Friday, June 03, 2005


Before a Statue of Achilles

George Santayana (1863-1952), Before a Statue of Achilles:
I gaze on thee as Phidias of old
Or Polyclitus gazed, when first he saw
These hard and shining limbs, without a flaw,
And cast his wonder in heroic mould.
Unhappy me who only may behold,
Nor make immutable and fix in awe
A fair immortal form no worm shall gnaw,
A tempered mind whose faith was never told!
The godlike mien, the lion's lock and eye,
The well-knit sinew, utter a brave heart
Better than many words that part by part
Spell in strange symbols what serene and whole
In nature lives, nor can in marble die.
The perfect body is itself the soul.
Before what statue was Santayana standing? Polyclitus' Doryphoros (spear carrier), which survives in a Roman copy, is one possibility.

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