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


The Falls of Terni

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

THE ROAR of waters!—from the headlong height

Velino cleaves the wave-worn precipice:

The fall of waters! rapid as the light

The flashing mass foams shaking the abyss:

The hell of waters! where they howl and hiss,

And boil in endless torture; while the sweat

Of their great agony, wrung out from this

Their Phlegethon, curls round the rocks of jet

That gird the gulf around, in pitiless horror set.

And mounts in spray the skies, and thence again

Returns in an unceasing shower, which round,

With its unemptied cloud of gentle rain,

Is an eternal April to the ground,

Making it all one emerald. How profound

The gulf! and how the giant element

From rock to rock leaps with delirious bound,

Crushing the cliffs, which downward, worn and rent

With his fierce footsteps, yield in chasms a fearful vent

To the broad column which rolls on, and shows

More like the fountain of an infant sea

Torn from the womb of mountains by the throes

Of a new world, than only thus to be

Parent of rivers, which flow gushingly,

With many windings through the vale;—look back!

Lo! where it comes like an eternity,

As if to sweep down all things in its track,

Charming the eye with dread,—a matchless cataract,

Horribly beautiful! but on the verge,

From side to side, beneath the glittering morn,

An Iris sits, amidst the infernal surge,

Like Hope upon a death-bed, and, unworn

Its steady dyes, while all around is torn

By the distracted waters, bears serene

Its brilliant hues with all their beams unshorn:

Resembling, mid the torture of the scene,

Love watching Madness with unalterable mien.