Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
Palmermo
 
Harriet Eleanor Hamilton King (b. 1840)
 
 
From “The Disciples”
 
 
        WHOSOE’ER
Had look’d upon the glory of that day
In Sieily beneath the summer sun,
Would not have dream’d that Death was reigning there
In shape so terrible;—for all the road        5
Was like an avenue of Paradise,
Life, and full flame of loveliness of life.
The red geraniums blaz’d in banks breast-high,
And from the open doors in the white walls
Scents of magnolia and of heliotrope        10
Came to the street; filmy aurora-flowers
Oper’d and died in the hour, and fell away
In many-color’d showers upon the ground;
Nebulous masses of the pale blue stars
Made light upon the darkness of the green,        15
Through openings in the thickets over-arch’d;
Where roses, white and yellow and full-rose,
Weigh’d down their branches, till the ground was swept
By roses, and strewn with them, as the air
Shook the thick clusters, and the Indian reeds        20
Bow’d to its passing with their feathery heads;
And trumpet-blossoms push’d out great white horns
From the green sheath, till all the green was hid
By the white spread of giant-blowing wings.
In the cool shadow heaps of tuberose        25
Lay by the fountains in the market-place,
Among the purple fruit. The jalousies
Of the tall houses shut against the sun
Were wreath’d with trails of velvet-glossy bells;
And here and there one had not been unclos’d        30
Yesterday, and the vivid shoots had run
Over it in a night, and seal’d it fast
With tendril, and bright leaf, and drops of flower.
And in and out the balconies thin stems
Went twisting, and the chains of passion-flowers,        35
Bud, blossom, and phantasmal orb of fruit
Alternate, swung, and lengthen’d every hour.
And fine-leav’d greenery crept from bower to bower
With thick white star-flakes scatter’d; and the bloom
Of orient lilies, and the rainbow-blue        40
Of iris shot up stately from the grass;
And through the wavering shadows crimson sparks
Pois’d upon brittle stalks, glanced up and down;
And shining darkness of the cypress clos’d
The deep withdrawing glades of evergreen,        45
Lit up far off with oleander pyres.
 
  Out of the rocky dust of the wayside
The lamps of the aloes burn’d themselves aloft,
Immortal; and the prickly cactus-knots
In the hot sunshines overleant the walls,        50
The lizards darting in and out of them;
But in the shadier side the maidenhair
Sprung thick from every crevice. Passing these,
He issued on to the Piazza, where
The wonder o the world, the Fountain streams        55
From height to height of marble, dashing down
White waves forever over whitest limbs,
That shine in multitudes amid the spray
And sound of silver waters without end,
Rolling and rising and showering suddenly.        60
There standing where the fig-trees made a shade
Close in the angle, he beheld the streets
Stretch fourways to the beautiful great gates;
With all their burnish’d domes and carven stones
In wavering color’d lines of light and shade.        65
And downwards, from the greatest of the gates,
Porta Felice, swept the orange-groves;
And avenues of coral-trees led down
In all their hanging splendors to the shore;
And out beyond them, sleeping in the light,        70
The islands, and the azure of the sea.
And upwards, through a labyrinth of spires,
And turrets, and steep alabaster walls,
The city rose, and broke itself away
Amidst the forests of the hills, and reach’d        75
The heights of Monreale, crown’d with all
Its pinnacles and all its jewell’d fronts
Shining to seaward;—but the tolling bells
Out of the gilded minarets smote the ear:—
Until at last, through miles of shadowy air,        80
The blue and violet mountains shut the sky.
 

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