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

Pontine Marshes

Nympha, a City Now in Ruins

By George Browning (1813?–1878)

IN the far south lies Nympha, a city long since dead;

Now overgrown with ivy, the inhabitants all fled,

She lies, half sunk, half buried, in her green cloak at rest,

And harmless ’mong the ruins now stalks the Pontine pest.

Her sisters could Pompeii and Herculaneum be,

Yet the evergreen-clad Nympha is the fairest of the three;

O’er those towns mighty Vulcan hurled ash-heaps in his spleen,

But Nympha lies protected by the rich ivy green.

Her walls and streets and churches are ruins, yet they show

She once did boast a grandeur,—how many years ago?

O, is there no one living can of that glory tell?

Or is it left the ivy to creep and ring her knell?

The flowers in the churchyard inquisitively peep

Out from between the ivy, that over all doth creep;

At each old crumbling casement appears its dark-green face,

It climbs round every gateway, and doth each portal grace.

A carpet of rich blossoms is o’er the chancel spread,

And through the aisles, while ivy forms arches overhead,

The birds and bats and insects, where monks long, long ago

Their litanies were chanting, are flitting to and fro.

And on the walls—al fresco—can paintings still be traced;

They too have frames of ivy, Nature hath Art displaced,

And for the ancient martyrs hath she woven crowns anew,

The instruments of torture gently she hides from view.

And in the streets and alleys there many a rich flower blows,

The lily and sweet mallow, narcissus and moss rose,

But all around is silent, save the babbling of the brook,

And the hooting of the night-birds that haunt each tower nook.

’T is said ’t was once the dwelling of nymphs, and hence its name;

They all have long since vanished, and those who knew her fame.

Still do I love to linger, to contemplate that pile;

Though Science would be searching, ruins the Muse beguile.

For Poesie hath a fondness to leave things as they are,

But Science must be lifting the veil to show each scar.

“I care not for thy grandeur, I love thee as thou art,

Thou Ivy City Nympha,—the Ruin of my heart!”