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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From ‘On a Slab of Rose Marble’
By Alfred de Musset (1810–1857)
 
YET, despite myself, I trow
  Other destiny was thine:
Far away from cloudy France,
  Where a warmer sun doth shine,
Near some temple, Greek or Latin;        5
  The fair daughters of the clime,
  With the scent of heath and thyme
    Clinging to their sandaled feet
  Beating thee in rhythmic dance,
    Were a burden far more sweet        10
Than court ladies shod with satin.
Could it be for this alone
  Nature formed thee in the earth,
In whose beauteous virgin stone
  Genius might have wrought a birth        15
Every age had joyed to own?…
 
There should have come forth of thee
Some new-born divinity.
When the marble-cutters hewed
  Through thy noble block their way,        20
They broke in with footsteps rude
  Where a Venus sleeping lay,
And the goddess’s wounded veins
Colored thee with roseate stains.
Alas! and must we hold it truth        25
  That every rare and precious thing
Flung forth at random without ruth
    Trodden under foot may lie?
The crag where, in sublime repose,
  The eagle stoops to rest his wing,        30
No less than any wayside rose,
    Dropped in the common dust to die?
Can the mother of us all
  Leave her work, to fullness brought,
Lost in the gulf of chance to fall,        35
  As oblivion swallows thought?
Torn away from ocean’s rim
To be fashioned by a whim,
  Does the briny tempest whirl
  To the workman’s feet the pearl?        40
Shall the vulgar, idle crowd
For all ages be allowed
To degrade earth’s choicest treasure
At the arbitrary pleasure
  Of a mason or a churl?        45
 
 
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