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

Alban Hills

The Villa

By William Wetmore Story (1819–1895)

OUR villa, perhaps, you never have seen;

It lies on the slope of the Alban hill;

Lifting its white face, sunny and still,

Out of the olives’ pale gray green,

That, far away as the eye can go,

Stretch up behind it, row upon row.

There, in the garden, the cypresses, stirred

By the sifting winds, half musing talk,

And the cool, fresh, constant voice is heard

Of the fountains spilling in every walk.

There stately the oleanders grow,

And one long gray wall is aglow

With golden oranges burning between

Their dark stiff leaves of sombre green,

And there are hedges all clipped and square,

As carven from blocks of malachite,

Where fountains keep spinning their threads of light,

And statues whiten the shadow there.

And, if the sun too fiercely shine,

And one would creep from its noonday glare,

There are galleries dark, where ilexes twine

Their branchy roofs above the head.

Or when at twilight the heats decline,

If one but cross the terraces,

And lean o’er the marble balustrade,

Between the vases whose aloes high

Show their sharp pike-heads against the sky,

What a sight—Madonna mia—he sees!

There stretches our great campagna beneath,

And seems to breathe a rosy breath

Of light and mist, as in peace it sleeps,—

And summery thunder-clouds of rain,

With their slanting spears, rim over the plain,

And rush at the ruins, or, routed, fly

To the mountains that lift their barriers high,

And stand with their purple pits of shades

Split by the sharp-edged limestone blades,

With opaline lights and tender grades

Of color, that flicker and swoon and die,

Built up like a wall against the sky.