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

Scylla, the Town

Destruction of Scylla in 1783

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

The Earthquake

CALMLY the night came down

O’er Scylla’s shattered walls;

How desolate that silent town!

How tenantless the halls

Where yesterday her thousands trode,

And princes graced their proud abode!

Low, on the wet sea-sand,

Humbled in anguish now,

The despot, midst his menial band,

Bent down his kingly brow,—

Ay, prince and peasant knelt in prayer,

For grief had made them equal there.

Again!—as at the morn,

The earthquake rolled its car;

Lowly the castle-towers were borne,

That mocked the storms of war.

The mountain reeled,—its shivered brow

Went down among the waves below.

Up rose the kneelers then,

As the wave’s rush was heard;

The silence of those fated men

Was broken by no word.

But closer still the mother pressed

The infant to her faithful breast.

One long wild shriek went up,

Full mighty in despair,

As bowed to drink death’s bitter cup

The thousands gathered there;

And man’s strong wail and woman’s cry

Blent as the waters hurried by.

On swept the whelming sea;

The mountains felt its shock,

As the long cry of agony

Thrilled through their towers of rock;

And echo round that fatal shore

The death-wail of the sufferers bore.

The morning sun shed forth

Its light upon the scene,

Where tower and palace strewed the earth

With wrecks of what had been;

But of the thousands who were gone,

No trace was left, no vestige shown.