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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Asia Minor: Cyprus, the Island

Catterina Cornaro

By Robert, Lord Lytton (1831–1891)

(A Picture.—A. D. 1470.)

IN Cyprus, where ’live Summer never dies,

Love’s native land is. There the seas, the skies,

Are blue and lucid as the looks, the air

Fervid and fragrant as the breath and hair

Of Beauty’s Queen; whose gracious godship dwells

In that dear island of delicious dells,

Mid lavish lights and languid glooms divine.

There doth she her sly dainty sceptre twine

With seabank myrtle spray, and roses sweet

And full as, when the lips of lovers meet

The first strange time, their sudden kisses be:

There doth she lightly reign: there holdeth she

Her laughing court in gleam of lemon groves:

The wanton mother of unnumbered Loves!

What earthly creature hath Dame Venus’ grace

Dowered so divinely sweet of form and face

As that she may, unshamed in Cupid’s smile,

Be sovereign lady of this lovely isle?

Sure, Venus, not so blind as some aver

Was thy bold boy, what time, in search of her

Thou bad’st him seek, he roamed the seas all round,

And barbarous lands beyond; since he hath found

This wonder out; whose perfect sweetness seems

The fair fulfilment of his own fond dreams:

And Kate Cornaro is the Island Queen.

A Queen, a child, fair, happy, scarce nineteen!

In whose white hands her little sceptre lies,

Like a new-gathered floweret, in surprise

At being there. To keep her what she is,—

A thing too rare for the familiar kiss

Of household loves,—wifehood and motherhood,—

Fit only to be delicately wooed

With wooings fine and frolicsome as those

Wherewith the sweet West wooes a small blush-rose,

Her husband first, and then her babe, away

Slipped from her sight, each on a summer day,

Ere she could miss them, into the soft shade

Of flowery graves. She doth not feel afraid

To be alone. Because she hath her toy,

Her pretty kingdom. And it is her joy

To dandle the doll-people, and be kind

And careful to it, as a child. Each wind

O’ the world on her smooth eyelids lightly breathes,

As morn upon a lily whence frail wreaths

Of little dew-drops hang, easily troubled,

As such things are. The June sun’s joy is doubled,

Shining through shadow in her golden hair.

Light-wedded, and light-widowed, and unaware

Of any sort of sorrow doth she seem;

Albeit the times are stormy, and do teem

With tumult round her tiny throne. Primrose,

Pert violet, hardy vetch,—no blossom blows

In March less conscious of a cloudy sky,

More sweet in sullen season. Days go by

Daintily round her. If her crown’s light weight

Upon her forehead fair and delicate

Leave the least violet stain, when laid away

At close of some great summer holiday,

Her lovers kiss the sweet mark smooth and white

Ere it can pain her. She hath great delight

In little things: and of great things small care.

The people love her; though the nobles are

Wayward and wild. Yet fears she not, nor shrinks

To show she fears not. “For in truth,” she thinks

“My Uncle Andrew and my Uncle Mark

Have care of me.” And, truly, dawn or dark,

These Uncles Mark and Andrew, busiest two

In Cyprus, find no lack of work to do:

Go up and down the noisy little state,

Silent all day: and, when the night is late,

Write letters, which she does not care to read

(The Ten, she knows, will ponder them with heed),

To Venice—not so far from Cyprus’ shore

But what the shadow of St. Mark goes o’er

The narrow sea to touch her island throne.

She is herself a dove from Venice flown

Not so long since but what her snowy breast

Is yet scarce warm within its new-found nest,—

Whence sings she o’er the grave of Giacomo

Songs taught her by St. Mark.


(He of the four stone shields which you may spy,

Thrice striped, thrice spotted with the mulberry,

In the great sunlight o’er that famous stair

Whose marble white is warmed with rose-hues, where

The crownings were once) wore the ducal horn

In Venice, on that joyous July morn

When all along the liquid streets, paved red

With rich reflections of clear crimson spread,

Or gorgeous orange gay with glowing fringe,

From bustling balconies above, to tinge

The lucid highways with new lustres, best

Befitting that day’s pride, the blithe folk pressed

About St. Paul’s, beneath the palace door

Of Mark Cornaro; where the Bucentor

Was waiting with the Doge; to see Queen Kate

Come smiling in her robes of marriage state

Through the crammed causeway, glimmering down between

The sloped bright-banded poles, beneath the green

Sea-weeded walls; content to catch quick gleams

Of her robe’s tissue stiff with strong gold seams

From throat to foot, or mantle’s sweeping shine

Of murrey satin lined with ermine fine.

Flushing the white warmth it encircled glad,

A sparkling carcanet of gems she had

About her fair throat. Such strong splendors piled

So heavily upon so slight a child

Made Venice proud: because in little things

Her greatness thus seemed greatest.

His white wings

The galley put forth from the blue lagoon.

The mellow disk of a mild daylight moon

Was hanging wan in the warm azure air,

When the great clarions all began to blare

Farewell. And, underneath a cloudless sky

Over a calméd sea, with minstrelsy,

The baby Queen to Cyprus sailed….