Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Asia
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII.  1876–79.
 
Asia Minor: Cyprus, the Island
Catterina Cornaro
Robert, Lord Lytton (1831–1891)
 
(A Picture.—A. D. 1470.)

I.
IN Cyprus, where ’live Summer never dies,
Love’s native land is. There the seas, the skies,
Are blue and lucid as the looks, the air
Fervid and fragrant as the breath and hair
Of Beauty’s Queen; whose gracious godship dwells        5
In that dear island of delicious dells,
Mid lavish lights and languid glooms divine.
There doth she her sly dainty sceptre twine
With seabank myrtle spray, and roses sweet
And full as, when the lips of lovers meet        10
The first strange time, their sudden kisses be:
There doth she lightly reign: there holdeth she
Her laughing court in gleam of lemon groves:
The wanton mother of unnumbered Loves!
 
What earthly creature hath Dame Venus’ grace        15
Dowered so divinely sweet of form and face
As that she may, unshamed in Cupid’s smile,
Be sovereign lady of this lovely isle?
Sure, Venus, not so blind as some aver
Was thy bold boy, what time, in search of her        20
Thou bad’st him seek, he roamed the seas all round,
And barbarous lands beyond; since he hath found
This wonder out; whose perfect sweetness seems
The fair fulfilment of his own fond dreams:
And Kate Cornaro is the Island Queen.        25
 
II.
A Queen, a child, fair, happy, scarce nineteen!
In whose white hands her little sceptre lies,
Like a new-gathered floweret, in surprise
At being there. To keep her what she is,—
A thing too rare for the familiar kiss        30
Of household loves,—wifehood and motherhood,—
Fit only to be delicately wooed
With wooings fine and frolicsome as those
Wherewith the sweet West wooes a small blush-rose,
Her husband first, and then her babe, away        35
Slipped from her sight, each on a summer day,
Ere she could miss them, into the soft shade
Of flowery graves. She doth not feel afraid
To be alone. Because she hath her toy,
Her pretty kingdom. And it is her joy        40
To dandle the doll-people, and be kind
And careful to it, as a child. Each wind
O’ the world on her smooth eyelids lightly breathes,
As morn upon a lily whence frail wreaths
Of little dew-drops hang, easily troubled,        45
As such things are. The June sun’s joy is doubled,
Shining through shadow in her golden hair.
Light-wedded, and light-widowed, and unaware
Of any sort of sorrow doth she seem;
Albeit the times are stormy, and do teem        50
With tumult round her tiny throne. Primrose,
Pert violet, hardy vetch,—no blossom blows
In March less conscious of a cloudy sky,
More sweet in sullen season. Days go by
Daintily round her. If her crown’s light weight        55
Upon her forehead fair and delicate
Leave the least violet stain, when laid away
At close of some great summer holiday,
Her lovers kiss the sweet mark smooth and white
Ere it can pain her. She hath great delight        60
In little things: and of great things small care.
The people love her; though the nobles are
Wayward and wild. Yet fears she not, nor shrinks
To show she fears not. “For in truth,” she thinks
“My Uncle Andrew and my Uncle Mark        65
Have care of me.” And, truly, dawn or dark,
These Uncles Mark and Andrew, busiest two
In Cyprus, find no lack of work to do:
Go up and down the noisy little state,
Silent all day: and, when the night is late,        70
Write letters, which she does not care to read
(The Ten, she knows, will ponder them with heed),
To Venice—not so far from Cyprus’ shore
But what the shadow of St. Mark goes o’er
The narrow sea to touch her island throne.        75
 
III.
She is herself a dove from Venice flown
Not so long since but what her snowy breast
Is yet scarce warm within its new-found nest,—
Whence sings she o’er the grave of Giacomo
Songs taught her by St. Mark.

                        Cristofero
        80
(He of the four stone shields which you may spy,
Thrice striped, thrice spotted with the mulberry,
In the great sunlight o’er that famous stair
Whose marble white is warmed with rose-hues, where
The crownings were once) wore the ducal horn        85
In Venice, on that joyous July morn
When all along the liquid streets, paved red
With rich reflections of clear crimson spread,
Or gorgeous orange gay with glowing fringe,
From bustling balconies above, to tinge        90
The lucid highways with new lustres, best
Befitting that day’s pride, the blithe folk pressed
About St. Paul’s, beneath the palace door
Of Mark Cornaro; where the Bucentor
Was waiting with the Doge; to see Queen Kate        95
Come smiling in her robes of marriage state
Through the crammed causeway, glimmering down between
The sloped bright-banded poles, beneath the green
Sea-weeded walls; content to catch quick gleams
Of her robe’s tissue stiff with strong gold seams        100
From throat to foot, or mantle’s sweeping shine
Of murrey satin lined with ermine fine.
Flushing the white warmth it encircled glad,
A sparkling carcanet of gems she had
About her fair throat. Such strong splendors piled        105
So heavily upon so slight a child
Made Venice proud: because in little things
Her greatness thus seemed greatest.

                        His white wings
The galley put forth from the blue lagoon.
The mellow disk of a mild daylight moon        110
Was hanging wan in the warm azure air,
When the great clarions all began to blare
Farewell. And, underneath a cloudless sky
Over a calméd sea, with minstrelsy,
The baby Queen to Cyprus sailed….        115
 
 
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