Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.



By Maria Lowell (1821–1853)

THE JULY day drew to a close, the fret of travel past,

The cool and moonlit courtyard of the inn was gained at last,

Where oleanders greeted us between their stately ranks,

As pink and proud as if they grew on native Indian banks;

Seen from our chamber-window’s ledge they looked more strangely fair,

Like blossomed baskets lightly poised upon the summer air.

When came the sultry morning sun, I did not care to go

On dusty roads, but stayed to see my oleanders glow

Within their shadowy oasis; the pilgrimage was long

To Petrarch’s home, hot alien winds dried up his dewy song;

Though Laura’s cheek, with centuries sweet, still blushes at his call,

Her blush was not so bright as yours, my oleanders tall.

And fiercer grew the summer day, while in the court below

The white-capped peasant-women trim kept moving to and fro,

With little laughs and endless talks, whose murmur rose to me

Like the spring chats of careless birds from blossomed apple-tree;

And, hearing it, I blessed the choice that held me there that day,

With my stately oleanders keeping all the world at bay.

The masonry of Nismes was lost, but still I could not sigh,

For Roman work looks sad when we have bidden Rome good by;

Prison and castle of the Pope stood close upon the hill,

But of castle and of prison my soul had had its fill—

I knew that blood-stains, old and dark, clung to the inner wall,

And blessed the lovely living bloom of oleanders tall.

Thou pleasant, pleasant courtyard, I make to thee a crown

Of gems, from Murray’s casket, then shut the red lid down,

Contented if I still may keep, beneath a sky of blue,

The tender treasure of the day when first my spirit knew

Thy quiet and thy shadow and thy bird-like gossip, all

Enclosed within that sunset wreath of oleanders tall.