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

Vesuvius, the Mountain


By Richard Chenevix Trench (1807–1886)

A WREATH of light-blue vapor, pure and rare,

Mounts, scarcely seen against the bluer sky,

In quiet adoration, silently,

Till the faint currents of the upper air

Dislimn it, and it forms, dissolving there,

The dome, as of a palace, hung on high

Over the mountain; underneath it lie

Vineyards and bays and cities, white and fair.

Might we not think this beauty would engage

All living things unto one pure delight?

O, vain belief! for here, our records tell,

Rome’s understanding tyrant from men’s sight

Hid, as within a guilty citadel,

The shame of his dishonorable age.

AS when unto a mother, having chid

Her child in anger, there have straight ensued

Repentings for her quick and angry mood,

Till she would fain see all its traces hid

Quite out of sight,—even so has Nature bid

Fair flowers, that on the scarred earth she has strewed,

To blossom, and called up the taller wood

To cover what she ruined and undid.

O, and her mood of anger did not last

More than an instant, but her work of peace,

Restoring and repairing, comforting

The Earth, her stricken child, will never cease:

For that was her strange work, and quickly past;

To this her genial toil no end the years shall bring.

THAT her destroying fury was with noise

And sudden uproar; but far otherwise,

With silent and with secret ministries,

Her skill of renovation she employs:

For Nature, only loud when she destroys,

Is silent when she fashions; she will crowd

The work of her destruction, transient, loud,

Into an hour, and then long peace enjoys.

Yea, every power that fashions and upholds

Works silently,—all things, whose life is sure,

Their life is calm; silent the light that moulds

And colors all things; and without debate

The stars, which are forever to endure,

Assume their thrones and their unquestioned state.