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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Birds of Passage

Flight the Fourth. Amalfi

SWEET the memory is to me

Of a land beyond the sea,

Where the waves and mountains meet,

Where amid her mulberry-trees

Sits Amalfi in the heat,

Bathing ever her white feet

In the tideless summer seas.

In the middle of the town,

From its fountains in the hills,

Tumbling through the narrow gorge,

The Canneto rushes down,

Turns the great wheels of the mills,

Lifts the hammers of the forge.

’T is a stairway, not a street,

That ascends the deep ravine,

Where the torrent leaps between

Rocky walls that almost meet.

Toiling up from stair to stair

Peasant girls their burdens bear;

Sunburnt daughters of the soil,

Stately figures tall and straight,

What inexorable fate

Dooms them to this life of toil?

Lord of vineyards and of lands,

Far above the convent stands.

On its terraced walk aloof

Leans a monk with folded hands.

Placid, satisfied, serene,

Looking down upon the scene

Over wall and red-tiled roof;

Wondering unto what good end

All this toil and traffic tend,

And why all men cannot be

Free from care and free from pain,

And the sordid love of gain,

And as indolent as he.

Where are now the freighted barks

From the marts of east and west?

Where the knights in iron sarks

Journeying to the Holy Land,

Glove of steel upon the hand,

Cross of crimson on the breast?

Where the pomp of camp and court?

Where the pilgrims with their prayers?

Where the merchants with their wares,

And their gallant brigantines

Sailing safely into port

Chased by corsair Algerines?

Vanished like a fleet of cloud,

Like a passing trumpet-blast,

Are those splendors of the past,

And the commerce and the crowd!

Fathoms deep beneath the seas

Lie the ancient wharves and quays,

Swallowed by the engulfing waves;

Silent streets and vacant halls,

Ruined roofs and towers and walls;

Hidden from all mortal eyes

Deep the sunken city lies:

Even cities have their graves!

This is an enchanted land!

Round the headlands far away

Sweeps the blue Salernian bay

With its sickle of white sand:

Further still and furthermost

On the dim discovered coast

Pæstum with its ruins lies,

And its roses all in bloom

Seem to tinge the fatal skies

Of that lonely land of doom.

On his terrace, high in air,

Nothing doth the good monk care

For such worldly themes as these.

From the garden just below

Little puffs of perfume blow,

And a sound is in his ears

Of the murmur of the bees

In the shining chestnut trees;

Nothing else he heeds or hears.

All the landscape seems to swoon

In the happy afternoon;

Slowly o’er his senses creep

The encroaching waves of sleep,

And he sinks as sank the town,

Unresisting, fathoms down,

Into caverns cool and deep!

Walled about with drifts of snow,

Hearing the fierce north-wind blow,

Seeing all the landscape white

And the river cased in ice,

Comes this memory of delight,

Comes this vision unto me

Of a long-lost Paradise

In the land beyond the sea.