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


Riviera di Ponente

By James Freeman Clarke (1810–1888)

ON this lovely Western Shore, where no tempests rage and roar,

Over olive-bearing mountains, by the deep and violet sea,

There, through each long happy day, winding slowly on our way,

Travellers from across the ocean, toward Italia journeyed we,—

Each long day, that, richer, fairer,

Showed the charming Riviera.

There black war-ships doze at anchor, in the Bay of Villa-Franca;

Eagle-like, gray Esa, clinging to its rocky perch, looks down;

And upon the mountain dim, ruined, shattered, stern, and grim,

Turbia sees us through the ages with its austere Roman frown,—

While we climb, where cooler, rarer,

Breezes sweep the Riviera.

Down the hillside steep and stony, through the old streets of Mentone,

Quiet, half-forgotten city of a drowsy prince and time,

Through the mild Italian midnight, rolls upon the wave the moonlight,

Murmuring in our dreams the cadence of a strange Ligurian rhyme,—

Rhymes in which each heart is sharer,

Journeying on the Riviera.

When the morning air comes purer, creeping up in our vettura,

Eastward gleams a rosy tumult with the rising of the day;

Toward the north, with gradual changes, steal along the mountain-ranges

Tender tints of warmer feeling, kissing all their peaks of gray;

And far south the waters wear a

Smile along the Riviera.

Helmed with snow, the Alpine giants at invaders look defiance,

Gazing over nearer summits, with a fixed, mysterious stare,

Down along the shaded ocean, on whose edge in tremulous motion

Floats an island, half transparent, woven out of sea and air;—

For such visions, shaped of air, are

Frequent on our Riviera.

He whose mighty earthquake-tread all Europa shook with dread,

Chief whose infancy was cradled in that old Tyrrhenic isle,

Joins the shades of trampling legions, bringing from remotest regions

Gallic fire and Roman valor, Cimbric daring, Moorish guile,

Guests from every age to share a

Portion of this Riviera.

Then the Afric brain, whose story fills the centuries with its glory,

Moulding Gaul and Carthaginian into one all-conquering band,

With his tuskéd monsters grumbling, mid the alien snow-drifts stumbling,

Then, an avalanche of ruin, thundering from that frozen land

Into vales their sons declare are

Sunny as our Riviera.


Thus forever, in our musing, comes man’s spirit interfusing

Thought of poet and of hero with the landscape and the sky;

And this shore, no longer lonely, lives the life of romance only:

Gauls and Moors and Northern Sea-Kings, all are gliding, ghostlike, by.

So with Nature man is sharer

Even on the Riviera.