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



By John Edmund Reade (1800–1870)

(From Italy)

ITALIAN paradise, Sorrento! thou

Hast spells enchaining; lo, yon bosomed bay

Where the lone crag upheaves its cloven brow,

Round which the blue waves chafe in idle play;

Know’st thou whose mighty spirit casts a ray

O’er its dim cavern? know’st thou who stood there

Embodying in his world-inspiring lay

Its tale? whose genius fills, informs the air,

Whose phantoms round that spot forever shall repair?

Even now, reclining on this mossy stone,

I see the sail spread from Lachæa’s isle:

They scale the Cyclop’s cave, a shout, a groan,

In his red eye is plunged the fiery pile!

Lo, with the morning’s light the goats defile

Slowly beneath the blinded monster’s hand:

Free stands at length the hero of the wile;

And now the giant’s clamors fill the strand,

As shouting bound from shore the Ulysséan band!

Thou everlasting Homer! every nook

Of this all wild yet lovely coast is thine;

The Sirens yon gray islets have forsook,

Yet is each vestige of their haunt divine:

Doth not thy awful genius o’er them shine,

Bright as yon setting sun that steeps them o’er

With hues of life? so thy embodying line

From phantasy dost hero life restore,

Until we hear their tongues and see the forms they wore.

For by thy hand truth, sceptre-like, was wielded;

Lo, yon blue promontory, Circe’s spell

There changed to brutes the slaves to vice who yielded;

Speaks not thy moral eloquently well?

What herb save reason could her power compel,

And bid her kneel to virtue? o’er the foam

Why sighed the chief in Ithaca to dwell,

Her charms unfelt and loathed her starry dome?

Grave duty showed afar his wife, his son, his home.

There was a dwelling on the sea-cliff’s side,

No ruined vestige doth its site attest;

A secret nook where love would choose to hide

Its loved one from the world, a haven nest

Of shelter, when of all it asks possessed,

The heart would find or make its earthly heaven

Where only found, in woman’s answering breast;

All other ties save that sole life-tie riven:

The world’s neglect forgot, its injuries forgiven.

A sacred spot! create it on thine eye;

Hallowed by suffering and by virtue’s tear,

And this is sanctified by memory

Of venerating bosoms that revere

The martyrs of the past who suffered here;

O’er whom are offered human sympathies,

Heart-flowers, whose dews spiritualize the bier:

A woman by that shore with heedful eyes

Watches a nearing sail whose white whig homeward flies.

The sister’s love, the vestal, and the pure,

Recalls again affection’s wasted force

In exiled Tasso: other loves endure

To perish, lighted at an earthlier source,

Satiate with passion, buried in remorse;

If the heart own one pure receptacle,

One feeling flowing holier in its course,

Love that a spirit might not blush to tell,

’T is when a sister’s heart to thine doth fondly swell.

The wanderer came for quiet: to forget

The blighted hope, the inexpiable wrong,

To soften here in solitude regret

Of a love stamped immortal in his song,

That but for him had lain the dead among;

Vain essay! if thou wouldst the thought conceal,

Or forms that ghost-like to the past belong,

If the heart’s wounds corroding thou wouldst heal,

That solitude thou seek’st to thee shall all reveal:

Making the past one present; odors bear

Vibrations thrilling along memory’s chain,

Felt in the chords of being till they wear

Its pulse away: so did he feel how vain

To realize his boyhood’s hope again;

Till his last refuge from self-tyranny,

He flew from nature’s ever-populous reign

Back to the desert of humanity,

To bear hate, scorn, repulse, to madden, and to die.