Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII. 1876–79.



By Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)

(From Italy)

THERE would I linger, then go forth again;

And he who steers due east, doubling the cape,

Discovers, in a crevice of the rock,

The fishing-town, Amalfi. Haply there

A heaving bark, an anchor on the strand,

May tell him what it is; but what it was,

Cannot be told so soon.
The time has been,

When on the quays along the Syrian coast,

’T was asked and eagerly, at break of dawn,

“What ships are from Amalfi?” when her coins,

Silver and gold, circled from clime to clime;

From Alexandria southward to Sennaar,

And eastward, through Damascus and Cabul

And Samarcand, to thy great wall, Cathay.

Then were the nations by her wisdom swayed;

And every crime on every sea was judged

According to her judgments. In her port

Prows, strange, uncouth, from Nile and Niger met,

People of various feature, various speech;

And in their countries many a house of prayer,

And many a shelter, where no shelter was,

And many a well, like Jacob’s in the wild,

Rose at her bidding. Then in Palestine,

By the wayside, in sober grandeur stood

A hospital, that, night and day, received

The pilgrims of the west; and, when ’t was asked,

“Who are the noble founders?” every tongue

At once replied, “The merchants of Amalfi.”

That hospital, when Godfrey scaled the walls,

Sent forth its holy men in complete steel;

And hence, the cowl relinquished for the helm,

That chosen band, valiant, invincible,

So long renowned as champions of the Cross,

In Rhodes, in Malta.
For three hundred years

There, unapproached but from the deep, they dwelt;

Assailed forever, yet from age to age

Acknowledging no master. From the deep

They gathered in their harvests; bringing home,

In the same ship, relics of ancient Greece,

That land of glory where their fathers lay,

Grain from the golden vales of Sicily,

And Indian spices. Through the civilized world

Their credit was ennobled into fame;

And when at length they fell, they left mankind

A legacy, compared with which the wealth

Of Eastern kings, what is it in the scale?—

The mariner’s compass.