Poem on “Woman Holding a Balance”

Between light and dark,

between this world and the next,

between maidenhood and motherhood

she pauses, held in balance

like the balance she holds.

Her focus not the gold or

the weighing, but the justice to their still

of her scales, settling to their still

point in a steady hand,

and she herself unadorned,

a lily that needs no gilding

but the points of light that lie

on her veil like jewels on a crown.

"Woman Holding a Balance", by Johannes Vermeer

If she raised her eyes, she would see

this luminous beauty, drop the scales,

and, like a blushing Eve, break

the balance and forsake

the innocence of her task,

but she does not.

If she turned, she would see

the Last Judgment, saints and sinners

weighed in the final balance, and,

called to think on ultimate things,

lose this moment—

but she does not.

Balance detail

Trained on the object, undistracted,

patient while the instrument swings

to its center and is still, she turns

this little task to prayer— if mindfulness is

prayer— to an exercise of love—if it is love

to be attentive to the thing at hand.


  • Girl with a Pearl Earring: An Interactive Study. Prof. Claire H. Firth, Universidad de Deusto