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



By Bayard Taylor (1825–1878)

THE GODS are gone, the temples overthrown,

The storms of time the very rocks have shaken:

The Past is mute, save where some mouldy stone

Speaks to confuse, like speech by age o’ertaken.

The pomp that crowned the winding shore

Has fled forevermore:

Its old magnificence shall never reawaken.

Where once against the Grecian ships arrayed,

The Oscan warriors saw their javelins hurtle,

The farmer prunes his olives, and the maid

Trips down the lanes in flashing vest and kirtle:

The everlasting laurel now

Forgets Apollo’s brow,

And, dedicate no more to Venus, blooms the myrtle.

Yet still, as long ago, when this high coast

Phœnician strangers saw, and flying Dardans,

The bounteous earth fulfils her ancient boast

In mellow fields which winter never hardens;

And daisy, lavender, and rose

Perpetual buds unclose,

To flood with blended balm the tiers of hanging gardens.

From immemorial rocks the daffodil

Beckons with scented stars, an unreached wonder:

On sunny banks their wine the hyacinths spill,

And self-betraying violets bloom thereunder;

While near and threatening, dim and deep,

The wave assaults the steep,

Or booms in hollow caves with sound of smothered thunder.

Here nature, dropping once her ordered plan,

Fashioned all lovely things that most might please her,

Hiding her playground where the greed of man

Must half withhold the toiling hands that tease her:

Her sweetest air, her softest wave,

Reluctantly she gave

To grace the wealth of Rome, to heal the languid Cæsar!

She stationed there Vesuvius, to be

Contrasted horror to her idyl tender:

Across the azure pavement of the sea

She raised a cape for Baïæ’s marble splendor;

And westward, on the circling zone,

To front the seas unknown,

She planted Capri’s couchant lion to defend her.

A mother kind, she doth but tantalize:

Not from her secret gardens will she spurn us.

The Roman, casting hitherward his eyes,

Forgot his Sybaris beside Volturnus,—

Forgot the streams and sylvan charms

That decked his Sabine farms,

And orchards on the slopes that sink to still Avernus.

Here was his substance wasted: here he lost

The marrow that subdued the world, in leisure;

Counting no days that were not feasts, no cost

Too dear to purchase other forms of pleasure;

Yet, while for him stood still the sun,

The restless world rolled on,

And shook from off its skirts Cæsar and Cæsar’s treasure.

Less than he sought will we: a moon of peace,

To feed the mind on Fancy’s airy diet;

Soft airs that come like memories of Greece,

Nights that renew the old Egyptian quiet:

Escape from yonder burning crest

That stirs with new unrest,

And in its lava-streams keeps hot the endless riot.

Here, from the wars of Gaul, the strife of Rome,

May we, meek citizens, a summer screen us:

Here find with milder Earth a perfect home,

Once, ere she puts profounder rest between us:

Here break the sacred laurel bough

Still for Apollo’s brow,

And bind the myrtle buds to crown a purer Venus.