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 Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)

(From Italy)

I LOVE to sail along the Larian Lake

Under the shore, though not, where’er he dwelt,

To visit Pliny; not, in loose attire,

When from the bath or from the tennis-court,

To catch him musing in his plane-tree walk,

Or angling from his window: and, in truth,

Could I recall the ages past and play

The fool with Time, I should perhaps reserve

My leisure for Catullus on his lake,

Though to fare worse, or Virgil at his farm

A little further on the way to Mantua.

But such things cannot be. So I sit still,

And let the boatman shift his little sail,

His sail so forked and so swallow-like,

Well pleased with all that comes. The morning air

Plays on my cheek how gently, flinging round

A silvery gleam: and now the purple mists

Rise like a curtain; now the sun looks out,

Filling, o’erflowing with his glorious light

This noble amphitheatre of hills;

And now appear as on a phosphor sea

Numberless barks, from Milan, from Pavìa;

Some sailing up, some down, and some at rest,

Lading, unlading at that small port-town

Under the promontory,—its tall tower

And long flat roofs, just such as Gaspar drew,

Caught by a sunbeam slanting through a cloud;

A quay-like scene, glittering and full of life,

And doubled by reflection.
What delight,

After so long a sojourn in the wild,

To hear once more the peasant at his work!

But in a clime like this where is he not?

Along the shores, among the hills ’t is now

The heyday of the vintage; all abroad,

But most the young and of the gentler sex,

Busy in gathering; all among the vines,

Some on the ladder and some underneath,

Filling their baskets of green wicker-work,

While many a canzonet and frolic laugh

Come through the leaves; the vines in light festoons

From tree to tree, the trees in avenues,

And every avenue a covered walk

Hung with black clusters. ’T is enough to make

The sad man merry, the benevolent one

Melt into tears,—so general is the joy!

While up and down the cliffs, over the lake,

Wains oxen-drawn and panniered mules are seen,

Laden with grapes and dropping rosy wine.