From youth this cool, grey stone enchanted me,
Its beauty one with its simplicity:
The Archer of Aphaia poised to strike,
Or mighty Neptune with his triple spike,
The pointed arches of the Notre-Dame,
Ascending heavenward with perfect calm:
Their colors were but subtlety and shade,
Nor garish nor flamboyant, rather made
of naught but stone, quite serious and pure.
Their substance never fading would endure
Like mountains and the legacy of men
Whose names are lost — their virtues and their sin —
But not the marble which their chisels brought to life,
Like that from which Pygmalion made his wife;
The stone remains and sings a silent song
Of strength and glory lost to ages long.
Although this childhood image of the past
Felt sure and safe and sacred, it at last
Like many childish things, I set aside
(Or rather, watched it crumble ‘neath the tide).
Not that it wasn’t beautiful — it was! —
No, nothing of the sort, but that it does
Not match reality; it is not true.
Medieval churches weren’t left grey when new,
Were bathed in brilliant paints of every hue;
So too the ancient sculptors left not bare
The stones that they had fashioned with such care,
But rather (to my horror) covered them —
They painted in the eyes and clothed each limb.
So that severe simplicity I loved,
The subtleties of grey and white had proved
To be a myth made by mere modern men,
Reflecting only our aesthetics then,
And what perhaps we wish the past had been.