Tuesday, February 13

for, as on the coloured canvas

For, as on the coloured canvas
Subtle pencils softly blend
Dark and light in such proportions
That the dim perspectives end --
Now perhaps like famous cities,
Now like caves or misty capes,
For remoteness ever formeth
Monstrous or unreal shapes . . .
So it was, while I alone,
Saw their bulk and vast proportions
But their form remained unknown.
First they seemed to us uplifting
High in heaven their pointed towers,
Clouds that to the sea descended,
To conceive in sapphire showers
What they would bring forth in crystal.
And this fancy seemed more true,
As from their untold abundance
They, methought, could drink the blue
Drop by drop. Again sea monsters
Seemed to us the wandering droves,
Which, to form the train of Neptune,
Issued from their green alcoves.
For the sails, when lightly shaken,
Fanned by zephyrs as by slaves,
Seemed to us like outspread pinions
Fluttering o'er the darkened waves;
Then the mass, approaching nearer,
Seemed a mighty Babylon,
With its hanging gardens pictured
By the streamers fluttering down.
But at last our certain vision
Undeceived, becoming true,
Showed it was a great armada
For I saw the prows cut through
Foam . . .

-- Pedro Calderón de la Barca The Constant Prince
Translated by Denis Florence McCarthy