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


Coast of Etruria

By Rutilius (fl. 5th century)

Translated by C. A. Elton

IGILIUM’S woody heights my wonder raise,

Nor shall my verse defraud it of its praise:

The genius of the soil, or guardian power

Of Rome’s high lord preserved in danger’s hour

Its native thickets; and the foe withstood

With narrow frith, as with an ocean’s flood.

And hither from the shattered city fled

Rome’s refuged exiles, breathing from their dread.

The Gothic horsemen in their naval might

Had swept the seas, and waged unnatural fight;

One wondrous haven lent a sheltering home,

Far from the conquering Goth, yet near to Rome.

We touch on Umbro, no ignoble tide;

In whose safe mouth the storm-scared vessels ride:

So smooth the channel spreads its easy plain,

When the fierce tempest rushes on the main.

I sought to anchor in this tranquil bay,

But that our eager crew forbade delay.

Thus hastening on our course, at once the wind

Fell to a calm, the parting light declined;

Nor could we stretch before the onward gale,

Nor yet returning bend the backward sail.

By night, we quarter on the sandy shore,

And myrtle groves for evening homes explore.

With oars up-propped on oars we rear a shed,

The pole, transversely, roofs it overhead.

With dawn we rowed along the calmy tide,

Yet felt no motion, though the oars we plied.

Gazing the deep, the vessel seemed to stand;

Her course was seen from the receding land.

Ilva appears, for mines of steel renowned,

No richer metal lurks in Noric ground,

From Biturix’ capacious furnace flows,

Or massive in Sardonian caverns grows.

Better the soil that teems with iron ore,

Than yellow sand on Tagus’ gravelly shore;

For deadly gold of vice the basis lays;

The lust of gold to every crime betrays.


Our loosened course the near Falernia ends,

Though scarce the sun the middle sky ascends.

There, as it chanced, the village streets among,

Did sacred sports unbend the rustic throng.

Osiris’ renovated form again

With joyful harvests crowned the teeming plain.

We leave the village, hoist the sail, and glide

O’er slimy sands, a mere’s delicious tide.

The waves, enclosed, with free expansion stray,

In the wide pool the wanton fishes play:

But ill repaid the pleasant station’s ease;

Its keeper churlish as Antiphates.


Adverse the north-wind rises; but, as day

Hides the pale stars, we sweep the watery way

With bending oars; till Populonia yields

Its natural bay, that winds into the fields.

No watch-tower there, on deep foundations raised,

High-seen in air, with nightly splendor blazed;

But age had worn the solid rocks away,

And insulated one with slow decay:

One rock, a natural beacon, spiring stood,

And overtopped the subjugated flood.

A twofold use the castled cliff supplied,—

An inland fortress, and an ocean guide.

Sunk are the monuments of ages past,

Time’s eating canker has consumed the last:

Of walls long raised faint vestiges are found,

And roofs inearthed with ruins heave the ground.

If human dissolution prompt the sigh,

Lo! cities, e’en as men, are doomed to die.

When shifts the North, we hoist the sail with speed,

While shines the dawn-star on his rosy steed.

Next its dim mountains Corsica displayed,

Their cloud-capt heads were blended into shade;

As fades the dubious moon with crescent light,

And veiled in gloom eludes the straining sight.

Capraria rises, as our course we run;

The foul isle swarms with men who fly the sun:

Self-called the Grecian name of Monks they own,

Who choose to live unwitnessed and alone.