(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.