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

Rome, Palaces and Villas of

The Belvedere Apollo

By Henry Hart Milman (1791–1868)

HEARD ye the arrow hurtle in the sky?

Heard ye the dragon monster’s deathful cry?

In settled majesty of calm disdain,

Proud of his might, yet scornful of the slain,

The heavenly archer stands,—no human birth,

No perishable denizen of earth:

Youth blooms immortal in his beardless face,

A god in strength, with more than godlike grace;

All, all divine,—no struggling muscle glows,

Through heaving vein no mantling life-blood flows,

But animate with deity alone,

In deathless glory lives the breathing stone.

Bright kindling with a conqueror’s stern delight,

His keen eye tracks the arrow’s fateful flight;

Burns his indignant cheek with vengeful fire,

And his lip quivers with insulting ire:

Firm fixed his tread, yet light, as when on high

He walks the impalpable and pathless sky:

The rich luxuriance of his hair, confined

In graceful ringlets, wantons on the wind,

That lifts in sport his mantle’s drooping fold

Proud to display that form of faultless mould.

Mighty Ephesian! with an eagle’s flight

Thy proud soul mounted through the fields of light,

Viewed the bright conclave of Heaven’s blest abode,

And the cold marble leapt to life a god:

Contagious awe through breathless myriads ran,

And nations bowed before the work of man.

For mild he seemed, as in Elysian bowers,

Wasting in careless ease the joyous hours;

Haughty, as bards have sung, with princely sway

Curbing the fierce flame-breathing steeds of day;

Beauteous as vision seen in dreamy sleep

By holy maid on Delphi’s haunted steep,

Mid the dim twilight of the laurel grove,

Too fair to worship, too divine to love.

Yet on that form in wild delirious trance

With more than reverence gazed the maid of France,

Day after day the love-sick dreamer stood

With him alone, nor thought it solitude!

To cherish grief, her last, her dearest care,

Her one fond hope,—to perish of despair.

Oft as the shifting light her sight beguiled,

Blushing she shrunk, and thought the marble smiled:

Oft breathless listening heard, or seemed to hear,

A voice of music melt upon her ear.

Slowly she waned, and cold and senseless grown,

Closed her dim eyes, herself benumbed to stone.

Yet love in death a sickly strength supplied:

Once more she gazed, then feebly smiled and died.