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


Lines Written on Approaching Florence

By Florence Smith (1845–1871)

FLORENCE! the name sounds sweetly to my ear,

Familiar and yet strange; on dear home lips

’T is music, and from Tuscan tongue it slips

Like dropping honey, syllabled and clear.

My name, yet not my name! Myself forgot,

Hither I turn my eager steps, to seek

The air those great ones breathed, whom I, though weak,

May follow worshipping, attaining not!

What is there homelike in the flower-girt place?

Why smiles the Arno, while the encircling hills

Enwrap me closer, and my spirit thrills

With a vague joy whose springs I cannot trace?

Oft have I mused on the old glorious time,

When painters drew with pencils dipped in flame;

When genius reigned, and tyrants writhed in shame

’Neath Dante’s twisted scourge of threefold rhyme.

And, meditating thus, while reverence grew

To love, and love to self-forgetfulness,

While fancy wandered, may my steps no less

Have followed, dreaming, farther than I knew?

And yet, not so. This is no foreign air,

That once I breathed, then left, again to roam!

Thy fragrant breezes whisper, “This is home,—

My namesake city, Florence, called the Fair!”

Sometimes in music comes a sudden strain,

Mid unfamiliar melodies most sweet;

The heart leaps forth the welcome tones to greet,

But its past echo memory seeks in vain.

New, and yet old, it lingers on the mind

As with remembered sweetness, and it fills

The soul with longing for the heavenly hills,

And angel harmonies it left behind.

Perchance ’t was wafted o’er the ocean dim

That lies beyond the mystery of birth;

And the young spirit, mid the songs of earth,

Could not forget the seraph’s cradle hymn!

Whate’er the heart is tuned to is its own,

And, loving, we claim kinship. So I love,

O land! whose distant glories thus could move

My heart until, unseen, I deemed thee known!

In other climes thy skies have on me smiled,

The beautiful to me has borne thy name;

O city of my heart, thy love I claim,—

I am not worthy, but I am thy child!