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

La Verna (Alverna), the Mountain

The Convent

By Bryan Waller Procter (1787–1874)

(From Marcian Colonna)

THERE is a lofty spot

Visible amongst the mountains Apennine,

Where once a hermit dwelt, not yet forgot

He or his famous miracles divine;

And there the convent of Laverna stands

In solitude, built up by saintly hands,

And deemed a wonder in the elder time.

Chasms of the early world are yawning there,

And rocks are seen, craggy and vast and bare,

And many a dizzy precipice sublime,

And caverns dark as death, where the wild air

Rushes from all the quarters of the sky:

Above, in all his old regality,

The monarch eagle sits upon his throne,

Or floats upon the desert winds, alone.

There, belted round and round by forests drear,

Black pine, and giant beech, and oaks that rear

Their brown diminished heads like shrubs between,

And guarded by a river that is seen

Flashing and wandering through the dell below,

Laverna stands. It is a place of woe,

And midst its cold dim aisles and cells of gloom

The pale Franciscan meditates his doom;

An exile from his kind, save some sad few

(Like him imprisoned and devoted), who,

Deserting their high natures for the creed

A bigot fashioned in his weaker dreams,

Left love and life (yet love is life, indeed),

And all the wonders of the world,—its gleams

Of joy, of sunshine, fair as those which spring

From the great poet’s high imagining,

Sounds, and gay sights, and woman’s words which bless

And carry on their echoes happiness,—

Left all that man inherits, and fell down

To worship in the dust a demon’s crown:

For there a phantom of a fearful size,

Shaped out of shadow and cloud, and nursed in pain,

And born of doubt and sorrow, and of the brain

The ever evil spirit mocks man’s eyes;

And they who worship it are cold and wan,

Timid and proud, envying while they despise,

The wealth and wishes of their fellow-man.