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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 Thomas Kibble Hervey (1804–1859)

A GUSH of waters! faint and sweet and wild,

Like the far echo of the voice of years,—

The ancient Nature, singing to her child

The selfsame hymn that lulled the infant spheres!

A spell of song not louder than a sigh,

Yet speaking like a trumpet to the heart,

And thoughts that lift themselves triumphingly

O’er time, where time has triumphed over art,

As wild-flowers climb its ruins, haunt it still;

While still above the consecrated spot

Lifts up its prophet voice the ancient rill,

And flings its oracles along the grot.

But where is she, the lady of the stream,

And he whose worship was and is—a dream?

Silent, yet full of voices!—desolate,

Yet filled with memories, like a broken heart!

O for a vision like to his who sate

With thee, and with the moon and stars, apart,

By the cool fountain, many a livelong even,

That speaks, unheeded, to the desert now,

When vanished clouds had left the air all heaven,

And all was silent save the stream and thou,

Egeria!—solemn thought upon his brows,

For all his diadem; thy spirit-eyes

His only homage; and the flitting boughs

And birds alone between him and the skies!

Each outward sense expanded to a soul,

And every feeling tuned into a truth;

And all the bosom’s shattered strings made whole,

And all its worn-out powers retouched with youth,

Beneath thy spell, that chastened while it charmed,

Thy words, that touched the spirit while they taught,

Thy look, that uttered wisdom while it warmed,

And moulded fancy in the stamp of thought,

And breathed an atmosphere below, above,

Light to the soul, and to the senses love!

Beautiful dreams! that haunt the younger earth,

In poet’s pencil or in minstrel’s song,

Like sighs or rainbows, dying in their birth,

Perceived a moment, and remembered long!

But, no!—bright visions! fables of the heart!

Not to the past alone do ye belong;

Types for all ages, wove when early art

To feeling gave a voice, to truth a tongue!

O, what if gods have left the Grecian mount,

And shrines are voiceless on the classic shore,

And long Egeria by the gushing fount

Waits for her monarch-lover nevermore!

Who hath not his Egeria?—some sweet thought,

Shrouded and shrined within his heart of hearts,

More closely cherished and more fondly sought

Still as the daylight of the soul departs;

The visioned lady of the spring, that wells

In the green valley of his brighter years,

Or gentle spirit that forever dwells

And sings of hope beside the fount of tears.

In the heart’s trance,—the calenture of mind

That haunts the soul-sick mariner of life,

And paints the fields that he has left behind,

Like green morganas, on the tempest’s strife;

In the dim hour when memory, whose song

Is still of buried hope, sings back the dead

And perished looks and forms,—a phantom-throng,—

With melancholy eyes and soundless tread,

Like lost Eurydices, from graves, retrack

The long-deserted chambers of the brain,

Until the yearning soul looks fondly back

To clasp them, and they vanish once again;

At even, when the fight of youth is done,

And sorrow, like the “searchers of the slain,”

Turns up the cold, dead faces, one by one,

Of prostrate joys and wishes,—but in vain!

And finds that all is lost, and walks around

Mid hopes that each has perished of its wound;

Then, pale Egeria! to thy moonlit cave

The maddened and the mourner may retire,

To cool the spirit’s fever in thy wave,

And gather inspiration from thy lyre;

In solemn musings, when the world is still,

To woo a love less fleeting to the breast,

Or lie and dream, beside the prophet-rill

That resteth never, while it whispers rest;

Like Numa, cast earth’s cares and crowns aside,

And commune with a spiritual bride!