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


Santa Croce

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

IN Santa Croce’s holy precincts lie

Ashes which make it holier, dust which is

Even in itself an immortality,

Though there were nothing save the past, and this

The particle of those sublimities

Which have relapsed to chaos;—here repose

Angelo’s, Alfieri’s bones, and his,

The starry Galileo, with his woes;

Here Machiavelli’s earth returned to whence it rose.

These are four minds, which, like the elements,

Might furnish forth creation;—Italy!

Time, which hath wronged thee with ten thousand rents

Of thine imperial garment, shall deny,

And hath denied, to every other sky,

Spirits which soar from ruin: thy decay

Is still impregnate with divinity,

Which gilds it with revivifying ray;

Such as the great of yore, Canova is to-day.

But where repose the all Etruscan three,—

Dante, and Petrarch, and, scarce less than they,

The Bard of Prose, creative spirit! he

Of the Hundred Tales of love,—where did they lay

Their bones, distinguished from our common clay

In death as life? Are they resolved to dust,

And have their country’s marbles naught to say?

Could not her quarries furnish forth one bust?

Did they not to her breast their filial earth intrust?

Ungrateful Florence! Dante sleeps afar,

Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore;

Thy factions, in their worse than civil war,

Proscribed the bard whose name forevermore

Their children’s children would in vain adore

With the remorse of ages; and the crown

Which Petrarch’s laureate brow supremely wore,

Upon a far and foreign soil had grown,

His life, his fame, his grave, though rifled,—not thine own.

Boccaccio to his parent earth bequeathed

His dust,—and lies it not her Great among,

With many a sweet and solemn requiem breathed

O’er him who formed the Tuscan’s siren tongue,—

That music in itself, whose sounds are song,

The poetry of speech? No; even his tomb

Uptorn, must bear the hyena bigots wrong,

No more amidst the meaner dead find room,

Nor claim a passing sigh, because it told for whom.

And Santa Croce wants their mighty dust;

Yet for this want more noted, as of yore

The Cæsar’s pageant, shorn of Brutus’ bust,

Did but of Rome’s best son remind her more.

Happier Ravenna! on thy hoary shore,

Fortress of falling empire, honored sleeps

The immortal exile;—Arqua, too, her store

Of tuneful relics proudly claims and keeps,

While Florence vainly begs her banished dead, and weeps.