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.
 
Introductory
Italy
Bryan Waller Procter (1787–1874)
 
FOREVER and forever shalt thou be
Unto the lover and the poet dear,
Thou land of sunlit skies and fountains clear,
Of temples, and gray columns, and waving woods,
And mountains, from whose rifts the bursting floods        5
Rush in bright tumult to the Adrian sea:
O thou romantic land of Italy!
Mother of painting and sweet sounds! though now
The laurels are all torn from off thy brow,
Yet, though the shape of Freedom now no more        10
May walk in beauty on thy piny shore,
Shall I, upon whose soul thy poets’ lays,
And all thy songs and hundred stories, fell
Like dim Arabian charms, break the soft spell
That bound me to thee in mine earlier days?        15
Never, divinest Italy,—thou shalt be
For aye the watchword of the heart to me.
 
  Famous thou art, and shalt be through all time:
Not that because thine iron children hurled
Like arrows o’er the conquest-stricken world        20
Their tyrannies, but that, in a later day,
Great spirits, and gentle too, triumphing came;
And, as the mighty day-star makes its way
From darkness into light, they toward their fame
Went, gathering splendor till they grew sublime.        25
 
  Yet first of all thy sons were they who wove
Thy silken language into tales of love,
And fairest far the gentle forms that shine
In thy own poets’ faery songs divine.
O, long as lips shall smile or pitying tears        30
Rain from the eyes of beauty,—long as fears
Or doubts or hopes shall sear or soothe the heart,
Or flatteries softly fall on woman’s ears,
Or witching words be spoke at twilight hours,
Or tender songs be sung in orange bowers,—        35
Long as the stars, like ladies’ looks, by night
Shall shine,—more constant and almost as bright,—
So long, though hidden in a foreign shroud,
Shall Dante’s mighty spirit speak aloud:
So long the lamp of fame on Petrarch’s urn        40
Shall, like the light of learning, duly burn;
And he be loved,—he with his hundred tales,
As varying as the shadowy cloud that sails
Upon the bosom of the April sky,
And musical as when the waters run        45
Lapsing through sylvan haunts deliciously.
Nor may that gay romancer who hath told
Of knight and damsel and enchantments old,
So well, be e’er forgot; nor he who sung
Of Salem’s holy city lost and won,        50
The seer-like Tasso, who enamoured hung
On Leonora’s beauty, and became
Her martyr,—blasted by a mingled flame.
 
 
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