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



By Christopher Pearse Cranch (1813–1892)

ON such a blue and breezy summer’s day

The winds seem charmed that wander round this Bay.

The murmuring waves upon the sunward beach

Whisper of things beyond the present’s reach.

Each wingéd bark that skims along the sea

Seems gliding in a haze of mystery.

Light of far Grecian days comes glimmering through

This pure crystalline sky of cloudless blue.

Here are the rocks where gold-haired sirens sang.

Here Tasso’s harp in later ages rang.

Over the sacred waves the purple isles

Answer the heavens with their serenest smiles;

Round yonder point steep Capri with her caves;

Beyond, where the sky kisses the far waves,

Those amethystine sisters of the sea,

Prochyta, and the blue Inarimé.

Gemming the shore from Baiæ’s ruined towers

To marble Pompeii, half embalmed in flowers,

Stretches the chain of towns along the sea;

While gleaming in the midst Parthenope

Sits crowned with palaces, an ocean queen

Gazing into her mirror of clear green.

And over all, the bodeful genius

Of this fair clime, fire-eyed Vesuvius

Frowns, the sole troubled spirit of the scene,

Yet even him the distance makes serene.

All this I see from my still summer home,

A bower where naught but peace and beauty come.

Geraniums and roses round me bloom,

From orange groves, amid whose verdant gloom

Gold fruit and silver flowers together shine,

Come tropic odors. A thick blossoming vine

Shadows the terrace, where, e’en as I write,

The wind snows down the olive blossoms white.

Above, the birds sing their unwearied song,

Beneath, the ocean whispers all day long.

Sometimes when morning lights the rippling waves

Below the steep rocks and the ocean caves,

The sunshine weaves a net of flickering gleams

Fit to entrap a siren in her dreams.

There tangled braids of ever-changing light

In golden mazes glitter up the sands;

And underneath the rocks and pebbles bright

Are jewelled with the wealth of Eastern lands.

Well might such sweet transparent waters hold

Tritons and nymphs with locks of dripping gold,

For nothing were too wonderful to be

Born from the pure depths of this summer sea.

Four moons have passed, and days and nights have flown

Cloudless,—a summer of an orient tone,

Since my unequal pen essayed to tell

Brief passages of what I loved so well.

Above me now, where blossoms fell in spring,

Large purple grapes hang thickly clustering.

The fig-tree near with ample leaves displayed

Shelters its sweet cool fruit beneath their shade.

Still hang the oranges upon their stems

Whose dark green foliage makes them glow like gems.

The cypresses by yonder convent wall

Shoot up as freshly green, as stately tall;

And there the drowsy vesper-bell ne’er tires

Calling to prayers the brown-robed, bearded friars.

Down on the beach, content with slender gain,

Still drag their nets the red-capped fishermen.

Still glide the days as fair, the nights more cool;

The sea is still as ever beautiful.

And yonder purple mountain towering proud

Still blends his light smoke with the flying cloud.

And now, ere I these pleasant scenes resign,

I would repaint each hue, retouch each line.

I would remember every odorous breeze

That sighed in the deep shade of citron-trees,

The roses clustering on their leafy stalks,

Dropping their faint leaves in the garden walks;

The sweet geraniums and the passion-flowers

Twining through countless roses; the noon hours

When underneath the oaks I watched the sea

Rippling below me calm and dreamily;

The hueless olives when the full moon came

Kindling behind them with a holy flame,

Touching their pale leaves with mysterious sheen,

And shimmering o’er old trunks of silvery green.

Above, the inextinguishable lights

That made all nights in heaven like festal nights,

That seemed too sacred for frail men to keep,

And yet too costly to be spent in sleep.

O lovely days and nights! too quickly flown,—

Leave me the memory of your sweetest tone.

O ocean! long I ’ve lingered on thy shore,

Lulled by thy whisper, wakened by thy roar.

Ere I depart and see no more thy face,

Let me retain some sign of thy embrace;

Not pearls, nor painted shells, nor coral rare,

But dreams of beauty from the goddess fair

Who in a sea-shell rose from out thy foam,

And rules all hearts, and fills the Olympian home.