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

Rome, the Campagna

The Grotto of Egeria

By William Sotheby (1757–1833)

CAN I forget that beauteous day,

When, sheltered from the burning beam,

First in thy haunted grot I lay,

And loosed my spirit, to its dream,

Beneath the broken arch, o’erlaid

With ivy, dark with many a braid,

That clasped its tendrils to retain

The stone its roots had writhed in twain?

No zephyr on the leaflet played,

No bent grass bowed its slender blade,

The coiled snake lay slumber-bound;

All mute, all motionless around,

Save, livelier, while others slept,

The lizard on the sunbeam leapt;

And louder, while the groves were still,

The unseen cigali, sharp and shrill

As if their chirp could charm alone

Tired noontide with its unison.

Stranger! that roam’st in solitude!

Thou, too, mid tangling bushes rude,

Seek in the glen, yon heights between,

A rill more pure than Hippocrene,

That from a sacred fountain fed

The stream that filled its marble bed.

Its marble bed long since is gone,

And the stray water struggles on,

Brawling through weeds and stones its way.

There, when o’erpowered at blaze of day

Nature languishes in light,

Pass within the gloom of night,

Where the cool grot’s dark arch o’ershades

Thy temples, and the waving braids

Of many a fragment brier that weaves

Its blossom through the ivy leaves.

Thou, too, beneath that rocky roof,

Where the moss mats its thickest woof,

Shalt hear the gathered ice-drops fall

Regular, at interval,

Drop after drop, one after one,

Making music on the stone,

While every drop, in slow decay,

Wears the recumbent nymph away.

Thou, too, if e’er thy youthful ear

Thrilled the Latian lay to hear,

Lulled to slumber in that cave,

Shalt hail the nymph that held the wave;

A goddess, who there deigned to meet

A mortal from Rome’s regal seat,

And, o’er the gushing of her fount,

Mysterious truths divine to earthly ear recount.