Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Portugal: Cintra


By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

POOR, paltry slaves! yet born midst noblest scenes,—

Why, Nature, waste thy wonders on such men?

Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes

In variegated maze of mount and glen.

Ah me! what hand can pencil guide, or pen,

To follow half on which the eye dilates

Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken

Than those whereof such things the bard relates,

Who to the awestruck world unlocked Elysium’s gates?

The horrid crags, by toppling convent crowned,

The cork-trees hoar that clothe the shaggy steep,

The mountain moss by scorching skies imbrowned,

The sunken glen, whose sunless shrubs must weep,

The tender azure of the unruffled deep,

The orange tints that gild the greenest bough,

The torrents that from cliff to valley leap,

The vine on high, the willow branch below,

Mixed in one mighty scene, with varied beauty glow.

Then slowly climb the many-winding way,

And frequent turn to linger as you go,

From loftier rocks new loveliness survey,

And rest ye at “Our Lady’s House of Woe”;

Where frugal monks their little relics show,

And sundry legends to the stranger tell:

Here impious men have punished been; and lo,

Deep in yon cave Honorius long did dwell,

In hope to merit heaven by making earth a hell.

And here and there, as up the crags you spring,

Mark many rude-carved crosses near the path;

Yet deem not these devotion’s offering,—

These are memorials frail of murderous wrath:

For wheresoe’er the shrieking victim hath

Poured forth his blood beneath the assassin’s knife,

Some hand erects a cross of mouldering lath;

And grove and glen with thousand such are rife

Throughout this purple land, where law secures not life!

On sloping mounds, or in the vale beneath,

Are domes where whilome kings did make repair;

But now the wild-flowers round them only breathe:

Yet ruined splendor still is lingering there,

And yonder towers the Prince’s palace fair:

There thou, too, Vathek! England’s wealthiest son,

Once formed thy Paradise, as not aware,

When wanton Wealth her mightiest deeds hath done,

Meek Peace voluptuous lures was ever wont to shun.

Here didst thou dwell, here schemes of pleasure plan,

Beneath yon mountain’s ever beauteous brow;

But now, as if a thing unblest by man,

Thy fairy dwelling is as lone as thou!

Here giant weeds a passage scarce allow

To halls deserted, portals gaping wide:

Fresh lessons to the thinking bosom, how

Vain are the pleasaunces on earth supplied;

Swept into wrecks anon by Time’s ungentle tide.