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

Tiber, the River

To the Tiber

By Alessandro Guidi (1650–1712)

Anonymous translation

TIBER! my early dream,

My boyhood’s vision of thy classic stream,

Had taught my mind to think

That over sands of gold

Thy limpid waters rolled,

And ever-verdant laurels grew upon thy brink.

But in far other guise

The rude reality hath met mine eyes:

Here, seated on thy bank,

All desolate and drear

Thy margin doth appear,

With creeping weeds, and shrubs, and vegetation rank.

Fondly I fancied thine

The wave pellucid, and the Naiad’s shrine,

In crystal grot below;

But thy tempestuous course

Runs turbulent and hoarse,

And, swelling with wild wrath, thy wintry waters flow.

Upon thy bosom dark,

Peril awaits the light, confiding bark,

In eddying vortex swamped;

Foul, treacherous, and deep,

Thy winding waters sweep,

Enveloping their prey in dismal ruin prompt.

Fast in thy bed is sunk

The mountain pine-tree’s broken trunk,

Aimed at the galley’s keel;

And well thy wave can waft

Upon that broken shaft

The barge, whose shattered wreck thy bosom will conceal.

The dog-star’s sultry power,

The summer heat, the noontide’s fervid hour,

That fires the mantling blood,

Yon cautious swain can’t urge

To tempt thy dangerous surge,

Or cool his limbs within thy dark, insidious flood.

I ’ve marked thee in thy pride,

When struggle fierce thy disemboguing tide

With Ocean’s monarch held;

But quickly overcome

By Neptune’s masterdom,

Back thou hast fled as oft, ingloriously repelled.

Often athwart the fields

A giant’s strength thy flood redundant wields,

Bursting above its brims,—

Strength that no dike can check;

Dire is the harvest-wreck!

Buoyant, with lofty horns, the affrighted bullock swims.

But still thy proudest boast,

Tiber, and what brings honor to thee most

Is, that thy waters roll

Fast by the eternal home

Of Glory’s daughter, Rome;

And that thy billows bathe the sacred Capitol.

Famed is thy stream for her,

Clœlia, thy current’s virgin conqueror;

And him who stemmed the march

Of Tuscany’s proud host,

When, firm at honor’s post,

He waved his blood-stained blade above the broken arch.

Of Romulus the sons

To torrid Africans, to frozen Huns,

Have taught thy name, O flood!

And to that utmost verge

Where radiantly emerge

Apollo’s car of flame and golden-footed stud.

For so much glory lent,

Ever destructive of some monument,

Thou makest foul return;

Insulting with thy wave

Each Roman hero’s grave,

And Scipio’s dust that fills yon consecrated urn!