Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Greece: Sparta


By James Thomson (1834–1882)

(From Liberty)

O’ER all two rival cities reared the brow,

And balanced all. Spread on Eurotas’ bank,

Amid a circle of soft rising hills,

The patient Sparta one; the sober, hard,

And man-subduing city; which no shape

Of pain could conquer, nor of pleasure charm.

Lycurgus there built, on the solid base

Of equal life, so well a tempered state;

Where mixed each government, in such just poise;

Each power so checking, and supporting each;

That firm for ages, and unmoved, it stood,

The fort of Greece! without one giddy hour,

One shock of faction, or of party rage.

For, drained the springs of wealth, corruption there

Lay withered at the root. Thrice happy land!

Had not neglected art, with weedy vice

Confounded, sunk. But if Athenian arts

Loved not the soil; yet there the calm abode

Of wisdom, virtue, philosophic ease,

Of manly sense and wit, in frugal phrase

Confined, and pressed into Laconic force.

There too, by rooting thence still treacherous self,

The public and the private grew the same.

The children of the nursing public all,

And at its table fed; for that they toiled,

For that they lived entire, and even for that

The tender mother urged her son to die.