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

Capri, the Island

The Azure Grotto

By Charles D. Bell (1818–1898)

BENEATH the vine-clad slopes of Capri’s Isle,

Which run down to the margin of that sea

Whose waters kiss the sweet Parthenope,

There is a grot whose rugged front the while

Frowns only dark where all is seen to smile.

But enter, and behold! surpassing fair

The magic sight that meets your vision there,—

Not heaven! with all its broad expanse of blue,

Gleams colored with a sheen so rich, so rare,

So changing in its clear, translucent hue;

Glassed in the lustrous wave, the walls and roof

Shine as does silver scattered o’er the woof

Of some rich robe, or bright as stars whose light

Inlays the azure concave of the night.

YOU cannot find throughout this world, I ween,

Waters so fair as those within this cave,

Color like that which flashes from the wave,

Or which is steeped in such cerulean sheen

As here gleams forth within this grotto’s screen.

And when the oar the boatman gently takes

And dips it in the flood, a fiery glow,

Ruddy as phosphor, stirs in depths below;

Each ripple into burning splendor breaks,

As though some hidden fires beneath did lie

Waiting a touch to kindle into flame,

And shine in radiance on the dazzled eye,

As sparkling up from wells of light they came,

To make this grot a glory far and nigh.