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


The Pine Forest of Ravenna

By Leigh Hunt (1784–1859)

(From The Story of Rimini)

A HEAVY spot the forest looks at first,

To one grim shade condemned, and sandy thirst,

Checkered with thorns, and thistles run to seed,

Or plashy pools half covered with green weed,

About whose sides the swarming insects fry

In the hot sun, a noisome company;

But, entering more and more, they quit the sand

At once, and strike upon a grassy land,

From which the trees as from a carpet rise

In knolls and clumps, in rich varieties.

The knights are for a moment forced to rein

Their horses in, which, feeling turf again,

Thrill, and curvet, and long to be at large

To scour the space, and give the winds a charge,

Or, pulling tight the bridles as they pass,

Dip their warm mouths into the freshening grass:

But soon in easy rank, from glade to glade,

Proceed they, coasting underneath the shade;

Some baring to the cool their placid brows,

Some looking upward through the glimmering boughs,

Or peering into spots that inwardly

Open green glooms, and half prepared to see

The lady cross it, that, as stories tell,

Ran loud and torn before a knight of hell.

Various the trees and passing foliage here,—

Wild pear, and oak, and dusky juniper,

With briony between in trails of white,

And ivy, and the suckle’s streaky light,

And moss, warm gleaming with a sudden mark,

Like growths of sunshine left upon the bark;

And still the pine, flat-topped and dark and tall,

In lordly right predominant o’er all.

Anon the sweet birds, like a sudden throng

Of happy children, ring their tangled song

From out the greener trees; and then a cloud

Of cawing rooks breaks o’er them, gathering loud

Like savages at ships; and then again

Nothing is heard but their own stately train,

Or ring-dove that repeats his pensive plea,

Or startled gull up-screaming toward the sea.