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


The City of My Love

By Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910)

SHE sits among the eternal hills,

Their crown, thrice glorious and dear,

Her voice is as a thousand tongues

Of silver fountains, gurgling clear;

Her breath is prayer, her life is love,

And worship of all lovely things;

Her children have a gracious port,

Her beggars show the blood of kings.

By old Tradition guarded close,

None doubt the grandeur she has seen;

Upon her venerable front

Is written: “I was born a queen!”

She rules the age by Beauty’s power,

As once she ruled by arméd might;

The Southern sun doth treasure her

Deep in his golden heart of light.

Awe strikes the traveller when he sees

The vision of her distant dome,

And a strange spasm wrings his heart

As the guide whispers, “There is Rome!”

Rome of the Romans! where the gods

Of Greek Olympus long held sway;

Rome of the Christians, Peter’s tomb,

The Zion of our later day.

Rome, the mailed Virgin of the world,

Defiance on her brows and breast;

Rome, to voluptuous pleasure won,

Debauched, and locked in drunken rest.

Rome, in her intellectual day,

Europe’s intriguing step-dame grown;

Rome, bowed to weakness and decay,

A canting, mass-frequenting crone.

Then the unlettered man plods on,

Half chiding at the spell he feels,

The artist pauses at the gate,

And on the wondrous threshold kneels.

The sick man lifts his languid head

For those soft skies and balmy airs;

The pilgrim tries a quicker pace,

And hugs remorse, and patters prayers.

For even the grass that feeds the herds

Methinks some unknown virtue yields;

The very hinds in reverence tread

The precincts of the ancient fields.

But wrapt in gloom of night and death,

I crept to thee, dear mother Rome;

And in thy hospitable heart

Found rest and comfort, health and home,

And friendships, warm and living still,

Although their dearest joys are fled;

True sympathies that bring to life

That better self, so often dead.

For all the wonder that thou wert,

For all the dear delight thou art,

Accept a homage from my lips,

That warms again a wasted heart.

And, though it seem a childish prayer,

I ’ve breathed it oft, that when I die,

As thy remembrance dear in it,

That heart in thee might buried lie.