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


To the Flower of Gnido

By Garcilaso de la Vega (1501–1536)

  • Translated by J. H. Wiffen
  • The title of this ode is derived from a quarter of the city of Naples, called Il Seggio di Gnido, the favorite abode then of people of fashion, in which also the lady lived to whom the ode was addressed. This lady, Violante San Severino, a daughter of the duke of Soma, was courted by Fabio Galeota, a friend of Garcilasso, in whose behalf the poem was written.

  • HAD I the sweet resounding lyre,

    Whose voice could in a moment chain

    The howling wind’s ungoverned ire,

    And movement of the raging main,

    On savage hills the leopard rein,

    The lion’s fiery soul entrance,

    And lead along with golden tones

    The fascinated trees and stones

    In voluntary dance;

    Think not, think not, fair Flower of Gnide,

    It e’er should celebrate the scars,

    Dust raised, blood shed, or laurels dyed

    Beneath the gonfalon of Mars;

    Or, borne sublime on festal cars,

    The chiefs who to submission sank

    The rebel German’s soul of soul,

    And forged the chains that now control

    The frenzy of the Frank.

    No, no! its harmonies should ring

    In vaunt of glories all thine own,

    A discord sometimes from the string

    Struck forth to make thy harshness known.

    The fingered chords should speak alone

    Of Beauty’s triumphs, Love’s alarms,

    And one who, made by thy disdain

    Pale as a lily clipt in twain,

    Bewails thy fatal charms.


    In snows on rocks, sweet Flower of Gnide,

    Thou wert not cradled, wert not born,

    She who has not a fault beside

    Should ne’er be signalized for scorn;

    Else, tremble at the fate forlorn

    Of Anaxárete, who spurned

    The weeping Iphis from her gate,

    Who, scoffing long, relenting late,

    Was to a statue turned.

    Whilst yet soft pity she repelled,

    Whilst yet she steeled her heart in pride,

    From her friezed window she beheld,

    Aghast, the lifeless suicide;

    Around his lily neck was tied

    What freed his spirit from her chains,

    And purchased with a few short sighs

    For her immortal agonies,

    Imperishable pains.

    Then first she felt her bosom bleed

    With love and pity; vain distress!

    O, what deep rigors must succeed

    This first sole touch of tenderness!

    Her eyes grow glazed and motionless,

    Nailed on his wavering corse, each bone

    Hardening in growth, invades her flesh,

    Which, late so rosy, warm, and fresh,

    Now stagnates into stone.

    From limb to limb the frosts aspire,

    Her vitals curdle with the cold;

    The blood forgets its crimson fire,

    The veins that e’er its motion rolled;

    Till now the virgin’s glorious mould

    Was wholly into marble changed,

    On which the Salaminians gazed,

    Less at the prodigy amazed

    Than of the crime avenged.

    Then tempt not thou Fate’s angry arms

    By cruel frown or icy taunt,

    But let thy perfect deeds and charms

    To poets’ harps, divinest, grant

    Themes worthy their immortal vaunt;

    Else must our weeping strings presume

    To celebrate in strains of woe

    The justice of some signal blow

    That strikes thee to the tomb.