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.
 
Modena
Ginevra
Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)
 
IF thou shouldst ever come by choice or chance
To Modena, where still religiously
Among her ancient trophies is preserved
Bologna’s bucket (in its chain it hangs
Within that reverend tower, the Guirlandine),        5
Stop at a palace near the Reggio Gate,
Dwelt in of old by one of the Orsini.
Its noble gardens, terrace above terrace,
And rich in fountains, statues, cypresses,
Will long detain thee; through their arched walks,        10
Dim at noonday, discovering many a glimpse
Of knights and dames, such as in old romance,
And lovers, such as in heroic song,
Perhaps the two, for groves were their delight,
That in the spring-time, as alone they sat,        15
Venturing together on a tale of love,
Read only part that day. A summer sun
Sets ere one half is seen; but, ere thou go,
Enter the house,—prithee, forget it not,—
And look awhile upon a picture there.        20
  ’T is of a lady in her earliest youth,
The very last of that illustrious race,
Done by Zampieri,—but by whom I care not.
He who observes it, ere he passes on,
Gazes his fill, and comes and comes again,        25
That he may call it up, when far away.
  She sits, inclining forward as to speak,
Her lips half open, and her finger up,
As though she said, “Beware!” Her vest of gold
’Broidered with flowers, and clasped from head to foot,        30
An emerald-stone in every golden clasp;
And on her brow, fairer than alabaster,
A coronet of pearls. But then her face,
So lovely, yet so arch, so full of mirth,
The overflowings of an innocent heart,—        35
It haunts me still, though many a year has fled,
Like some wild melody!
                        Alone it hangs
Over a mouldering heirloom, its companion,
An oaken chest, half eaten by the worm,
But richly carved by Antony of Trent        40
With Scripture stories from the life of Christ;
A chest that came from Venice, and had held
The ducal robes of some old ancestor.
That by the way,—it may be true or false,—
But don’t forget the picture; and thou wilt not,        45
When thou hast heard the tale they told me there.
  She was an only child; from infancy
The joy, the pride, of an indulgent sire.
Her mother dying of the gift she gave,
That precious gift, what else remained to him?        50
The young Ginevra was his all in life,
Still as she grew, forever in his sight;
And in her fifteenth year became a bride,
Marrying an only son, Francesco Doria,
Her playmate from her birth, and her first love.        55
  Just as she looks there in her bridal dress,
She was all gentleness, all gayety,
Her pranks the favorite theme of every tongue.
But now the day was come, the day, the hour;
Now, frowning, smiling, for the hundredth time,        60
The nurse, that ancient lady, preached decorum;
And, in the lustre of her youth, she gave
Her hand, with her heart in it, to Francesco.
  Great was the joy; but at the bridal feast,
When all sat down, the bride was wanting there.        65
Nor was she to be found! Her father cried,
“’T is but to make a trial of our love!”
And filled his glass to all; but his hand shook,
And soon from guest to guest the panic spread.
“T was but that instant she had left Francesco,        70
Laughing and looking back, and flying still,
Her ivory-tooth imprinted on his finger.
But now, alas! she was not to be found;
Nor from that hour could anything be guessed
But that she was not! Weary of his life,        75
Francesco flew to Venice, and forthwith
Flung it away in battle with the Turk.
Orsini lived; and long mightst thou have seen
An old man wandering as in quest of something,
Something he could not find,—he knew not what.        80
When he was gone, the house remained awhile
Silent and tenantless,—then went to strangers.
  Full fifty years were past, and all forgot,
When on an idle day, a day of search
Mid the old lumber in the gallery,        85
That mouldering chest was noticed; and ’t was said
By one as young, as thoughtless as Ginevra,
“Why not remove it from its lurking-place?”
’T was done as soon as said; but on the way
It burst, it fell; and lo, a skeleton,        90
With here and there a pearl, an emerald-stone,
A golden clasp, clasping a shred of gold!
All else had perished,—save a nuptial ring,
And a small seal, her mother’s legacy,
Engraven with a name, the name of both,        95
“Ginevra.” There then had she found a grave!
Within that chest had she concealed herself,
Fluttering with joy the happiest of the happy;
When a spring-lock that lay in ambush there,
Fastened her down forever!        100
 
 
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