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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

Fiesolan Idyl

Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864)

HERE, where precipitate Spring, with one light bound

Into hot Summer’s lusty arms, expires,

And where go forth at morn, at eve, at night,

Soft airs that want the lute to play with ’em,

And softer sighs that know not what they want,

Aside a wall, beneath an orange-tree,

Whose tallest flowers could tell the lowlier ones

Of sights in Fiesolé right up above,

While I was gazing a few paces off

At what they seem’d to show me with their nods,

Their frequent whispers and their pointing shoots,

A gentle maid came down the garden-steps

And gathered the pure treasure in her lap.

I heard the branches rustle, and stepped forth

To drive the ox away, or mule, or goat,

Such I believed it must be. How could I

Let beast o’erpower them? When hath wind or rain

Borne hard upon weak plant that wanted me,

And I (however they might bluster round)

Walked off? ’Twere most ungrateful: for sweet scents

Are the swift vehicles of still sweeter thoughts,

And nurse and pillow the dull memory

That would let drop without them her best stores.

They bring me tales of youth and tones of love.

And ’tis and ever was my wish and way

To let all flowers live freely, and all die

(Whene’er their Genius bids their souls depart)

Among their kindred in their native place.

I never pluck the rose; the violet’s head

Hath shaken with my breath upon its bank

And not reproached me: the ever-sacred cup

Of the pure lily hath between my hands

Felt safe, unsoil’d, nor lost one grain of gold.

I saw the light that made the glossy leaves

More glossy; the fair arm, the fairer cheek

Warmed by the eye intent on its pursuit;

I saw the foot that, altho’ half-erect

From its gray slipper, could not lift her up

To what she wanted: I held down a branch

And gather’d her some blossoms; since their hour

Was come, and bees had wounded them, and flies

Of harder wing were working their way thro’

And scattering them in fragments underfoot.

So crisp were some, they rattled unevolved,

Others, ere broken off, fell into shells,

For such appear the petals when detached,

Unbending, brittle, lucid, white like snow,

And like snow not seen thro’, by eye or sun:

Yet every one her gown received from me

Was fairer than the first. I thought not so,

But so she praised them to reward my care.

I said, ‘You find the largest.’
‘This indeed,’

Cried she, ‘is large and sweet.’ She held one forth,

Whether for me to look at or to take

She knew not, nor did I; but taking it

Would best have solved (and this she felt) her doubt.

I dared not touch it; for it seemed a part

Of her own self; fresh, full, the most mature

Of blossoms, yet a blossom; with a touch

To fall, and yet unfallen. She drew back

The boon she tender’d, and then, finding not

The ribbon at her waist to fix it in,

Dropped it, as loth to drop it, on the rest.