Martin Robertson

Now and Then

John Ruskin’s Wedding Night

Quick to beauty more than is common

but reared in rigid abstinence,

children’s light voices and cool hands

were all he dared to dream in woman.

The statue underneath the stays

waited in marble innocence:

a light such as in Paradise

flowed from the smile of Beatrice

should fuse them in its white embrace.

The temple-veil rent from his error

revealed the body’s subtleties

flushed from the warm blood’s quickening.

The yielding and the stiffening,

the wooded clefts and the hot spring,

chilled him with horror and with terror.