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

Rome, Churches of

Ara Cœli

By Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907)

WHOEVER will go to Rome may see,

In the chapel of the Sacristy

Of Ara-Cœli, the Sainted Child,—

Garnished from throat to foot with rings

And brooches and precious offerings,

And its little nose kissed quite away

By dying lips. At Epiphany,

If the holy winter day prove mild,

It is shown to the wondering, gaping crowd

On the church’s steps,—held high aloft,—

While every sinful head is bowed,

And the music plays, and the censers’ soft

White breath ascends like silent prayer.

Many a beggar kneeling there,

Tattered and hungry, without a home,

Would not envy the Pope of Rome,

If he, the beggar, had half the care

Bestowed on him that falls to the share

Of yonder Image,—for you must know

It has its minions to come and go,

Its perfumed chamber, remote and still,

Its silken couch, and its jewelled throne,

And a special carriage of its own

To take the air in, when it will.

And though it may neither drink nor eat,

By a nod to its ghostly seneschal

It could have of the choicest wine and meat.

Often some princess, brown and tall,

Comes, and unclasping from her arm

The glittering bracelet, leaves it, warm

With her throbbing pulse, at the Baby’s feet.

Ah, he is loved by high and low,

Adored alike by simple and wise.

The people kneel to him in the street.