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

Etna (Ætna), the Mountain

Mount Etna

By Matthew Arnold (1822–1888)

(See full text.)

HOW gracious is the mountain at this hour!

A thousand times have I been here alone

Or with the revellers from the mountain towns,

But never on so fair a morn;—the sun

Is shining on the brilliant mountain-crests,

And on the highest pines; but further down

Here in the valley is in shade; the sward

Is dark, and on the stream the mist still hangs;

One sees one’s footprints crushed in the wet grass,

One’s breath curls in the air; and on these pines

That climb from the stream’s edge, the long gray tufts,

Which the goats love, are jewelled thick with dew.


The noon is hot; when we have crossed the stream

We shall have left the woody tract, and come

Upon the open shoulder of the hill.

See how the giant spires of yellow bloom

Of the sun-loving gentian, in the heat,

Are shining on those naked slopes like flame!

Let us rest here.


The track winds down to the clear stream

To cross the sparkling shallows; there

The cattle love to gather, on their way

To the high mountain pastures, and to stay

Till the rough cow-herds drive them past,

Knee-deep in the cool ford; for ’t is the last

Of all the woody, high, well-watered dells

On Etna; and the beam

Of noon is broken there by chestnut boughs

Down its steep verdant sides; the air

Is freshened by the leaping stream, which throws

Eternal showers of spray on the mossed roots

Of trees, and veins of turf, and long dark shoots

Of ivy-plants, and fragrant hanging bells

Of hyacinths, and on late anemones,

That muffle its wet banks; but glade

And stream and sward and chestnut-trees

End here; Etna beyond, in the broad glare

Of the hot noon, without a shade,

Slope behind slope, up to the peak, lies bare;

The peak round which the white clouds play.