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

Rome, the Campagna

Grotto of Egeria

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

EGERIA! sweet creation of some heart

Which found no mortal resting-place so fair

As thine ideal breast; whate’er thou art

Or wert,—a young Aurora of the air,

The nympholepsy of some fond despair;

Or, it might be, a beauty of the earth,

Who found a more than common votary there

Too much adoring,—whatsoe’er thy birth,

Thou wert a beautiful thought, and softly bodied forth.

The mosses of thy fountain still are sprinkled

With thine Elysian water-drops: the face

Of thy cave-guarded spring, with years unwrinkled,

Reflects the meek-eyed genius of the place,

Whose green, wild margin now no more erase

Art’s works; nor must the delicate waters sleep,

Prisoned in marble, bubbling from the base

Of the cleft statue, with a gentle leap

The rill runs o’er, and round, fern, flowers, and ivy creep,

Fantastically tangled; the green hills

Are clothed with early blossoms, through the grass

The quick-eyed lizard rustles, and the bills

Of summer birds sing welcome as ye pass;

Flowers fresh in hue, and many in their class,

Implore the pausing step, and with their dyes

Dance in the soft breeze in a fairy mass;

The sweetness of the violet’s deep blue eyes,

Kissed by the breath of heaven, seems colored by its skies.

Here didst thou dwell, in this enchanted cover,

Egeria! thy all-heavenly bosom beating

For the far footsteps of thy mortal lover;

The purple midnight veiled that mystic meeting

With her most starry canopy, and, seating

Thyself by thine adorer, what befell?

This cave was surely shaped out for the greeting

Of an enamored goddess, and the cell

Haunted by holy love,—the earliest oracle!