Paulo Ucello/Chapter 1


Firstly, how Paulo, painter of Florence, saw a bullfinch and desired
it exceedingly; and, as he could not buy it, painted it.

PAULO di Dono, early home that day.
Left half-unpeeled a bunch of endive stalk,
That he might paint upon his wall straightway

A little finch seen on his morning’s walk.
When, with Donato, on the market street,
And Ser Filippo he had stayed in talk.

His friends bought eggs. He spied, beneath a seat,
A bullfinch caged: its breast a russet red
And black the habit falling to its feet:

Black too the cowl upon its dainty head.
Though passing poor, yet Paulo would have spent
To buy the bird the cost of that day’s bread.

But penniless he was. So back he went
To paint the archway at St. Thomas’ gate.
‘A little monk it is,’ he sighed intent,

‘Of our St. Mark’s.’ He did not linger late:
The beat of wings filled all the summer air,
And yet he did not pause to contemplate

Its beauty. On his wall, with loving care,
He painted by the sunset’s flaming ray,
And, lo! even the little finch was there,

Poised lightly on a tender apple spray.