Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Italy
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII.  1876–79.
 
Florence
Dante Alighieri
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)
 
OF Florence and of Beatrice
  Servant and singer from of old,
  O’er Dante’s heart in youth had tolled
The knell that gave his lady peace;
  And now in manhood flew the dart        5
  Wherewith his city pierced his heart.
 
Yet if his lady’s home above
  Was heaven, on earth she filled his soul;
  And if his city held control
To cast the body forth to rove,        10
  The soul could soar from earth’s vain throng,
  And heaven and hell fulfil the song.
 
Follow his feet’s appointed way,—
  But little light we find that clears
  The darkness of the exiled years.        15
Follow his spirit’s journey,—nay,
  What fires are blent, what winds are blown
  On paths his feet may tread alone?
 
Yet of the twofold life he led
  In chainless thought and fettered will        20
  Some glimpses reach us,—somewhat still
Of the steep stairs and bitter bread,—
  Of the soul’s quest whose stern avow
  For years had made him haggard now.
 
Alas! the sacred song whereto        25
  Both heaven and earth had set their hand
  Not only at fame’s gate did stand
Knocking to claim the passage through,
  But toiled to ope that heavier door
  Which Florence shut forevermore.        30
 
Shall not his birth’s baptismal town
  One last high presage yet fulfil,
  And at that font in Florence still
His forehead take the laurel-crown?
  O God! or shall dead souls deny        35
  The undying soul its prophecy?
 
Ay, ’t is their hour. Not yet forgot
  The bitter words he spoke that day
  When for some great charge far away
Her rulers his acceptance sought;        40
  “And if I go, who stays?” so rose
  His scorn; “and if I stay, who goes?”
 
“Lo! thou art gone now, and we stay,”
  The curled lips mutter; “and no star
  Is from thy mortal path so far        45
As streets where childhood knew the way.
  To heaven and hell thy feet may win,
  But thine own house they come not in.”
 
Therefore, the loftier rose the song
  To touch the secret things of God,        50
  The deeper pierced the hate that trod
On base men’s track who wrought the wrong;
  Till the soul’s effluence came to be
  Its own exceeding agony.
 
Arriving only to depart,        55
  From court to court, from land to land,
  Like flame within the naked hand
His body bore his burning heart,
  That still on Florence strove to bring
  God’s fire for a burnt-offering.
*        *        *        *        *
        60
 
 
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