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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.


John of Padua

By Walter Thornbury (1828–1876)

  • A Legend of Longleat
  • Longleat, the seat of the Marquis of Bath, situated on the borders of Wiltshire, is a beautiful example of the Italian architecture of the Elizabethan age. It took some forty years in building, cost a fabulous sum of money, and was the work of John, an architect of Padua, who also built old Somerset House.

  • JOHN OF PADUA duly came,

    A grave wise man with a dark pale face,

    He sat him down with a pondering brow,

    And rule and compass to plan and trace

    Each door and window, and terrace and wall,

    And the tower that should rise to crown them all.

    Ha! many a summer sunrise found

    Wise John at his great and patient toil,

    At his squares and circles, and legends and lines,

    And many a night he burnt the oil,

    Till the house with its pillared porch began

    To slowly grow in the brain of that man.

    Long lines of sunny southern wall,

    With mullioned windows, row on row,

    And balustrades, and parapets,

    Where the western wind should wildly blow;

    And cresting all the vanes, to burn

    And glisten over miles of fern.

    When thirteen Junes had burnt away,

    The house arose as out of a dream:

    Wide and stately, and tall and fair,

    With windows to catch the sunset gleam;

    Fifteen fair miles of subject lands

    Girdle it round where it proudly stands.

    Two hundred feet of western front,

    And chapel and turret, and acres of roof,

    And porch, and staircase, and welcoming hall,

    And gate that would keep no beggar aloof;

    Three kings had died since it began,

    And John had grown old and pale and wan.

    One day the builder smiling sat,

    His red-lined parchments slowly rolled,

    His work was ended,—the night had come,—

    He bound and numbered them, fold by fold;

    And sat as gravely in the sun,

    As if his toil had scarce begun.

    Yes, there his life’s work stately stood,

    With its shining acres of beaten lead,

    Its glittering windows, row on row,

    That centuries hence, when he was dead,

    Should shine as they were shining then,—

    A landmark unto other men.

    And there were the long white terraces,

    And the great wide porch, like an open hand

    Stretched out to welcome, and the tower

    That rose like a fountain o’er the land;

    And the great elms bosoming round the walls,

    The singing-birds’ green citadels.

    They found him there when daybreak came,

    In the selfsame posture, selfsame place,

    But the plans had dropped from his thin wan hands,

    A frozen smile was on his face;

    And when they spoke no word he said,

    For John of Padua sat there—dead!