In the matter of love and art I have never been a niggard:
That the woman was loved, the poem written, was my reward.
I have never hated a better man; rather I would
Strive to tune my spirit to the pitch and tone of his blood.
What did hurt was when the woman or the poet stooped, for that defiled them;
But I sweated out the pain of it alone and never reviled them.
Beauty is too precious a thing for jealousy.
Beauty is the goddess that sets a man free;
Sets him free and gives him the direction to the Master’s door—
That one who is God and Man, who takes one to the further shore.
She does this at the cost of no small sacrifice—
For a goddess still has her own problems of paradise.
Knowing this, a man cannot but respect art and love, her maids.
Who go before her singing along the paths of secret glades.
Writing in the first person the poet adopts a rather gallant persona, courtly lover and gentleman scholar who gives himself to love and learning. Woman is praised as the bearer of beauty, a beauty so great it sets man free by pointing him towards the Master.
Woman is not however reduced to a purely symbolic role, she is in the second last stanza part of the struggle of sacrifice herself.
Art and love are seen as the maids of beauty, ruled by her and serving her.
In this mood Francis sees beauty as a window on the divine rather than as a possible veil. He gives the poem a lyrical and romantic ending. Perhaps it needs the following poem as a bit of a corrective.