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

Varese, the Lake

Lago Varese

By Sir Henry Taylor (1800–1886)

I STOOD beside Varese’s Lake,

Mid that redundant growth

Of vines and maize and bower and brake

Which Nature, kind to sloth,

And scarce solicited by human toil,

Pours from the riches of the teeming soil.

A mossy softness distance lent

To each divergent hill,

One crept away looking back as it went,

The rest lay round and still;

The westering sun not dazzling now, though bright,

Shed o’er the mellow land a molten light.

And, sauntering up a circling cove,

I found upon the strand

A shallop, and a girl who strove

To drag it to dry land:

I stood to see the girl look round; her face

Had all her country’s clear and definite grace.

She rested with the air of rest

So seldom seen, of those

Whose toil remitted gives a zest,

Not languor, to repose.

Her form was poised yet buoyant, firm though free,

And liberal of her bright black eyes was she.

Her hue reflected back the skies

Which reddened in the west;

And joy was laughing in her eyes

And bounding in her breast,

Its rights and grants exulting to proclaim

Where pride had no inheritance, nor shame.


Methought this scene before mine eyes,

Still glowing with yon sun,

Which seemed to melt the myriad dyes

Of heaven and earth to one,

A divers unity,—methought this scene,

These undulant hills, the woods that intervene,

The multiplicity of growth,

The cornfield and the brake,

The trellised vines that cover both,

The purple-bosomed lake,

Some fifty summers hence may all be found

Rich in the charms wherewith they now abound.

And should I take my staff again,

And should I journey here,

My steps may be less steady then,

My eyesight not so clear,

And from the mind the sense of beauty may,

Even as these bodily gifts, have passed away;

But grant my age but eyes to see,

A still susceptive mind,

All that leaves us, and all that we

Leave wilfully behind,

And nothing here would want the charms it wore

Save only she who stands upon the shore.