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


Praises of Italy

By Virgil (70–19 B.C.)

(From Georgics)
Translated by William Sotheby

YET nor the Median groves, nor rivers rolled,

Ganges and Hermus, o’er their beds of gold,

Nor Ind, nor Bactra, nor the blissful land

Where incense spreads o’er rich Panchaia’s sand,

Nor all that fancy paints in fabled lays,

O native Italy! transcend thy praise.

Though here no bulls beneath the enchanted yoke

With fiery nostrils o’er the furrow smoke,

No hydra teeth embattled harvest yield,

Spear and bright helmet bristling o’er the field;

Yet golden corn each laughing valley fills,

The vintage reddens on a thousand hills,

Luxuriant olives spread from shore to shore,

And flocks unnumbered range the pastures o’er.

Hence the proud war-horse rushes on the foe,

Clitumnus! hence thy herds, more white than snow,

And stately bull, that, of gigantic size,

Supreme of victims on the altar lies,

Bathed in thy sacred stream oft led the train,

When Rome in pomp of triumph decked the fane.

Here Spring perpetual leads the laughing hours,

And Winter wears a wreath of Summer flowers;

The o’erloaded branch twice fills with fruits the year,

And twice the teeming flocks their offspring rear.

Yet here no lion breeds, no tiger strays,

No tempting aconite the touch betrays,

No monstrous snake the uncoiling volume trails,

Or gathers, orb on orb, his iron scales.

But many a peopled city towers around,

And many a rocky cliff with castle crowned,

And many an antique wall, whose hoary brow

O’ershades the flood, that guards its base below.

Say, shall I add, enclosed on every side

What seas defend thee, and what lakes divide?

Thine, mighty Larius? or, with surging waves,

Where, fierce as ocean, vexed Benacus raves?

Havens and ports, the Lucrine’s added mole,

Seas, that enraged along their bulwark roll,

Where Julian waves reject the indignant tide,

And Tuscan billows down Avernus glide?

Here brass and silver ores rich veins expose,

And pregnant mines exhaustless gold enclose.

Blest in thy race, in battle unsubdued

The Marsian youth, and Sabine’s hardy brood,

By generous toil the bold Ligurian’s steeled,

And spear-armed Volsci that disdain to yield:

Camilli, Marii, Decii, swell thy line,

And, thunderbolts of war, each Scipio, thine!

Thou Cæsar! chief, whose sword the East o’erpowers,

And the tamed Indian drives from Roman towers.

All hail, Saturnian earth! hail, loved of fame,

Land rich in fruits, and men of mighty name!

For thee I dare the sacred founts explore,

For thee the rules of ancient art restore,

Themes, once to glory raised, again rehearse,

And pour through Roman towns the Ascræan verse.