Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > France
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X.  1876–79.
 
Rhone, the River
The Descent of the Rhone
Richard Chenevix Trench (1807–1886)
 
(Excerpt)

FAIRER scene the opening eye
Of the day can scarce descry,
Fairer sight he looks not on
Than the pleasant banks of Rhone;
Where in terraces and ranks,        5
On those undulating banks,
Rise by many a hilly stair
Sloping tiers of vines, where’er
From the steep and stony soil
Has been won by careful toil,        10
And with long, laborious pains
Fenced against the washing rains,—
Fenced and anxiously walled round,
Some small patch of garden-ground.
Higher still some place of power,        15
Or a solitary tower,
Ruined now, is looking down
On the quiet little town
In a sheltered glen beneath,
Where the smoke’s unbroken wreath,        20
Mounting in the windless air,
Rests, dissolving slowly there,
O’er the housetops like a cloud,
Or a thinnest vaporous shroud.
 
  Morn has been,—and lo! how soon        25
Has arrived the middle noon,
And the broad sun’s rays do rest
On some naked mountain’s breast,
Where alone relieve the eye
Massive shadows, as they lie        30
In the hollows motionless;
Still our boat doth onward press:
Now a peaceful current wide
Bears it on an ample tide;
Now the hills retire, and then        35
Their broad fronts advance again,
Till the rocks have closed us round,
And would seem our course to bound,
But anon a path appears,
And our vessel onward steers,        40
Darting rapidly between
Narrow walls of a ravine.
 
  Morn has been and noon,—and now
Evening falls about our prow:
Mid the clouds that kindling won        45
Light and fire from him, the Sun
For a moment’s space was lying,
Phœnix in his own flames dying!
And a sunken splendor still
Burns behind the western hill:        50
Lo! the starry troop again
Gather on the ethereal plain;
Even now and there were none,
And a moment since but one;
And anon we lift our head,        55
And all heaven is overspread
With a still-assembling crowd,
With a silent multitude,—
Venus, first and brightest set
In the night’s pale coronet,        60
Armed Orion’s belted pride,
And the Seven that by the side
Of the Titan nightly weave
Dances in the mystic eve,
Sisters linked in love and light.        65
’T were in truth a solemn sight,
Were we sailing now as they,
Who upon their western way
To the isles of spice and gold,
Nightly watching, might behold        70
These our constellations dip,
And the great sign of the Ship
Rise upon the other hand,
With the Cross, still seen to stand
In the vault of heaven upright,        75
At the middle hour of night,—
Or with them whose keels first prest
The huge rivers of the West,
Who the first with bold intent
Down the Orellana went,        80
Or a dangerous progress won
On the mighty Amazon,
By whose ocean-streams they told
Of the warrior-maidens bold.
 
 
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