Norman Thomas di Giovanni

A Yellow Rose

When on that afternoon or the next the renowned Giambattista Marino died - he whom the unanimous mouths of Fame (to use an image dear to him) proclaimed the new Homer and new Dante - the still, silent event that was essentially the last in his life had already taken place. Burdened with years and glory, the man lay dying in a wide Spanish bed with tall carved corner posts. It is easy to picture a quiet balcony a few steps away, facing the sunset, and, down below, marble statuary and laurel trees and a garden whose terraces are reflected in a rectangular pool. A woman has placed a yellow rose in a vase; the man murmurs the inevitable verses of which he himself, to be honest, is rather weary:

Crown of the garden, pride of the lawn,

Springtime's jewel, fair April's eye ...

Then came the revelation. Marino saw the rose as Adam first saw it in Paradise, and he felt that it lived in an eternity of its own and not in his words; he felt that we may mention or allude to a thing but not express it, and that the tall proud volumes casting a golden haze there in a corner of the room were not (as his vanity dreamed) a mirror of the world but only one thing more added to the world.

This illumination came to Marino on the eve of his death, as perhaps it had to Homer and Dante as well.

[1956]

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