Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Toilet of an Exquisite
By Giuseppe Parini (1729–1799)
From ‘The Day,’ from ‘Modern Italian Poets’ by William Dean Howells

AT Last the labor of the learned comb
Is finished, and the elegant artist strews
With lightly shaken hand a powdery mist
To whiten ere their time thy youthful locks.
*        *        *        *        *
                        Now take heart,        5
And in the bosom of that whirling cloud
Plunge fearlessly. O brave! O mighty! Thus
Appeared thine ancestor through smoke and fire
Of battle, when his country’s trembling gods
His sword avenged, and shattered the fierce foe        10
And put to flight. But he, his visage stained
With dust and smoke, and smirched with gore and sweat,
His hair torn and tossed wild, came from the strife
A terrible vision, even to compatriots
His hand had rescued; milder thou by far,        15
And fairer to behold, in white array
Shalt issue presently to bless the eyes
Of thy fond country, which the mighty arm
Of thy forefather and thy heavenly smile
Equally keep content and prosperous….        20
Let purple gaiters clasp thine ankles fine
In noble leather, that no dust or mire
Blemish thy foot; down from thy shoulders flow
Loosely a tunic fair, thy shapely arms
Cased in its closely fitting sleeves, whose borders        25
Of crimson or of azure velvet let
The heliotrope’s color tinge. Thy slender throat
Encircle with a soft and gauzy band….
                Thy watch already
Bids thee haste to go. Oh me, how fair        30
The arsenal of tiny charms that hang
With a harmonious tinkling from its chain!
What hangs not there of fairy carriages
And fairy steeds so marvelously feigned
In gold that every charger seems alive?…        35
Let thy right hand be pressed against thy side
Beneath thy waistcoat, and the other hand
Upon thy snowy linen rest, and hide
Next to thy heart; let the breast rise sublime,
The shoulders broaden both, and bend toward her        40
Thy pliant neck, then at the corners close
Thy lips a little, pointed in the middle
Somewhat; and from thy mouth thus set exhale
A murmur inaudible. Meanwhile her right
Let her have given, and now softly drop        45
On the warm ivory a double kiss.
Seat thyself then, and with one hand draw closer
Thy chair to hers, while every tongue is stilled.
Thou only, bending slightly over, with her
Exchange in whisper secret nothings, which        50
Ye both accompany with mutual smiles
And covert glances that betray—or seem
At least your tender passion to betray.

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