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

Varese, the Lake

Lines Written beside the Lago Varese

By Aubrey Thomas de Vere (1814–1902)

STILL rise around that lake well sung

New growths as boon and good

As when, by sunshine saddened, hung

Her poet o’er that flood,

And sang, in Idyl-Elegy, a lay

Which praised things beauteous, mourning their decay.

As then great Nature, “kind to sloth,”

Lets drop o’er all the land

Her gifts, the fair and fruitful both,

Into the sleeper’s hand:

On golden ground once more she paints as then

The cistus bower and convent-brightened glen.

Still o’er the flashing waters lean

The mulberry and the maize,

And roof of vines whose purple screen

Tempers those piercing rays,

Which here forego their fiercer shafts, and sleep,

Subdued, in crimson cells, and verdurous chambers deep.

And still in many a sandy creek

Light waves run on and up,

While the foam-bubbles winking break

Around their channelled cup;

Against the rock they toss the bleeding gourd,

Or lap on marble stair and skiff unmoored.

Fulfilled thus far the poet’s words;—

And yet a truth that hour

By him unsung upon his chords

Descends, their ampler dower.

Of Nature’s cyclic life he sang, nor knew

That frailer shape he mourned should bloom perpetual too.

There still, not skilful to retract

A glance as kind as keen,

By the same southern sunset backed,

There still that Maid is seen:

Through song’s high grace there stands she! from her eyes

Still beams the cordial mirth, the unshamed surprise!

Not yet those parted lips remit

A smile that grows and grows:

The Titianic morning yet

Breaks from that cheek of rose;

Still from her locks the breeze its sweetness takes;

Around her white feet still the ripple fawns and rakes.

And, brightening in the radiance cast

By her on all around,

That shore lives on, while song may last,

Love-consecrated ground;

Lives like that isthmus, headland half, half isle,

Which smiled to meet Catullus’ homeward smile.

O Sirmio! thou that shedd’st thy fame

O’er old Verona’s lake,

Henceforth Varese without blame

Thine honors shall partake:

A Muse hath sung her, on whose front with awe

Thy nymphs had gazed as though great Virtue’s self they saw!

What shape is that, though fair severe,

Which fleets triumphant by

Imaged in yonder mirror clear,

And seeks her native sky,

With locks succinct beneath a threatening crest,—

Like Juno in the brow, like Pallas in the breast?

A Muse that flatters nothing base

In man, nor aught infirm,

“Sows the slow olive for a race

Unborn.” The destined germ,

The germ alone of Fame she plants, nor cares

What time that secular tree its shining fruitage bears;

Pleased rather with her function sage—

To interpret Nature’s heart;

The words on Wisdom’s sacred page

To wing, through metric art,

With life; and in a chariot of sweet sound

Down-trodden Truth to lift and waft the world around.

Hail, Muse, whose crown, soon won or late,

Is Virtue’s, not thine own!

Hail, Verse, that tak’st thy strength and state

From Thought’s auguster throne!

Varese too would hail thee! Hark! that song,—

Her almond bowers it thrills and rings her groves along!