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

Appendix: Frascati

At the Villa Conti

By William Wetmore Story (1819–1895)

WHAT peace and quiet in this villa sleep!

Here let us pause, nor chase for pleasure on;

Nothing can be more exquisite than this,—

Work, for the nonce farewell,—this day we ’ll give

To fallow joys of perfect idleness.

See how the old house lifts its face of light

Against the pallid olives that behind

Throng up the hill. Look down this vista’s shade

Of dark square shaven ilexes, where spurts

The fountain’s thin white thread, and blows away.

And mark! along the terraced balustrade

Two contadine stopping in the shade,

With copper vases poised upon their heads,

How their red jackets tell against the green!

Old, all is old,—what charm there is in age!

Do you believe this villa when ’t was new

Was half so beautiful as now it seems?

Look at these balustrades of travertine,

Had they the charm when fresh and sharply carved

As now that they are stained and grayed with time

And mossed with lichens, every grim old mask

That grins upon their pillars bearded o’er

With waving sprays of slender maiden-hair?

Ah no! I cannot think it. Things of art

Snatch nature’s graces from the hand of Time.

Here will we sit and let the sleeping noon

Doze on and dream into the afternoon,

While all the mountains shake in opal light,

Forever shifting, till the sun’s last glance

Transfigures with its splendor all our world.

Hark! the cicala crackles mid the trees,

How shrilly! and the toppling fountain spills

The music of its silvery rain, how soft!

Into the broad clear basin,—zigzag darts

The sudden dragon-fly across, or hangs

Poised in the sun with shimmer of glazed wings.

And there the exquisite campagna lies

Dreaming what dreams of olden pomp and war,

Of love and pain and joy that it has known!

Sadder, perhaps, but dearer than of yore,

With wild-flowers overstrewn, like some loved grave;

Its silent stretches haunted by vast trains

Of ghostly shapes, where stalks majestical,

Mid visionary pomp of vanished days,

The buried grandeur of imperial Rome;

Moaned over by great winds that from the sea

Sweep inland, and by wandering clouds of tears;

How it lies throbbing there beneath the sun,

So silent with its ruins on its breast!

There, far Soracte on the horizon piles

Its lonely peak, and gazes on the sea;

There Leonessa couches in repose,

And stern Gennaro rears its purple ridge,

And wears its ermine late into the spring.

When all beneath is one vast lush of flowers,

And poppies paint whole acres with one sweep

Of their rich scarlet, and entangling vines

Shroud the low walls, and drop from arch to arch

Of the far-running lessening aqueducts,

On his broad shoulders still the imperial robe

Of winter hangs, and leashed within his caves

The violent Tramontana lies in wait.


Hark! from the ilexes the nightingale

Begins its beating prelude, like the throbs

Of some quick heart, then pauses, then again

Bursts into fitful jets of gurgling song,

Then beats again; and listen! rising now

To its full rapture thrills the shadowy wood

With the delirious passion of its voice;

With dizzy trills, and low, deep, tearful notes,

And hurried heaping of voluptuous tones

That, blent together in one intricate maze

Of sweet inextricable melodies,

Whirl on and up, and circling lift and lift,

And burst at last in scattered showers of notes,

And leave us the sweet, silent afternoon.