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

Rome, Churches of

The Illuminations of St. Peter’s

By Richard Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton (1809–1885)


TEMPLE! where Time has wed Eternity,

How beautiful thou art beyond compare,

Now emptied of thy massive majesty,

And made so faery-frail, so faery-fair:

The lineaments that thou art wont to wear

Augustly traced in ponderous masonry,

Lie faint as in a woof of filmy air,

Within their frames of mellow jewelry.—

But yet how sweet the hardly-waking sense,

That when the strength of hours has quenched those gems,

Disparted all those soft-bright diadems,—

Still in the sun thy form will rise supreme

In its own solid clear magnificence,

Divinest substance then, as now divinest dream.


MY heart was resting with a peaceful gaze,

So peaceful that it seemed I well could die

Entranced before such beauty,—when a cry

Burst from me, and I sunk in dumb amaze:

The molten stars before a withering blaze

Paled to annihilation, and my eye,

Stunned by the splendor, saw against the sky

Nothing but light,—sheer light,—and light’s own haze.

At last that giddying sight took form,—and then

Appeared the stable vision of a crown,

From the black vault by unseen power let down,

Cross-topped, thrice girt with flame:—
Cities of men,

Queens of the earth! bow low,—was ever brow

Of mortal birth adorned as Rome is now?