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

Mola di Gaeta

The Fountain

By Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)

(From Italy)

IT was a well

Of whitest marble, white as from the quarry;

And richly wrought with many a high relief,

Greek sculpture,—in some earlier day perhaps

A tomb, and honored with a hero’s ashes.

The water from the rock filled, overflowed it;

Then dashed away, playing the prodigal,

And soon was lost,—stealing, unseen, unheard,

Through the long grass, and round the twisted roots

Of aged trees,—discovering where it ran

By the fresh verdure. Overcome with heat,

I threw me down, admiring, as I lay,

That shady nook, a singing-place for birds,

That grove so intricate, so full of flowers,

More than enough to please a maid a-Maying.

The sun was down, a distant convent-bell

Ringing the Angelus; and now approached

The hour for stir and village gossip there,

The hour Rebekah came, when from the well

She drew with such alacrity to serve

The stranger and his camels. Soon I heard

Footsteps; and, lo, descending by a path

Trodden for ages, many a nymph appeared,

Appeared and vanished, bearing on her head

Her earthen pitcher. It called up the day

Ulysses landed there; and long I gazed,

Like one awaking in a distant time.

At length there came the loveliest of them all,

Her little brother dancing down before her;

And ever as he spoke, which he did ever,

Turning and looking up in warmth of heart

And brotherly affection. Stopping there,

She joined her rosy hands, and, filling them

With the pure element, gave him to drink;

And, while he quenched his thirst, standing on tiptoe,

Looked down upon him with a sister’s smile,

Nor stirred till he had done,—fixed as a statue.

Then hadst thou seen them as they stood, Canova,

Thou hadst endowed them with eternal youth;

And they had evermore lived undivided,

Winning all hearts,—of all thy works the fairest!