"Saint Praxed's Ever Was The Church For Peace"
Context: The setting of this poem–which Ruskin maintained had summed up in a few lines all that he had said about the Italian Renaissance in thirty pages of The Stones of Venice–is at the bedside of the dying Bishop surrounded by his illegitimate sons. As the Bishop draws closer to death, his delirious mind wanders back into his past, especially to his life-long enmity for a fellow churchman, one Gandolf. The two have always been bitter rivals: the Bishop won the first victory by gaining the love of the woman who was the mother of the sons to whom he is speaking. To Gandolf, however, went the second round in the contest, for that priest, dying first, had secured a better place for his tomb in the Church of St. Praxed. The speaker, therefore, deprived of a conspicuous position for his burial-niche, must compensate by an especially splendid tomb; and it is for this purpose that he has summoned his sons, whom he euphemistically calls "nephews." There is a double irony in the poem: the reader knows that the sons, as greedy as is their father, will not give him the magnificent tomb he craves; and that Saint Praxed's, because of the strife between the Bishop and his rival, has hardly merited the title of "the church for peace." Part of the Bishop's monologue follows:
Life, how and what is it? As here I lieIn this state-chamber, dying by degrees,Hours and long hours in the dead night, I ask'Do I live, am I dead?' Peace, peace seems all.Saint Praxed's ever was the church for peace;And so, about this tomb of mine. I foughtWith tooth and nail to save my niche, ye know:–Old Gandolf cozened me, despite my care;Shrewd was that snatch from out the corner SouthHe graced his carrion with, God curse the same!Yet still my niche is not so cramped but thenceOne sees the pulpit o' the epistle-side,And somewhat of the choir, those silent seats,And up into the aery dome where liveThe angels, and a sunbeam's sure to lurk; . . .