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


Ode to Sicily

By Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864)

NO mortal hand hath struck the heroic string

Since Milton’s lay in death across his breast,

But shall the lyre then rest

Along tired Cupid’s wing

With vilest dust upon it? This of late

Hath been its fate.

But thou, O Sicily, art born agen.

Far over chariot’s and Olympic steeds

I see the heads and the stout arms of men,

And will record (God give me power!) their deeds.

Hail to thee first, Palermo! hail to thee

Who callest with loud voice, “Arise! be free;

Weak is the hand and rusty is the chain.”

Thou callest; nor in vain.

Not only from the mountain rushes forth

The knighthood of the North,

In whom my soul elate

Owns now a race cognate,

But even the couch of sloth mid painted walls

Swells up, and men start forth from it, where calls

The voice of Honor, long, too long, unheard.

Not that the wretch was feared

Who feared the meanest as he feared the best

(A reed could break his rest),

But that around all kings

Forever springs

A wasting vapor that absorbs the fire

Of all that would rise higher.

Even free nations will not let there be

More nations free.

Witness (O shame!) our own

Of eight years viler none,

The second Charles found many and made more

Base as himself: his reign is not yet o’er.

To gratify a brood

Swamp-fed amid the Suabian wood,

The sons of Lusitania were cajoled,

And bound, and sold,

And sent in chains where we unchain the slave

We die with thirst to save.

Ye, too, Sicilians, ye too gave we up

To drain the bitter cup

Ye now dash from ye in the despot’s face,

O glorious race,

Which Hiero, Gelon, Pindar, sat among,

And praised for weaker deeds in deathless song;

One is yet left to laud ye. Years have marred

My voice, my prelude for some better bard,

When such shall rise, and such your deeds create.

In the lone woods, and late,

Murmurs swell loud and louder, till at last

So strong the blast

That the whole forest, earth, and sea, and sky,

To the loud surge reply.

Show, in the circle of six hundred years,

Show me a Bourbon on whose brow appears

No brand of traitor. Prune the tree,

From the same stock, forever will there be

The same foul canker, the same bitter fruit.

Strike, Sicily, uproot

The cursed upas. Never trust

That race agen; down with it, dust to dust.