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



By James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)

In the Brancacci Chapel

HE came to Florence long ago,

And painted here these walls, that shone

For Raphael and for Angelo,

With secrets deeper than his own,

Then shrank into the dark again,

And died, we know not how or when.

The shadows deepened, and I turned

Half sadly from the fresco grand;

“And is this,” mused I, “all ye earned,

High-vaulted brain and cunning hand,

That ye to greater men could teach

The skill yourselves could never reach?”

“And who were they,” I mused, “that wrought

Through pathless wilds, with labor long,

The highways of our daily thought?

Who reared those towers of earliest song

That lift us from the throng to peace

Remote in sunny silences?”

Out clanged the Ave Mary bells,

And to my heart this message came:

Each clamorous throat among them tells

What strong-souled martyrs died in flame

To make it possible that thou

Shouldst here with brother-sinners bow.

Thoughts that great hearts once broke for, we

Breathe cheaply in the common air;

The dust we trample heedlessly

Throbbed once in saints and heroes rare,

Who perished, opening for their race

New pathways to the commonplace.

Henceforth, when rings the health to those

Who live in story and in song,

O nameless dead, that now repose

Safe in Oblivion’s chambers strong,

One cup of recognition true

Shall silently be drained to you!