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


The Roman Standard

By Dante Alighieri (c. 1265–1321)

(From Paradise, Canto VI)
Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

BEHOLD how great a power has made it worthy

Of reverence, beginning from the hour

When Pallas died to give it sovereignty.

Thou knowest it made in Alba its abode

Three hundred years and upward, till at last

The three to three fought for it yet again.

Thou knowest what it achieved from Sabine wrong

Down to Lucretia’s sorrow, in seven kings

O’ercoming round about the neighboring nations;

Thou knowest what it achieved, borne by the Romans

Illustrious against Brennus, against Pyrrhus,

Against the other princes and confederates.

Torquatus thence and Quinctius, who from locks

Unkempt was named, Decii and Fabii,

Received the fame I willingly embalm;

It struck to earth the pride of the Arabians,

Who, following Hannibal, had passed across

The Alpine ridges, Po, from which thou glidest;

Beneath it triumphed while they yet were young

Pompey and Scipio, and to the hill

Beneath which thou wast born it bitter seemed;

Then, near unto the time when heaven had willed

To bring the whole world to its mood serene,

Did Cæsar by the will of Rome assume it.

What it achieved from Var unto the Rhine,

Isère beheld and Saône, beheld the Seine,

And every valley whence the Rhone is filled;

What it achieved when it had left Ravenna,

And leaped the Rubicon, was such a flight

That neither tongue nor pen could follow it.

Round toward Spain it wheeled its legions; then

Towards Durazzo, and Pharsalia smote

That to the calid Nile was felt the pain.

Antandros and the Simois, whence it started,

It saw again, and there where Hector lies,

And ill for Ptolemy then roused itself.

From thence it came like lightning upon Juba;

Then wheeled itself again into your West,

Where the Pompeian clarion it heard.

From what it wrought with the next standard-bearer

Brutus and Cassius howl in Hell together,

And Modena and Perugia dolent were;

Still doth the mournful Cleopatra weep

Because thereof, who, fleeing from before it,

Took from the adder sudden and black death.

With him it ran even to the Red Sea shore;

With him it placed the world in so great peace,

That unto Janus was his temple closed.

But what the standard that has made me speak

Achieved before, and after should achieve

Throughout the mortal realm that lies beneath it,

Becometh in appearance mean and dim,

If in the hand of the third Cæsar seen

With eye unclouded and affection pure,

Because the living Justice that inspires me

Granted it, in the hand of him I speak of,

The glory of doing vengeance for its wrath.

Now here attend to what I answer thee;

Later it ran with Titus to do vengeance

Upon the vengeance of the ancient sin.

And when the tooth of Lombardy had bitten

The Holy Church, then underneath its wings

Did Charlemagne victorious succor her.