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

Thrasimene, the Lake


By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)


By Thrasimene’s lake, in the defiles

Fatal to Roman rashness, more at home;

For there the Carthaginian’s warlike wiles

Come back before me, as his skill beguiles

The host between the mountains and the shore,

Where Courage falls in her despairing files,

And torrents, swollen to rivers with their gore,

Reek through the sultry plain, with legions scattered o’er,

Like to a forest felled by mountain winds;

And such the storm of battle on this day,

And such the frenzy, whose convulsion blinds

To all save carnage, that beneath the fray

An earthquake reeled unheededly away!

None felt stern Nature rocking at his feet,

And yawning forth a grave for those who lay

Upon their bucklers for a winding-sheet;

Such is the absorbing hate when warring nations meet!

The earth to them was as a rolling bark

Which bore them to eternity; they saw

The ocean round, but had no time to mark

The motions of their vessel; Nature’s law,

In them suspended, recked not of the awe

Which reigns when mountains tremble, and the birds

Plunge in the clouds for refuge and withdraw

From their down-toppling nests; and bellowing herds

Stumble o’er heaving plains, and man’s dread hath no words.

Far other scene is Thrasimene now;

Her lake a sheet of silver, and her plain

Rent by no ravage save the gentle plough;

Her aged trees rise thick as once the slain

Lay where their roots are; but a brook hath ta’en,

A little rill of scanty stream and bed—

A name of blood from that day’s sanguine rain;

And Sanguinetto tells ye where the dead

Made the earth wet, and turned the unwilling waters red.