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.
 
Mantua
Mantua
Dante Alighieri (c. 1265–1321)
 
(From Inferno, Canto XX)
Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

ABOVE in beauteous Italy lies a lake
    At the Alp’s foot that shuts in Germany
    Over Tyrol, and has the name Benaco.
By a thousand springs, I think, and more, is bathed,
    ’Twixt Garda and Val Camonica, Pennino,        5
    With water that grows stagnant in that lake.
Midway a place is where the Trentine Pastor,
    And he of Brescia, and the Veronese
    Might give his blessing, if he passed that way.
Sitteth Peschiera, fortress fair and strong,        10
    To front the Brescians and the Bergamasks,
    Where round about the bank descendeth lowest.
There of necessity must fall whatever
    In bosom of Benaco cannot stay,
    And grows a river down through verdant pastures.        15
Soon as the water doth begin to run,
    No more Benaco is it called, but Mincio,
    Far as Governo, where it falls in Po.
Not far it runs before it finds a plain
    In which it spreads itself, and makes it marshy,        20
    And oft ’t is wont in summer to be sickly.
Passing that way the virgin pitiless
    Land in the middle of the fen descried,
    Untilled and naked of inhabitants;
There to escape all human intercourse        25
    She with her servants stayed, her arts to practise
    And lived, and left her empty body there.
The men, thereafter, who were scattered round,
    Collected in that place, which was made strong
    By the lagoon it had on every side;        30
They built their city over those dead bones,
    And, after her who first the place selected,
    Mantua named it, without other omen.
Its people once within more crowded were,
    Ere the stupidity of Casalodi        35
    From Pinamonte had received deceit.
Therefore I caution thee, if e’er thou hearest
    Originate my city otherwise,
    No falsehood may the verity defraud.
 
 
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