Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.

Durance, the River

The Durance

By Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802–1838)

(From The Troubadour)

CALL to mind your loveliest dream,

When your sleep is lulled by a mountain stream,

When your pillow is made of the violet,

And over your head are the branches met

Of a lime-tree covered with bloom and bees,

When the rose’s breath is on the breeze,

When odors and light on your eyelids press

With summer’s delicious idleness;

And upon you some shadowy likeness may glance

Of the faery banks of the bright Durance;

Just where at first its current flows

Mid willows and its own white rose,—

Its clear and early tide, or ere

A shade, save trees, its waters bear.

The sun, like an Indian king, has left

To that fair river a royal gift

Of gold and purple; no longer shines

His broad red disk o’er that forest of pines

Sweeping beneath the burning sky

Like a death-black ocean, whose billows lie

Dreaming dark dreams of storm in their sleep,

When the wings of the tempest shall over them sweep

And with its towers cleaving the red

Of the sunset clouds, and its shadow spread

Like a cloak before it, darkening the ranks

Of the light young trees on the river’s banks,

And ending there, as the waters shone

Too bright for shadows to rest upon,

A castle stands; whose windows gleam

Like the golden flash of a noon-lit stream

Seen through the lily and water-flag’s screen:

Just so shine those panes through the ivy green,

A curtain to shut out sun and air,

Which the work of years has woven there.

But not in the lighted pomp of the west

Looks the evening its loveliest:

Enter yon turret, and round you gaze

On what the twilight east displays:

One star, pure, clear, as if it shed

The dew on each young flower’s head;

And like a beauty of southern clime,

Her veil thrown back for the first time,

Pale, timid, as she feared to own

Her claim upon the midnight throne,

Shows the fair moon her crescent sign.

Beneath, in many a serpentine,

The river wanders; chestnut-trees

Spread their old boughs o’er cottages

Where the low roofs and porticos

Are covered with the Provence rose.

And there are vineyards; none might view

The fruit o’er which the foliage weaves;

And olive groves, pale, as the dew

Crusted its silver o’er the leaves.

And there the castle garden lay

With tints in beautiful array;

Its dark green walks, its fountains falling,

Its tame birds to each other calling;

The peacock with its orient rings,

The silver pheasant’s gleaming wings;

And on the breeze rich odors sent

Sweet messages, as if they meant

To rouse each sleeping sense to all

The loveliness of evening’s fall.