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

Como, the Lake

Lake of Como

By William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

MORE pleased, my foot the hidden margin roves

Of Como, bosomed deep in chestnut groves.

No meadows thrown between, the giddy steeps

Tower, bare or sylvan, from the narrow deeps.

To towns, whose shades of no rude noise complain,

From ringing team apart and grating wain,—

To flat-roofed towns, that touch the water’s bound,

Or lurk in woody sunless glens profound,

Or, from the bending rocks, obtrusive cling,

And o’er the whitened wave their shadows fling,—

The pathway leads, as round the steeps it twines;

And silence loves its purple roof of vines.

The loitering traveller hence, at evening, sees

From rock-hewn steps the sail between the trees;

Or marks, mid opening cliffs, fair dark-eyed maids

Tend the small harvest of their garden glades;

Or stops the solemn mountain-shades to view

Stretch o’er the pictured mirror broad and blue,

And track the yellow lights from steep to steep,

As up the opposing hills they slowly creep.

Aloft, here, half a village shines, arrayed

In golden light; half hides itself in shade:

While, from amid the darkened roofs, the spire,

Restlessly flashing, seems to mount like fire:

There, all unshaded, blazing forests throw

Rich golden verdure on the lake below.

Slow glides the sail along the illumined shore,

And steals into the shade the lazy oar;

Soft bosoms breathe around contagious sighs,

And amorous music on the water dies.

How blest, delicious scene! the eye that greets

Thy open beauties or thy lone retreats,—

Beholds the unwearied sweep of wood that scales

Thy cliffs; the endless waters of thy vales;

Thy lowly cots that sprinkle all the shore,

Each with its household boat beside the door;

Thy torrent shooting from the clear-blue sky;

Thy towns, that cleave, like swallows’ nests, on high;

That glimmer hoar in eve’s last light, descried

Dim from the twilight water’s shaggy side,

Whence lutes and voices down the enchanted woods

Steal, and compose the oar-forgotten floods;

Thy lake, that, streaked or dappled, blue or gray,

Mid smoking woods gleams hid from morning’s ray

Slow-travelling down the western hills, to enfold

Its green-tinged margin in a blaze of gold;

Thy glittering steeples, whence the matin bell

Calls forth the woodman from his desert cell,

And quickens the blithe sound of oars that pass

Along the steaming lake, to early mass.

But now farewell to each and all,—adieu

To every charm, and last and chief to you,

Ye lovely maidens that in noontide shade

Rest near your little plots of wheaten glade;

To all that binds the soul in powerless trance,

Lip-dewing song, and ringlet-tossing dance;

Where sparling eyes and breaking smiles illume

The sylvan cabin’s lute-enlivened gloom.

Alas! the very murmur of the streams

Breathes o’er the failing soul voluptuous dreams,

While slavery, forcing the sunk mind to dwell

On joys that might disgrace the captive’s cell,

Her shameless timbrel shakes on Como’s marge,

And lures from bay to bay the vocal barge.