In the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice

Tomb of Tommaso Mocenigo

In the Basilica di Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice

Behold upon the sarcophagus
           the recumbent figure 
of one Tommaso Mocenigo
           so faithful and tender a portrait
wrought without painfulness
           of the doge as he lay
in ducal robe and bonnet
           deep in his death
how peaceful his head lies
           aslant upon his pillow
hands simply crossed
           as they fell

observe the emaciated face
           the features large
in their natural chiselling
           but so lordly pure
that even in his warm breath
           they must have looked
as cold as marble stone
            at once so deeply worn
by thought and now in death

upon his temples the veins
           branched and upraised
the skin in sharp folds puckered 
           and the brow high-arched
and surprisingly unkempt
           the unseeing eye-ball
so magnificently large
           and curvature of the lips
lightly veiled
           by the moustache at the side
and in a final flourish a short 
           sharp-pointed double-beard

how noble and how still he rests
           stern angle of cheek and brow
so subtly softened beneath the pale light
           of the cool and white sepulchral dust

John Lyons


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