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


The Campagna of Florence

By Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)

(From Italy)

’T IS morning. Let us wander through the fields,

Where Cimabuè found a shepherd-boy

Tracing his idle fancies on the ground;

And let us from the top of Fiesole,

Whence Galileo’s glass by night observed

The phases of the moon, look round below

On Arno’s vale, where the dove-colored steer

Is ploughing up and down among the vines,

While many a careless note is sung aloud,

Filling the air with sweetness,—and on thee,

Beautiful Florence, all within thy walls,

Thy groves and gardens, pinnacles and towers,

Drawn to our feet.
From that small spire, just caught

By the bright ray, that church among the rest

By one of old distinguished us The Bride,

Let us in thought pursue (what can we better?)

Those who assembled there at matin-time;

Who, when vice revelled and along the street

Tables were set, what time the bearer’s bell

Rang to demand the dead at every door,

Came out into the meadows; and, awhile

Wandering in idleness, but not in folly,

Sate down in the high grass and in the shade

Of many a tree sun-proof, day after day,

When all was still and nothing to be heard

But the cicala’s voice among the olives,

Relating in a ring, to banish care,

Their hundred tales.
Round the green hill they went,

Round underneath,—first to a splendid house,

Gherardi, as an old tradition runs,

That on the left, just rising from the vale;

A place for luxury,—the painted rooms,

The open galleries and middle court

Not unprepared, fragrant and gay with flowers.

Then westward to another, nobler yet;

That on the right, now known as the Palmieri,

Where art with nature vied,—a paradise

With verdurous walls, and many a trellised walk

All rose and jasmine, many a twilight-glade

Crossed by the deer. Then to the Ladies’ Vale;

And the clear lake, that as by magic seemed

To lift up to the surface every stone

Of lustre there, and the diminutive fish

Innumerable, dropt with crimson and gold,

Now motionless, now glancing to the sun.

Who has not dwelt on their voluptuous day?

The morning-banquet by the fountain-side,

While the small birds rejoiced on every bough;

The dance that followed, and the noontide slumber;

Then the tales told in turn, as round they lay

On carpets, the fresh water, murmuring

And the short interval of pleasant talk

Till supper-time, when many a siren-voice

Sung down the stars; and, as they left the sky,

The torches, planted in the sparkling grass,

And everywhere among the glowing flowers,

Burnt bright and brighter. He, whose dream it was,

(It was no more,) sleeps in a neighboring vale;

Sleeps in the church, where, in his ear, I ween,

The friar poured out his wondrous catalogue;

A ray, imprimis, of the star that shone

To the wise men; a vialful of sounds,

The musical chimes of the great bells that hung

In Solomon’s Temple; and, though last not least,

A feather from the angel Gabriel’s wing,

Dropt in the Virgin’s chamber. That dark ridge,

Stretching southeast, conceals it from our sight;

Not so his lowly roof and scanty farm,

His copse and rill, if yet a trace be left,

Who lived in Val di Pesa, suffering long

Want and neglect and (far, far worse) reproach,

With calm, unclouded mind. The glimmering tower

On the gray rock beneath, his landmark once,

Now serves for ours, and points out where he ate

His bread with cheerfulness. Who sees him not

(’T is his own sketch—he drew it from himself)

Laden with cages from his shoulder slung,

And sallying forth, while yet the morn is gray,

To catch a thrush on every lime-twig there;

Or in the wood among his wood-cutters;

Or in the tavern by the highway-side

At tric-trac with the miller; or at night,

Doffing his rustic suit, and, duly clad,

Entering his closet, and among his books,

Among the great of every age and clime,

A numerous court, turning to whom he pleased,

Questioning each why he did this or that,

And learning how to overcome the fear

Of poverty and death?
Nearer we hail

Thy sunny slope, Arcetri, sung of old

For its green wine; dearer to me, to most,

As dwelt on by that great astronomer,

Seven years a prisoner at the city-gate,

Let in but in his grave-clothes. Sacred be

His villa, (justly was it called The Gem!)

Sacred the lawn, where many a cypress threw

Its length of shadow, while he watched the stars!

Sacred the vineyard, where, while yet his sight

Glimmered, at blush of morn he dressed his vines,

Chanting aloud in gayety of heart

Some verse of Ariosto! There, unseen,

In manly beauty Milton stood before him,

Gazing with reverent awe,—Milton, his guest,

Just then come forth, all life and enterprise;

He in his old age and extremity,

Blind, at noonday exploring with his staff;

His eyes upturned as to the golden sun,

His eyeballs idly rolling. Little then

Did Galileo think whom he received;

That in his hand he held the hand of one

Who could requite him,—who would spread his name

O’er lands and seas,—great as himself, nay, greater.

Milton as little that in him he saw,

As in a glass, what he himself should be,

Destined so soon to fall on evil days

And evil tongues,—so soon, alas, to live

In darkness, and with dangers compassed round,

And solitude.