Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX. 1876–79.

Turkey in Europe, and the Principalities: Constantinople (Byzantium, Stamboul)


By Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689–1762)

Written in the Chiosk of the British Palace, at Pera, overlooking Constantinople, December 26, 1718

HERE summer reigns with one eternal smile,

Succeeding harvests bless the happy soil;

Fair fertile fields, to whom indulgent Heaven

Has every charm of every season given.

No killing cold deforms the beauteous year,

The springing flowers no coming winter fear.

But as the parent rose decays and dies,

The infant buds with brighter colors rise,

And with fresh sweets the mother’s scent supplies.

Near them the violet grows with odors blest,

And blooms in more than Tyrian purple drest;

The rich jonquils their golden beams display,

And shine in glory’s emulating day;

The peaceful groves their verdant leaves retain,

The streams still murmur, undefiled with rain,

And towering greens adorn the fruitful plain.

The warbling kind uninterrupted sing,

Warmed with enjoyments of perpetual spring.

Here, at my window, I at once survey

The crowded city and resounding sea;

In distant views the Asian mountains rise,

And lose their snowy summits in the skies;

Above these mountains proud Olympus towers,

The parliamental seat of heavenly powers!

New to the sight, my ravished eyes admire

Each gilded crescent and each antique spire,

The marble mosques, beneath whose ample domes

Fierce warlike sultans sleep in peaceful tombs;

Those lofty structures, once the Christians’ boast,

Their names, their beauty, and their honors lost;

Those altars bright with gold and sculpture graced,

By barbarous zeal of savage foes defaced;

Sophia alone her ancient name retains,

Though the unbeliever now her shrine profanes;

Where holy saints have died in sacred cells,

Where monarchs prayed, the frantic dervise dwells.

How art thou fallen, imperial city, low!

Where are thy hopes of Roman glory now?

Where are thy palaces by prelates raised?

Where Grecian artists all their skill displayed,

Before the happy sciences decayed:

So vast, that youthful kings might here reside,

So splendid, to content a patriarch’s pride;

Convents where emperors professed of old,

The labored pillars that their triumphs told;

Vain monuments of them that once were great,

Sunk undistinguished by one common fate;

One little spot the tenure small contains,

Of Greek nobility the poor remains.

Where other Helens, with like powerful charms,

Had once engaged the warring world in arms;

Those names which royal ancestors can boast,

In mean mechanic arts obscurely lost;

Those eyes a second Homer might inspire,

Fixed at the loom, destroy their useless fire;

Grieved at a view, which struck upon my mind

The short-lived vanity of humankind.