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.
 
Villa Franca
Villa Franca
James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)
 
WAIT a little: do we not wait?
Louis Napoleon is not Fate,
Francis Joseph is not Time;
There ’s One hath swifter feet than crime;
Cannon-parliaments settle naught;        5
Venice is Austria’s,—whose is Thought?
Minié is good, but, spite of change,
Gutenberg’s gun has the longest range.
  Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
  Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!        10
  In the shadow, year out, year in,
  The silent headsman waits forever.
 
Wait, we say: our years are long;
Men are weak, but Man is strong;
Since the stars first curved their rings,        15
We have looked on many things;
Great wars come and great wars go,
Wolf-tracks light on polar snow;
We shall see him come and gone,
This second-hand Napoleon.        20
  Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
  Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!
  In the shadow, year out, year in,
  The silent headsman waits forever.
 
We saw the elder Corsican,        25
And Clotho muttered as she span,
While crowned lackeys bore the train,
Of the pinchbeck Charlemagne:
“Sister, stint not length of thread!
Sister, stay the scissors dread!        30
On Saint Helen’s granite bleak,
Hark, the vulture whets his beak!”
  Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
  Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!
  In the shadow, year out, year in,        35
  The silent headsman waits forever.
 
The Bonapartes, we know their bees
That wade in honey red to the knees;
Their patent reaper, its sheaves sleep sound
In dreamless garners underground:        40
We know false glory’s spendthrift race
Pawning nations for feathers and lace;
It may be short, it may be long,
“’T is reckoning-day!” sneers unpaid Wrong.
  Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!        45
  Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!
  In the shadow, year out, year in,
  The silent headsman waits forever.
 
The cock that wears the eagle’s skin
Can promise what he ne’er could win;        50
Slavery reaped for fine words sown,
System for all, and rights for none,
Despots atop, a wild clan below,
Such is the Gaul from long ago;
Wash the black from the Ethiop’s face,        55
Wash the past out of man or race!
  Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
  Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!
  In the shadow, year out, year in,
  The silent headsman waits forever.        60
 
’Neath Gregory’s throne a spider swings,
And snares the people for the kings;
“Luther is dead; old quarrels pass;
The stake’s black scars are healed with grass”;
So dreamers prate; did man ere live        65
Saw priest or woman yet forgive?
But Luther’s broom is left, and eyes
Peep o’er their creeds to where it lies.
  Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
  Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!        70
  In the shadow, year out, year in,
  The silent headsman waits forever.
 
Smooth sails the ship of either realm,
Kaiser and Jesuit at the helm;
We look down the depths, and mark        75
Silent workers in the dark
Building slow the sharp-tusked reefs,
Old instincts hardening to new beliefs;
Patience a little; learn to wait;
Hours are long on the clock of Fate.        80
  Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
  Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!
  Darkness is strong, and so is Sin,
  But only God endures forever!
 
 
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