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


I. Juvenile Poems. Italian Scenery

NIGHT rests in beauty on Mont Alto.

Beneath its shade the beauteous Arno sleeps

In Vallombrosa’s bosom, and dark trees

Bend with a calm and quiet shadow down

Upon the beauty of that silent river.

Still the west a melancholy smile

Mantles the lips of day, and twilight pale

Moves like a spectre in the dusky sky,

While eve’s sweet star on the fast-fading year

Smiles calmly. Music steals at intervals

Across the water, with a tremulous swell,

From out the upland dingle of tall firs;

And a faint footfall sounds, where, dim and dark,

Hangs the gray willow from the river’s brink,

O’ershadowing its current. Slowly there

The lover’s gondola drops down the stream,

Silent, save when its dipping oar is heard,

Or in its eddy sighs the rippling wave.

Mouldering and moss-grown through the lapse of years

In motionless beauty stands the giant oak;

Whilst those that saw its green and flourishing youth

Are gone and are forgotten. Soft the fount,

Whose secret springs the star-light pale discloses,

Gushes in hollow music; and beyond

The broader river sweeps its silent way,

Mingling a silver current with that sea,

Whose waters have not tides, coming nor going.

On noiseless wing along that fair blue sea

The halcyon flits; and, where the wearied storm

Left a loud moaning, all is peace again.

A calm is on the deep. The winds that came

O’er the dark sea-surge with a tremulous breathing,

And mourned on the dark cliff where weeds grew rank,

And to the autumnal death-dirge the deep sea

Heaved its long billows, with a cheerless song

Have passed away to the cold earth again,

Like a wayfaring mourner. Silently

Up from the calm sea’s dim and distant verge,

Full and unveiled, the moon’s broad disk emerges.

On Tivoli, and where the fairy hues

Of autumn glow upon Abruzzi’s woods,

The silver light is spreading. Far above,

Encompassed with their thin, cold atmosphere,

The Apennines uplift their snowy brows,

Glowing with colder beauty, where unheard

The eagle screams in the fathomless ether,

And stays his wearied wing. Here let us pause.

The spirit of these solitudes—the soul

That dwells within these steep and difficult places—

Speaks a mysterious language to mine own,

And brings unutterable musings. Earth

Sleeps in the shades of nightfall, and the sea

Spreads like a thin blue haze beneath my feet;

Whilst the gray columns and the mouldering tombs

Of the Imperial City, hidden deep

Beneath the mantle of their shadows, rest.

My spirit looks on earth. A heavenly voice

Comes silently: “Dreamer, is earth thy dwelling?

Lo! nursed within that fair and fruitful bosom,

Which has sustained thy being, and within

The colder breast of Ocean, lie the germs

Of thine own dissolution! E’en the air,

That fans the clear blue sky, and gives thee strength,

Up from the sullen lake of mouldering reeds,

And the wide waste of forest, where the osier

Thrives in the damp and motionless atmosphere,

Shall bring the dire and wasting pestilence,

And blight thy cheek. Dream thou of higher things:

This world is not thy home!” And yet my eye

Rests upon earth again. How beautiful,

Where wild Velino heaves its sullen waves

Down the high cliff of gray and shapeless granite,

Hung on the curling mist, the moonlight bow

Arches the perilous river! A soft light

Silvers the Albanian mountains, and the haze

That rests upon their summits mellows down

The austerer features of their beauty. Faint

And dim-discovered glow the Sabine hills;

And, listening to the sea’s monotonous shell,

High on the cliffs of Terracina stands

The castle of the royal Goth in ruins.

But night is in her wane: day’s early flush

Glows like a hectic on her fading cheek,

Wasting its beauty. And the opening dawn

With cheerful lustre lights the royal city,

Where, with its proud tiara of dark towers,

It sleeps upon its own romantic bay.