Vierge à l'Enfant - Ivoire
Sonnets for Heaven's Queen

Tower of Ivory

(Vierge à l’Enfant, Ivory. Musée Nationale du Louvre, Paris. c. 1260-70)


What curve, what contrapposto, shift of weight,

Recalls the tusk from which some Gothic hand

Had carved the Paris Virgin holding straight

My King enthroned upon an ivory stand!


What smiles, no longer earthly, but divine,

And each the mirror of the other’s joy!

What tenderness contained within a line!

What holy innocence without alloy!


Is my heart harder than the narwhal’s horn,

The walrus-tooth from out a distant sea?

O thou, who tamed the mystic unicorn,

Transforming Beauty, make me like to thee!


That I may perish like that elephant,

But leave, to sound thy praise, this oliphant!

From Sonnets for Heaven’s Queen © Joseph Charles MacKenzie. All rights reserved.

Winner of the 2020 Society of Classical Poets Competition (America's highest honor in classical verse), Joseph Charles MacKenzie is a traditional lyric poet of New Mexico. He is also the only American to have won the Scottish International Poetry Competition (see: Times Literary Supplement, Jan 27, 2017). A Pushcart Prize nominee, MacKenzie's verses have appeared in The New York Times, The Scotsman (Edinburgh), The Independent (London), The Telegraph (London), and many other venues. He wirtes primarily for Trinacria (New York) and the Society of Classical Poets (New York).

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