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MEMORIALS OF A TOUR IN ITALY, 1837

XVIII. AT VALLOMBROSA

            "Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks
             In Vallombrosa where Etrurian shades
             High over-arch'd embower."
                                              PARADISE LOST.

          "VALLOMBROSA--I longed in thy shadiest wood
          To slumber, reclined on the moss-covered floor!"
          Fond wish that was granted at last, and the Flood,
          That lulled me asleep bids me listen once more.
          Its murmur how soft! as it falls down the steep,
          Near that Cell--yon sequestered Retreat high in air--
          Where our Milton was wont lonely vigils to keep
          For converse with God, sought through study and prayer.

          The Monks still repeat the tradition with pride,
          And its truth who shall doubt? for his Spirit is here;      10
          In the cloud-piercing rocks doth her grandeur abide,
          In the pines pointing heavenward her beauty austere;
          In the flower-besprent meadows his genius we trace
          Turned to humbler delights, in which youth might confide,
          That would yield him fit help while prefiguring that Place
          Where, if Sin had not entered, Love never had died.

          When with life lengthened out came a desolate time,
          And darkness and danger had compassed him round,
          With a thought he would flee to these haunts of his prime
          And here once again a kind shelter be found.                20
          And let me believe that when nightly the Muse
          Did waft him to Sion, the glorified hill,
          Here also, on some favoured height, he would choose
          To wander, and drink inspiration at will.

          Vallombrosa! of thee I first heard in the page
          Of that holiest of Bards, and the name for my mind
          Had a musical charm, which the winter of age
          And the changes it brings had no power to unbind.
          And now, ye Miltonian shades! under you
          I repose, nor am forced from sweet fancy to part,           30
          While your leaves I behold and the brooks they will strew,
          And the realised vision is clasped to my heart.

          Even so, and unblamed, we rejoice as we may
          In Forms that must perish, frail objects of sense;
          Unblamed--if the Soul be intent on the day
          When the Being of Beings shall summon her hence.
          For he and he only with wisdom is blest
          Who, gathering true pleasures wherever they grow,
          Looks up in all places, for joy or for rest,
          To the Fountain whence Time and Eternity flow.              40


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