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



By Felicia Hemans (1793–1835)

  • Conradin, a beautiful youth of sixteen, son of Conrad IV. and grandson of Frederic II. was beheaded in the Largo del Mercato of Naples in 1268. From the scaffold he flung his glove among the crowd below as a challenge to his enemies.

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    BUT thou, fair boy, the beautiful, the brave,

    Thus passing from the dungeon to the grave,

    While all is yet around thee which can give

    A charm to earth, and make it bliss to live;

    Thou on whose form hath dwelt a mother’s eye,

    Till the deep love that not with thee shall die

    Hath grown too full for utterance,—can it be?

    And is this pomp of death prepared for thee?

    Young, royal Conradin! who shouldst have known

    Of life as yet the sunny smile alone!

    O, who can view thee in the pride and bloom

    Of youth, arrayed so richly for the tomb,

    Nor feel, deep swelling in his inmost soul,

    Emotions tyranny may ne’er control?

    Bright victim! to Ambition’s altar led,

    Crowned with all flowers that heaven on earth can shed,

    Who, from the oppressor towering in his pride,

    May hope for mercy, if to thee denied?

    There is dead silence on the breathless throng,

    Dead silence all the peopled shore along,

    As on the captive moves; the only sound,

    To break that calm so fearfully profound,

    The low, sweet murmur of the rippling wave,

    Soft as it glides, the smiling shore to lave;

    While on that shore, his own fair heritage,

    The youthful martyr to a tyrant’s rage

    Is passing to his fate: the eyes are dim

    Which gaze, through tears that dare not flow, on him.

    He mounts the scaffold,—doth his footstep fail?

    Doth his lip quiver? doth his cheek turn pale?

    O, it may be forgiven him if a thought

    Cling to that world, for him with beauty fraught,

    To all the hopes that promised glory’s meed,

    And all the affections that with him shall bleed!

    If, in his life’s young dayspring, while the rose

    Of boyhood on his cheek yet freshly glows,

    One human fear convulse his parting breath,

    And shrink from all the bitterness of death!

    But no! the spirit of his royal race

    Sits brightly on his brow: that youthful face

    Beams with heroic beauty, and his eye

    Is eloquent with injured majesty.

    He kneels,—but not to man; his heart shall own

    Such deep submission to his God alone!

    And who can tell with what sustaining power

    That God may visit him in fate’s dread hour?

    How the still voice, which answers every moan,

    May speak of hope, when hope on earth is gone?

    That solemn pause is o’er,—the youth hath given

    One glance of parting love to earth and heaven.

    The sun rejoices in the unclouded sky,

    Life all around him glows,—and he must die?

    Yet midst his people, undismayed, he throws

    The gage of vengeance for a thousand woes,—

    Vengeance that, like their own volcano’s fire,

    May sleep suppressed awhile, but not expire.

    One softer image rises o’er his breast,

    One fond regret, and all shall be at rest!

    “Alas for thee, my mother! who shall bear

    To thy sad heart the tidings of despair,

    When thy lost child is gone?”—that thought can thrill

    His soul with pangs one moment more shall still.

    The lifted axe is glittering in the sun,—

    It falls,—the race of Conradin is run!

    Yet from the blood which flows that shore to stain,

    A voice shall cry to Heaven,—and not in vain.

    Gaze thou, triumphant from thy gorgeous throne,

    In proud supremacy of guilt alone,

    Charles of Anjou,—but that dread voice shall be

    A fearful summoner e’en yet to thee!