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



By Nicholas Michell (1807–1880)

(From Ruins of Many Lands)

CROSS Adria’s gulf, and land where softly glide

A stream’s crisp waves, to join blue Ocean’s tide;

Still westward hold thy way, till Alps look down

On old Verona’s walled and classic town.

Fair is the prospect; palace, tower, and spire,

And blossomed grove, the eye might well admire;

Heaven-piercing mountains capped with endless snow,

Where winter reigns, and frowns on earth below;

Old castles crowning many a craggy steep,

From which in silver sounding torrents leap:

Southward the plain where Summer builds her bowers,

And floats on downy gales the soul of flowers;

Where orange-blossoms glad the honeyed bee,

And vines in festoons wave from tree to tree;

While, like a streak of sky from heaven let fall,

The deep blue river, glittering, winds through all;

The woods that whisper to the zephyr’s kiss,

Where nymphs might taste again Arcadian bliss;

The sun-bright hills that bound the distant view,

And melt like mists in skies of tenderest blue,—

All charm the ravished sense, and dull is he

Who, cold, unmoved, such glorious scene can see.

Here did the famed Catullus rove and dream,

And godlike Pliny drink of Wisdom’s stream;

Wronged by his friends, and exiled by his foes,

Amid these vales did Dante breathe his woes,

Raise demons up, call seraphs from the sky,

And frame the dazzling verse that ne’er shall die.

Here, too, hath Fiction weaved her loveliest spell,

Visions of beauty float o’er crag and dell;

But chief we seem to hear at evening hour

The sigh of Juliet in her starlit bower,

Follow her form slow gliding through the gloom,

And drop a tear above her mouldered tomb.

Sweet are these thoughts, and in such favored scene

Methinks life’s stormiest skies might grow serene,

Care smooth her brow, the troubled heart find rest,

And, spite of crime and passion, man be blest.

But to our theme: The pilgrim comes to trace

Verona’s ruins, not bright Nature’s face;

Be still, chase lightsome fancies, ere thou dare

Approach yon pile, so grand yet softly fair;

The mighty circle, breathing beauty, seems

The work of genii in immortal dreams.

So firm the mass, it looks as built to vie

With Alps’ eternal ramparts towering nigh.

Its graceful strength each lofty portal keeps,

Unbroken round the first great cincture sweeps;

The marble benches, tier on tier, ascend,

The winding galleries seem to know no end.

Glistening and pure, the summer sunbeams fall,

Softening each sculptured arch and rugged wall.

We tread the arena; blood no longer flows,

But in the sand the pale-eyed violet blows,

While ivy, covering many a bench, is seen,

Staining its white with lines of liveliest green,—

Age-honoring plant! that weds not buildings gay,

With love, still faithful, clinging to decay.