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


The Venus de’ Medici

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

BUT Arno wins us to the fair white walls,

Where the Etrurian Athens claims and keeps

A softer feeling for her fairy halls.

Girt by her theatre of hills, she reaps

Her corn and wine and oil, and Plenty leaps

To laughing life, with her redundant horn.

Along the banks where smiling Arno sweeps

Was modern luxury of commerce born,

And buried learning rose, redeemed to a new morn.

There, too, the Goddess loves in stone, and fills

The air around with beauty; we inhale

The ambrosial aspect, which, beheld, instils

Part of its immortality; the veil

Of heaven is half undrawn; within the pale

We stand, and in that form and face behold

What mind can make, when Nature’s self would fail;

And to the fond idolaters of old

Envy the innate flash which such a soul could mould.

We gaze and turn away, and know not where,

Dazzled and drunk with beauty, till the heart

Reels with its fulness; there, forever there,

Chained to the chariot of triumphal art,

We stand as captives, and would not depart.

Away! there need no words, nor terms precise,

The paltry jargon of the marble mart,

Where pedantry gulls folly,—we have eyes:

Blood, pulse, and breast confirm the Dardan Shepherd’s prize.

Appearedst thou not to Paris in this guise?

Or to more deeply blest Anchises? or,

In all thy perfect goddess-ship, when lies

Before thee thy own vanquished lord of war?

And gazing in thy face as toward a star,

Laid on thy lap, his eyes to thee upturn,

Feeding on thy sweet cheek! while thy lips are

With lava kisses melting while they burn,

Showered on his eyelids, brow, and mouth, as from an urn!

Glowing, and circumfused in speechless love,

Their full divinity inadequate

That feeling to express, or to improve,

The gods become as mortals, and man’s fate

Has moments like their brightest; but the weight

Of earth recoils upon us;—let it go!

We can recall such visions, and create,

From what has been, or might be, things which grow

Into thy statue’s form, and look like gods below.