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


From Palermo

By John Nichol (1833–1894)

O’ER snowy Alps and tossing seas,

To me, an idle wanderer, comes

A memory with the northern breeze,—

A touch of hands from English homes.

I roam mid ruins rich in fame,

And on the days of glory muse,

When Carthage, with her heart on flame,

Wrestled with Rome for Syracuse;

While Clio bids to greater themes,

To strike a lyre with sterner strings,

And mingle with remoter dreams

The fights of old Phœnician kings.

But this fair shore, where roses dwell,

And reaches of the silver main,

Encircled by the golden shell,

Demand from me a softer strain.

So, loitering up Sicilian glades,

And climbing cliffs that Pindar sung,

I gather flowers ’neath olive shades.

To speak to thee in English tongue.

No brighter hues around were spread,

When Proserpine, with all her girls,

Forgat the hours on Enna’s mead,

Nor gentler breezes fanned her curls.

In far green valleys, I forget

The whole dim world of strife and care;

The Graces wreathe their dances yet,

With them I breathe a calmer air.

The hopes that have a second birth

Revive, fresh splendors are unfurled,

And, treading on a kindlier earth,

I realize a wider world.

Still, mid these realms of antique art,

Of classic sculpture, Arab dome,

And tropic fragrance, half my heart

Points, with my compass, o’er the foam.

Not wholly in the siren’s thrall,

I set afloat my random rhymes;

And pluck the branches that recall

The message borne from colder climes.

The lily’s light, the violet’s ray

Purpling, like eve, in this rich sky;

And daisies, blooming where the day

Beams with an ever azure eye.

Receive these blossoms of the year,

Grown where eternal summer smiles,

Round the great gorge, without a peer,

In this the pearl of all the isles.