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.
 
Pompeii
Pompeii
Count Anton Alexander von Auersperg (Anastasius Grün) (1806–1876)
 
(From The Ship Cincinnatus)
Translated by C. T. Brooks

DEAD dweller of Pompeii, with whose ashes
Perchance, e’en now, the wanton winds are playing,
That tease the grape and rose through viny meshes,
Among the sunny locks of noonday straying!
 
Thine is the house, which I, thy guest, belated        5
Two thousand years, am at this moment greeting!
Thou art a man with whom one well were mated,
And me thy Lar invites to friendly meeting.
 
Thy “Salve!” still the old mosaics sound it
Long after thee, up from the threshold glancing;        10
’T is good for me, as once each neighbor found it,
Who now, with thee, in fickle winds is dancing.
 
Thou wilt not scorn my visit, though a late one,
Nor yet will I reproach the house’s master,
Who bids me sit, he the rich man and great one,        15
For purple cushion, on this moss-clad plaster.
 
Well may thy Lares (’t is my heart’s desire)
With my house-cobolds learn to exchange good wishes!
Though they each other pelt with brands of fire,
Heaven grant they only may not burn our dishes!        20
 
Roof and gold beams all gone? and, in their places,
Does Heaven’s blue canopy alone smile o’er us?
Well, I ’m an easy guest, I ’ll say, “How graces
Mine host’s blue silk o’erhead the scene before us?”
 
And though the sun upon my skull lies stinging,        25
It is the Rose of Silence (I will swear it),
That even on Pæstum’s roses scorn is flinging,—
How kind in honor of thy guest to wear it!
 
Yon ivy-vine where the cicada, swinging,
Sits overhead, is the slack rope, suspended,        30
On which thy tumbler entertains us, springing;—
No fall for him needs now be apprehended!
 
Here, too, is Love! His works immortal proving,
Limned by the painter-poets on the ceiling!
Racy and bold, in sooth! But then, in loving,        35
Better too bold than shy, the flame revealing!
 
Trophies of Bacchus, Amphoras, a rabble
Of Bacchanals, lie round us, tipsy creatures;
Their mouths are stopped with ashes, yet they gabble
Still of their jolly god’s inspired features!        40
 
Lo, the Papyrus-roll!—fair greeting, Muses!
Though black and crisp, it holds in sacred keeping
Pearls of your finery, as the muscle loses
No pearly tear within its dark shrine sleeping.
 
Now let us go to thy garden’s feast of roses!        45
Alas, its mourning walls their treasure cherish,
Like a sad urn, where, burned and black, reposes
Fair Spring, who, as a youth, was doomed to perish!
 
Yet see! new violets nod, and roses yonder,
Vines, palms, and plane-trees, Nature’s fresh plantations,        50
Blooming outside, look down in silent wonder,
As we on graves of long-gone generations!
 
And see, still other guests my entrance follow!
As I in rooms whence thou hast long departed,
So makes herself at home the twittering swallow        55
In nests a thousand years ago deserted!
 
Round the rose-churchyard see, in these calm hours,
Like a lost ghost, a venturous goldfinch hover!
Hears he the spirits of the garden flowers?
Dreams he of sires that here flew, warbling, over?        60
 
But well I know, the ring of being, keeping
One vast and shining track of glory, marches,
Through star and tree and rose and sun-ball sweeping,
Through man and angel, as aloft it arches!
 
Creation’s song, harmoniously sounded        65
By all,—not one can, by himself, repeat it!
What by my stammering lips is never rounded,
Rose, star, and tree, they must for me complete it!
 
’T will be but part of me the grave encloses,
A part of me shall still live on and flourish;        70
’T is part of me, that breathes in scent of roses,
And flames in suns, and vine and palm doth nourish!
 
Ay, ’t is a part of me, down hillsides leaping
In fountains, winds along through earth’s green places,
As butterfly, on bright-hued wings, is sweeping,        75
And with the swallow dawning summer traces!
 
So shall my “Salve!” greet each generation,
As, o’er their roses, vines, and fountains sweeping,
Borne on the wind’s wild wings, with exultation,
My restless dust shall fly abroad unsleeping!        80
 
 
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