45] 

PROPERZIA ROSSI.


Properzia Rossi, a celebrated female sculptor of Bologna, possessed also of talents for poetry and music, died in consequence of an unrequited attachment.–A painting, by Ducis, represents her showing her last work, a basso-relievo of Ariadne, to a Roman Knight, the object of her affection, who regards it with indifference.


[Page 46] 
[Page 47] 

PROPERZIA ROSSI.


           —Tell me no more, no more
Of my soul's lofty gifts! Are they not vain
To quench its haunting thirst for happiness?
Have I not lov'd, and striven, and fail'd to bind
One true heart unto me, whereon my own
Might find a resting-place, a home for all
Its burden of affections? I depart,
Unknown, tho' Fame goes with me; I must leave
The earth unknown. Yet it may be that death
Shall give my name a power to win such tears
As would have made life precious.

I.

ONE dream of passion and of beauty more!
And in its bright fulfillment let me pour
My soul away! Let earth retain a trace
Of that which lit my being, tho' its race
Might have been loftier far.–Yet one more dream!
From my deep spirit one victorious gleam

[Page 48] 

Ere I depart! For thee alone, for thee!
May this last work, this farewell triumph be,–
Thou, lov'd so vainly! I would leave enshrined
Something immortal of my heart and mind,
That yet may speak to thee when I am gone,
Shaking thine inmost bosom with a tone
Of lost affection;–something that may prove
What she hath been, whose melancholy love
On thee was lavish'd; silent pang and tear,
And fervent song, that gush'd when none were near,
And dream by night, and weary thought by day,
Stealing the brightness from her life away,–
While thou–Awake! not yet within me die,
Under the burden and the agony
Of this vain tenderness–my spirit, wake!
Ev'n for thy sorrowful affection's sake,
Live! in thy work breathe out!–that he may yet
Feeling sad mastery there, perchance regret
Thine unrequited gift.

[Page 49] 

II.

              It comes,–the power
Within me born, flows back; my fruitless dower
That could not win me love. Yet once again
I greet it proudly, with its rushing train
Of glorious images:–they throng–they press–
A sudden joy lights up my loneliness,–
I shall not perish all!
              The bright work grows
Beneath my hand, unfolding, as a rose,
Leaf after leaf, to beauty; line by line,
I fix my thought, heart, soul, to burn, to shine,
Thro' the pale marble's veins. It grows–and now
I give my own life's history to thy brow,
Forsaken Ariadne! thou shalt wear
My form, my lineaments; but oh! more fair,
Touched into lovelier being by the glow
  Which in me dwells, as by the summer-light
All things are glorified. From thee my wo
  Shall yet look beautiful to meet his sight,

[Page 50] 

When I am pass'd away. Thou art the mould,
Wherein I pour the fervent thoughts, th' untold,
The self-consuming! Speak to him of me,
Thou, the deserted by the lonely sea,
With the soft sadness of thine earnest eye,
Speak to him, lorn one, deeply, mournfully,
Of all my love and grief! Oh! could I throw
Into thy frame a voice, a sweet, and low,
And thrilling voice of song!–when he came nigh,
To send the passion of its melody
Thro' his pierced bosom–on its tones to bear
My life's deep feeling as the southern air
Wafts the faint myrtle's breath,–to rise, to swell,
To sink away in accents of farewell,
Winning but one, one gush of tears, whose flow
Surely my parted spirit yet might know,
If love be strong as death!

[Page 51] 

III.

             Now fair thou art,
Thou form, whose life is of my burning heart!
Yet all the vision that within me wrought,
  I cannot make thee! Oh! I might have given
Birth to creations of far nobler thought,
  I might have kindled, with the fire of heaven,
Things not of such as die! But I have been
Too much alone; a heart, whereon to lean,
With all these deep affections that o'erflow
My aching soul, and find no shore below,
An eye to be my star; a voice to bring
Hope o'er my path like sounds that breathe of spring,
These are denied me–dreamt of still in vain,–
Therefore my brief aspirings from the chain,
Are ever but as some wild fitful song,
Rising triumphantly, to die ere long
In dirge-like echoes.

[Page 52] 

IV.

              Yet the world will see
Little of this, my parting work, in thee,
  Thou shalt have fame! Oh, mockery! give the reed
From storms a shelter,–give the drooping vine
Something round which its tendrils may entwine,–
  Give the parch'd flower a rain-drop, and the meed
Of love's kind words to woman! Worthless fame!
That in his bosom wins not for my name
Th' abiding place it ask'd! Yet how my heart,
In its own fairy world of song and art,
Once beat for praise!–Are those high longings o'er?
That which I have been can I be no more?–
Never, oh! never more; tho' still thy sky
Be blue as then, my glorious Italy!
And tho' the music, whose rich breathings fill
Thine air with soul, be wandering past me still,
And tho' the mantle of thy sunlight streams
Unchang'd on forms instinct with poet-dreams;

[Page 53] 

Never, oh! never more! Where'er I move,
The shadow of this broken-hearted love
Is on me and around! Too well they know,
  Whose life is all within, too soon and well,
When there the blight hath settled;–but I go
  Under the silent wings of Peace to dwell;
From the slow wasting, from the lonely pain,
The inward burning of those words–"in vain,"
  Sear'd on the heart–I go. 'Twill soon be past,
Sunshine, and song, and bright Italian heaven,
  And thou, oh! thou, on whom my spirit cast
Unvalued wealth,–who know'st not what was given
In that devotedness,–the sad, and deep,
And unrepaid–farewell! If I could weep
Once, only once, belov'd one! on thy breast,
Pouring my heart forth ere I sink to rest!
But that were happiness, and unto me
Earth's gift is fame. Yet I was form'd to be
So richly bless'd! With thee to watch the sky,
Speaking not, feeling but that thou wert nigh:

[Page 54] 

With thee to listen, while the tones of song
Swept ev'n as part of our sweet air along,
To listen silently;–with thee to gaze
On forms, the deified of olden days,–
This had been joy enough;–and hour by hour,
From its glad well-springs drinking life and power,
How had my spirit soar'd, and made its fame
  A glory for thy brow!–Dreams, dreams!–the fire
Burns faint within me. Yet I leave my name–
  As a deep thrill may linger on the lyre
When its full chords are hush'd–awhile to live,
And one day haply in thy heart revive
Sad thoughts of me:–I leave it, with a sound,
A spell o'er memory, mournfully profound–
I leave it, on my country's air to dwell,–
Say proudly yet–"'Twas hers who lov'd me well! "

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom