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



By Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)

(From Italy)

’T IS said a stranger in the days of old

(Some say a Dorian, some a Sybarite;

But distant things are ever lost in clouds),—

’T is said a stranger came, and, with his plough,

Traced out the site; and Posidonia rose,

Severely great, Neptune the tutelar god;

A Homer’s language murmuring in her streets,

And in her haven many a mast from Tyre.

Then came another, an unbidden guest.

He knocked and entered with a train in arms;

And all was changed, her very name and language!

The Tyrian merchant, shipping at his door

Ivory and gold and silk and frankincense,

Sailed as before, but, sailing, cried, “For Pæstum!”

And now a Virgil, now an Ovid, sung

Pæstum’s twice-blowing roses; while, within,

Parents and children mourned, and every year

(’T was on the day of some old festival)

Met to give way to tears, and once again

Talk in the ancient tongue of things gone by.

At length an Arab climbed the battlements,

Slaying the sleepers in the dead of night,

And from all eyes the glorious vision fled,

Leaving a place lonely and dangerous,

Where whom the robber spares a deadlier foe

Strikes at unseen, and at a time when joy

Opens the heart, when summer skies are blue,

And the clear air is soft and delicate:

For then the demon works, then with that air

The thoughtless wretch drinks in a subtle poison

Lulling to sleep; and, when he sleeps, he dies.