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

Apennines, The

To the Apennines

By William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)

YOUR peaks are beautiful, ye Apennines!

In the soft light of these serenest skies;

From the broad highland region, black with pines,

Fair as the hills of Paradise they rise,

Bathed in the tint Peruvian slaves behold

In rosy flushes on the virgin gold.

There, rooted to the aerial shelves that wear

The glory of a brighter world, might spring

Sweet flowers of heaven to scent the unbreathed air,

And heaven’s fleet messengers might rest the wing,

To view the fair earth in its summer sleep,

Silent, and cradled by the glimmering deep.

Below you lie men’s sepulchres, the old

Etrurian tombs, the graves of yesterday;

The herd’s white bones lie mixed with human mould,—

Yet up the radiant steeps that I survey

Death never climbed, nor life’s soft breath, with pain,

Was yielded to the elements again.

Ages of war have filled these plains with fear:

How oft the hind has started at the clash

Of spears, and yell of meeting armies here,

Or seen the lightning of the battle flash

From clouds, that, rising with the thunder’s sound,

Hung like an earth-born tempest o’er the ground!

Ah me! what armed nations—Asian horde

And Lybian host, the Scythian and the Gaul—

Have swept your base and through your passes poured,

Like ocean-tides uprising at the call

Of tyrant winds,—against your rocky side

The bloody billows dashed, and howled, and died.

How crashed the towers before beleaguering foes,

Sacked cities smoked, and realms were rent in twain;

And commonwealths against their rivals rose,

Trode out their lives, and earned the curse of Cain!

While in the noiseless air and light that flowed

Round your far brows, eternal Peace abode.

Here pealed the impious hymn, and altar flames

Rose to false gods, a dream-begotten throng,

Jove, Bacchus, Pan, and earlier, fouler names;

While, as the unheeding ages passed along,

Ye, from your station in the middle skies,

Proclaimed the essential Goodness, strong and wise.

In you the heart that sighs for freedom seeks

Her image; there the winds no barrier know,

Clouds come, and rest, and leave your fairy peaks;

While even the immaterial Mind, below,

And Thought, her winged offspring, chained by power,

Pine silently for the redeeming hour.