On The Portrait Of A Beautiful Woman,

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  Such _wast_ thou: now in earth below,
  Dust and a skeleton thou art.
  Above thy bones and clay,
  Here vainly placed by loving hands,
  Sole guardian of memory and woe,
  The image of departed beauty stands.
  Mute, motionless, it seems with pensive gaze
  To watch the flight of the departing days.
  That gentle look, that, wheresoe'er it fell,
  As now it seems to fall,
  Held fast the gazer with its magic spell;
  That lip, from which as from some copious urn,
  Redundant pleasure seems to overflow;
  That neck, on which love once so fondly hung;
  That loving hand, whose tender pressure still
  The hand it clasped, with trembling joy would thrill;
  That bosom, whose transparent loveliness
  The color from the gazer's cheek would steal;
  All these _have been_; and now remains alone
  A wretched heap of bones and clay,
  Concealed from sight by this benignant stone.

  To this hath Fate reduced
  The form, that, when with life it beamed,
  To us heaven's liveliest image seemed.
  O Nature's endless mystery!
  To-day, of grand and lofty thoughts the source,
  And feelings not to be described,
  Beauty rules all, and seems,
  Like some mysterious splendor from on high
  Forth-darted to illuminate
  This dreary wilderness;
  Of superhuman fate,
  Of fortunate realms, and golden worlds,
  A token, and a hope secure
  To give our mortal state;
  To-morrow, for some trivial cause,
  Loathsome to sight, abominable, base
  Becomes, what but a little time before
  Wore such an angel face;
  And from our minds, in the same breath,
  The grand conception it inspired,
  Swift vanishes and leaves no trace.
  What infinite desires,
  What visions grand and high,
  In our exalted thought,
  With magic power creates, true harmony!
  O'er a delicious and mysterious sea,
  The exulting spirit glides,
  As some bold swimmer sports in Ocean's tides:
  But oh, the mischief that is wrought,
  If but one accent out of tune
  Assaults the ear! Alas, how soon
  Our paradise is turned to naught!

  O human nature, why is this?
  If frail and vile throughout,
  If shadow, dust thou art, say, why
  Hast thou such fancies, aspirations high?
  And yet, if framed for nobler ends,
  Alas, why are we doomed
  To see our highest motives, truest thoughts,
  By such base causes kindled, and consumed?

© Giacomo Leopardi