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

Rome, Streets of

Via Felice

By Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910)

’T WAS in the Via Felice

My friend his dwelling made,

The Roman Via Felice,

Half sunshine, half in shade.

A marble god stands near it

That once deserved a shrine,

And, veteran of the old world,

The Barberini pine.

A very Roman is he

Whom age makes not so wise

But that each coming winter

Is still a new surprise.

But I lodged near the convent

Whose bells did hallow noon,

And all the lesser hours

With sweet recurrent tune.

They lent their solemn cadence

To all the thoughtless day;

The heart, so oft it heard them,

Was lifted up to pray.

And where the lamp was lighted

At twilight, on the wall,

Serenely sat Madonna,

And smiled to bless us all.

Those voices, illustrating

Their bargains, from the street,

Shaming Thought’s narrow meanness

With music infinite.

Those men of stately stature,

Those women, fair of shape,

That watched the chestnuts roasting,

The fig, and clustered grape;

All this, my daily pleasure

That made none poor to give,

Was near the Via Felice

Where Horace loved to live.

I see him from the window

That ne’er my heart forgets,

He buys from yonder maiden

My morning violets.

Not ill he chose those flowers

With mild, reproving eyes,

Emblems of tender chiding,

And love divinely wise.

For his were generous learning

And reconciling art;

O, not with fleeting presence

My friend and I could part!

His work of consolation

Abode when he was gone,

A tower of beauty lifted

From ruins widely strown.

Our own inconstant heavens

Were o’er us, when we met

Before a longer parting,

Not seen, nor dreamed of, yet.

’T was when the Spring’s soft breathing

Restores the frozen sense,

And Patience, dull with Winter,

Is glad in recompense.

There, in our pleasant converse,

As by one thought, we said:

“This is the Via Felice,

Where friends together tread.”

Again, my friend turned seaward,

Again, athwart the wave

He flung the wayward fortune

His fiery planet gave.

And in that heart of Paris

That hides distress and wrong,

So cold, with show and splendor,

So dumb, with dance and song;

Drawn, by some hidden current

Of unknown agony,

To seek a throb responsive,

Our Horace sank to die.

O, not where he is lying

With dear ancestral dust,

Not where his household traces

Grow sad and dim with rust;

But in the Ancient City

And from the quaint old door

I ’m watching at my window

His coming, evermore.

For Death’s eternal city

Has yet some happy street;

’T is in the Via Felice

My friend and I shall meet.