Leighton’s ‘Francesca Di Rimini’

‘That day they read no more,’ Virtue grows faint,
One hand lies powerless, the wife’s sweet face
Is half-convulsed by loss of self-restraint.
Outstretched to resist, remaining to embrace,
The extended arm will clasp her guilty lover,
And all the bright, pure world beyond for her be over.

Their very forms grow blurred and change their colour
Into dim snaky wreaths of purple pallor,
Fading away with Honour’s fading Law
Into the pale sad ghosts that Dante saw;
Which we too see, crowned with departing glory,
When Leighton’s genius deepens Dante’s story.

-Robin Allen 6th April 1861

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