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.
 
Rome, Streets of
The Corso: The Roman Carnival
Christopher Pearse Cranch (1813–1892)
 
WHO can forget thy Carnival, Rome, thy Carnival flashing
Joy and life through thy solemn streets? Ah, season when Pleasure
Day after day its kaleidoscope turned of bright robes and bright faces;
Rain of confetti and snowing of flowers from window to window;
Tumult of chatter and laughter, glances of youths and of maidens,        5
While their exchanges of flowers and bonbons beneath the balconies
Made the heart flutter with dreams of a world too sweet for possession.
Then the masking, the tricolored plumes in the broad black sombrero;
Blouses and harlequins battling like boys in a snowballing frolic;
While the thronged Corso scarce opened a way for the carriages passing.        10
 
Wild was the revelry,—counting no hours from noontide till nightfall;
Till, as behind the solemn old palaces dropped the last sunbeam,
Boomed the loud cannon that cleared the carriages off in an instant.
Then came the cavalry making an opening amid the thronged faces,
Down from the Piazza del Popolo on to the Palace Venetian:        15
Then the mad race of this riderless horses, and shouts of the people
Ended each many-hued day. Young hearts grew weary of pleasure.
Tired feet trod upon flowers that lay on the pavement neglected,
And the soiled maskers trailed heavily homeward their fanciful trappings.
Silent the stars shone down on the narrow streets, and the watchman        20
Dozed in his corner and dreamed of the coming delights of the morrow.
 
Can I forget the wild masque-ball at the brilliant Teatro?
Dominoes, white, black, and red, all thronging and jostling each other:
Men dark-bearded and women in costumes as fair as Sultanas,
Every one free as the wind, by fashion’s conventions untrammelled,        25
All borne away by the moment, and chasing the butterfly Pleasure,
Till the stars faded and set in the cold gray light of the morning.
Then, last of all, like a candle that flares at its death in the socket,
Burst on the night the bewildering blaze of the wild Moccoletti,—
Flashed in the windows from palace to palace the swift ’llumination,        30
Flashed in the street, on foot and in carriage each man and each woman
Bearing aloft from all reach their torches, with breath or with flapper
Striving to keep their own and to put out the lights of their neighbors,
While Senza Moccolo, Moccolo! all through the Corso resounded.
 
Can I forget thee, Rome, at this season of innocent pleasure?        35
Now when I see how the tyrants have caught thee and ruffled thy plumage,—
Clipped the gay pinions which once every year thou spreadest in frolic;
Forced thee to laugh, when the bitterest scorn should have answered their meddling;
Forced thee to take thy harp from the willows and sing at their bidding,
When thou shouldst call down the lightning of heaven to blast thy oppressors!        40
Patience! the day hastens onward. Thunder-clouds on the horizon
Rumble and will not rest. Beneath the thrones a volcano
Moans, not in vain; and the hour must come when the forces electric,
Justice and Freedom and Truth, no longer can slumber inactive.
Then shall thy children exult in a jubilee holier, grander,        45
And thy brief carnival pleasures seem but the sport of a school-boy
To the true freedom that then shall crown thee with blessing and honor!
 
 
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