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


Ode to Naples

By Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

I STOOD within the city disinterred,

And heard the autumnal leaves like light footfalls

Of spirits passing through the streets, and heard

The Mountain’s slumberous voice at intervals

Thrill through those roofless halls:

The oracular thunder penetrating shook

The listening soul in my suspended blood;

I felt that Earth out of her deep heart spoke,—

I felt, but heard not. Through white columns glowed

The isle-sustaining Ocean flood,

A plane of light between two heavens of azure;

Around me gleamed many a bright sepulchre

Of whose pure beauty, Time, as if his pleasure

Were to spare Death, had never made erasure;

But every living lineament was clear

As in the sculptor’s thought; and there

The wreaths of stony myrtle, ivy and pine,

Like winter leaves o’ergrown by moulded snow,

Seemed only not to move and grow

Because the crystal silence of the air

Weighed on their life; even as the power divine,

Which then lulled all things, brooded upon mine.

Then gentle winds arose,

With many a mingled close

Of wild Æolian sound and mountain odor keen;

And where the Baian ocean

Welters with air-like motion,

Within, above, around its bowers of starry green,

Moving the sea-flowers in those purple caves,

Even as the ever-stormless atmosphere

Floats o’er the Elysian realm,

It bore me; like an angel, o’er the waves

Of sunlight, whose swift pinnace of dewy air

No storm can overwhelm.

I sailed where ever flows

Under the calm Serene

A spirit of deep emotion,

From the unknown graves

Of the dead kings of melody.

Shadowy Aornus darkened o’er the helm

The horizontal ether; heaven stript bare

Its depths over Elysium, where the prow

Made the invisible water white as snow;

From that Typhæan mount, Inarimé,

There streamed a sunlit vapor, like the standard

Of some ethereal host;

Whilst from all the coast,

Louder and louder, gathering round, there wandered

Over the oracular woods and divine sea

Prophesyings which grew articulate.

They seize me,—I must speak them;—be they fate!

Naples, thou Heart of men, which ever pantest

Naked, beneath the lidless eye of heaven!

Elysian City, which to calm enchantest

The mutinous air and sea! they round thee, even

As sleep round Love, are driven,—

Metropolis of a ruined Paradise

Long lost, late won, and yet but half regained!

Bright Altar of the bloodless sacrifice,

Which arméd Victory offers up unstained

To Love, the flower-enchained!

Thou which wert once, and then didst cease to be,

Now art, and henceforth ever shalt be, free,

If hope, and truth, and justice can avail.

Hail, hail, all hail!


Great Spirit, deepest Love!

Which rulest and dost move

All things which live and are, within the Italian shore;

Who spreadest heaven around it,

Whose woods, rocks, waves, surround it;

Who sittest in thy star, o’er Ocean’s western floor;

Spirit of beauty! at whose soft command

The sunbeams and the showers distil its foison

From the Earth’s bosom chill;

O, bid those beams be each a blinding brand

Of lightning! bid those showers be dews of poison!

Bid the Earth’s plenty kill!

Bid thy bright Heaven above,

Whilst light and darkness bound it,

Be their tomb who planned

To make it ours and thine!

Or, with thine harmonizing ardors fill

And raise thy sons, as o’er the prone horizon

Thy lamp feeds every twilight wave with fire!

Be man’s high hope and unextinct desire

The instrument to work thy will divine!

Then clouds from sunbeams, antelopes from leopards,

And frowns and fears from thee,

Would not more swiftly flee,

Than Celtic wolves from the Ausonian shepherds.

Whatever, Spirit, from thy starry shrine

Thou yieldest or withholdest, O, let be

This city of thy worship, ever free!