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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 Lateran Cloisters

By Bessie Rayner Parkes (1829–1925)

THE VERY roses, thick with bloom,

Are golden in the golden light;

What sanctifies that belt of gloom?

What makes this court so bright?

Are other pillars half so rich,

So dainty delicate as these,

Which curl and twist like woodland niche

Set in a frame of trees!

Two legendary stones are here,

And cast a mystery round the spot;

Let none to whom his Lord is dear

Say, he believes them not!

Behold the well where Jesus stayed,

(The heart which questioned also nigh!)

And, “wearied with his journey” bade

To fountains never dry.

Until for her who stood beside,

His words alone sufficed,

And as she went her way, she cried,

“But is not this the Christ?”

See measured on that pillar’s round

The stature of his sacred head;

Let that be counted holy ground

Of which such things are said.

And do not weigh what men believe,

When thus from age to age is told

A tale which eager hearts receive

With love that grows not cold.

A garden blessed by many prayers,

And centuries of sacred fame,

A pilgrim’s tender footstep spares,

If only for the claim!

So pluck the golden Lateran rose

Which blooms about each ancient stone;—

And faith which towards a legend flows

Shall not be left alone!