On Benvenuto Cellini's sculpture of Perseus and Medusa
In what fierce spasms upgathered, on the plain
Medusa's headless corpse has quivering sunk,
While all the limbs of that undying trunk
To their extremest joint with torture strain;
But the calm visage has resumed again
Its beauty--the orbed eyelids are let down,
As though a living sleep might once more crown
Their placid circlets, guiltless of all pain.
And thou--is thine the spirit's swift recoil,
Which follows every deed of acted wrath,
That, holding in thine hand this loveliest spoil,
Thou dost not triumph, feeling that the breath
Of life is sacred, whether it inform,
Loathly or beauteous, man or beast or worm?