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

Capri, the Island


By Alfred Austin (1835–1913)

THERE is an isle, kissed by a smiling sea,

Where all sweet confluents meet: a thing of heaven,

A spent aërolite, that well may be

The missing sister of the starry Seven.

Celestial beauty nestles at its knee,

And in its lap is naught of earthly leaven.

’T is girt and crowned with loveliness; its year,

Eternal summer; winter comes not near.

’T is small, as things of beauty ofttimes are,

And in a morning round it you may row,

Nor need a tedious haste your bark debar

From gliding inwards where the ripples flow

Into strange grots whose roofs are azure spar,

Whose pavements liquid silver. Mild winds blow

Around your prow, and at your keel the foam,

Leaping and laughing, freshly wafts you home.

They call the island Capri,—with a name

Dulling an airy dream, just as the soul

Is clogged with body palpable,—and Fame

Hath long while winged the word from pole to pole.

Its human story is a tale of shame,

Of all unnatural lusts a gory scroll,

Record of what, when pomp and power agree,

Man once hath been, and man again may be.

Terrace and slope from shore to summit show

Of all rich climes the glad-surrendered spoil.

Here the bright olive’s phantom branches glow,

There the plump fig sucks sweetness from the soil.

Mid odorous flowers that through the Zodiac blow,

Returning tenfold to man’s leisured toil,

Hesperia’s fruit hangs golden. High in air,

The vine runs riot, spurning human care.

And flowers of every hue and breath abound,

Charming the sense; the burning cactus glows,

Like daisies elsewhere dappling all the ground,

And in each cleft the berried myrtle blows.

The playful lizard glides and darts around,

The elfin fireflies flicker o’er the rows

Of ripened grain. Alien to pain and wrong,

Men fill the days with dance, the nights with song.