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 William Gibson (1826–1887)

NOONDAY languors of summer-tide

Voluptuous hang on Cintra’s side,

Luxuries of languor, deep

And rich as a dream ’twixt wake and sleep;

Over all a delicious drowse,

As—seen in an opium-eater’s vision,—

Goddesses, with slumberous brows

Beautiful, droop in bowers elysian;

All adown the mountain’s side

A hazy sunshine mantling wide,—

And the golden quiet gentliest falls

Round Montserrat’s deserted halls.

Lo! the ruin,—the site romantic!

Wanderer o’er the broad Atlantic,

Sick at heart of the restless ocean

That rolled thee hither, thou deemest hell

To be a whirlpool of driving motion,

Motion incessant and forced and frantic,

As Vathek did; and thou as well

Wouldst choose in so sweet a place to dwell;

A haven for the stormy-stressed,

Where all that blooms, that breathes, seems blest

With the fulness of a heavenly rest.

Yet a shadow haunts the ruin lone,

And voices are echoing mournfully;

This the burden of their moan:

Vanity! All is vanity!

I wander about the grassy knoll,

Whereon the crumbling mansions stand;

And, O, the scene that the site commands

Might charm the least enthusiast soul!

Smoothed from the door is a sunny slope,

Changeful as the kaleidoscope

With wild-flowers, which so gayly flaunt

That the green is not predominant,

For a young child’s fall in a butterfly-chase

Smoothed even to the mountain’s base.

And thence away to the eastward roll

In light and shadow the sea-like hills;

And a kingdom’s breadth the vision fills.

Then, turning, I see above the browned

Bald mountain’s forehead, with turrets crowned,

Where topples ever, our eyes to mock,

The House of Our Lady of the Rock,

All soft with a color of amethyst

Through lazy up-coilings of long-drawn mist;

A mist whose moisture is dropped again

In myriad threads of waterfall

Down sunny valley and sunless glen;

And I hear the descent all musical

With silvery tinklings. From the frown

Of a blue-green gulféd gorge, behind

The mansion’s site, bursts, vast and white,

One torrent, in large flakes snowing adown,

With a mellow yet hollow roar rolled on the wind,

Treble and base in harmony,

A chorus of waters, and breathlessly

Hang all things charmed on the lullaby.

And it fills the halls and chambers lone,

Ever so mournfully, mournfully;

This the burden of its moan:

Vanity! Hollow vanity!


Scarce in their mazes the midges move,

With the webs of gossamer interwove;

The lizard’s slim shadow lies motionless

On the mossy stone, in the path unthridded;

Droops, with still pulse, a trancéd life

Over rich fields with poppies rife,

Their deep eyes, snowy and scarlet lidded,

Heavy as with the consciousness

Of a secret weight, pregnant with power.

Death that sleeps never, and Sleep that dies

Into life, with the dawn of awakening eyes,

Differing in breathing mortal breath,

Dreamful or dreamless, O Sleep, O Death,

How are ye so of kin, born twin

From the selfsame womb of a simple flower?

Yet breathe on our brows, sweet peace profound,

Be it Sleep, be it Death; O, fold us round,

Or above or under the poppied mound!

For life, saith the shade on the ruin lone,

Is mutable, full of misery;

A fever-flush, a fainting moan,

Vanity! Hectic vanity!

A mountain-spur on either side

Shoots out, with the gray-mossed cork-tree hoary,

Like a long and lofty promontory

Into and over an ocean-tide;

And I, like an idle boat, embayed,

Embowered, like a bird, in aloe-shade,

Like a babe, embosomed in Love’s sweet zone,

Am possessed by the beauty all alone.

A glorious picture from mount to valley!

There the cork, shagging fantastically

The steeps; here, waveless in the calm,

The feathery willow and plume-like palm,

Where flow, developed to the skies,

Fair and fertile declivities,

Rounded into mound and dell,

Green ripples light on the longer swell;

Gardens perennial as the Hesperides;

Where, ever spangling one bough, we find

Fragrances of leaf and rind;

White-twinkling stars and planet-globes

Golden, pending in orange-glooms,

All untabled their ephemerides;

Trailers blowing trumpet-blooms,

And heavily purpled the grape-festoons;

All,—save the beating heart of June

Glowingly felt, which never a wind

Reveals by the lifting of lustrous robes,—

All would seem but a painting grand,

The silent work of a master hand:

That windless and unclouded air,

That seem so rapture-hushed and fair,

And the perishing palace frowning there!

In faery land is a shadow lone,

And voices that ever sing mournfully;

This the burden of their moan:

Vanity! Dissonant vanity!

And now, shut in from the scene’s expansion,

In the central hall of the lonely mansion,

Around me are but the crumbling walls,

Weather-embrowned and mossy-dank,

And a shadow of cold and darkness falls

Upon me. Weeds and grass are rank

Where undistinguished lie roof and floors,

And, choking the gaps which once were doors,

The ivy. Yet more in their prime superb

Than now did the intruding pile disturb

Nature’s juvenile, jubilant choir;

For jangles less the shattered lyre

Than when its false note sounded high

And loud in a lovely harmony;

And joy hath a tone, dark, tender, holy,

That often, ay, ever is but twin-brother

To the music-tears of melancholy;

Blending still the one with the other,

Even as with the beauty around

These bare walls, toppling to the ground,

Blending closelier seem to be,

Evermore wasting silently,

Like icebergs in a torrid sea.

Haunted by a shadow lone,

And voices that echo mournfully;

This the burden of their moan:

Vanity! Perishing vanity!

Ah! here the accomplished voluptuary

Had found the content he sought, if the faery

Loveliness of the still seclusion

Could of its own sweet self suffice

For a soul like his; but wealth’s profusion

He poured around him, never stopping,

Any more than a drainless fountain,

Silver-dropping, for the counting,—

Esteeming his affluent heart and mind,

His gorgeous fancy, his masséd treasure

Of knowledge, no more than the silks and spice

And gold and gems of Orient Ind,

Valueless save to subserve pleasure,—

And lo! a palace in paradise!

Holy the garden-bloom of Eden;

And he turned it into a Moslem Heaven!

Youngest Eve its genius maiden;

And to her was the flush of an houri given!

The one philosophy throned in his thought

Was that which the sage of Cyrene taught;

Until, his finer perceptions dull,

Even in the fane of the beautiful,

The hierophant turned from the shrine,

And bowed to a light that was not divine.

That pomp can pall and pleasure sate

He proved, as was preached from his proud estate

By a prince in his grandeur not elate.

And a shadow lay on his own heart lone,

As now on the ruin, audibly;

In the words of Solomon making moan:

Vanity! Vexing vanity!

And Vathek measured, O Israel,

The height of thy crownéd wisdom hoary:

Changes he rang on the same old story:

Blight to the bloom, and gloom to the glory,

From the inward upon the outward fell.

The restless fiend of satiety

Into the hell of his very thought,

Into the hell of unrest, had wrought

His Elysium of idlesse and luxury,

Ere he left it lone. In northern-more climes,

Not wiser grown, hill-brows less faery

Did he tiara with towers aery,

Which all in turn, like these, grew dreary,

Like these, which are mine for my moral rhymes;

While the south is sunning bower and hall,

Desolate and dismantled all,

In their solitude paradisiacal.

While a shadow haunts the ruin lone,

And voices are echoing mournfully;

This is the burden of their moan:

Vanity! Restless vanity!