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.
 
Ferrara
Prison of Tasso
Lord Byron (1788–1824)
 
(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

  FERRARA! in thy wide and grass-grown streets,
  Whose symmetry was not for solitude,
  There seems as ’t were a curse upon the seats
  Of former sovereigns, and the antique brood
  Of Este, which for many an age made good        5
  Its strength within thy walls, and was of yore
  Patron or tyrant, as the changing mood
  Of petty power impelled, of those who wore
The wreath which Dante’s brow alone had worn before.
 
And Tasso is their glory and their shame.        10
  Hark to his strain! and then survey his cell!
  And see how dearly earned Torquato’s fame,
  And where Alfonso bade his poet dwell.
  The miserable despot could not quell
  The insulted mind he sought to quench, and blend        15
  With the surrounding maniacs, in the hell
  Where he had plunged it. Glory without end
Scattered the clouds away, and on that name attend
 
  The tears and praises of all time, while thine
  Would rot in its oblivion, in the sink        20
  Of worthless dust which from thy boasted line
  Is shaken into nothing; but the link
  Thou formest in his fortunes bids us think
  Of thy poor malice, naming thee with scorn:
  Alfonso, how thy ducal pageants shrink        25
  From thee! if in another station born,
Scarce fit to be the slave of him thou mad’st to mourn:
 
  Thou! formed to eat, and be despised, and die,
  Even as the beasts that perish, save that thou
  Hadst a more splendid trough and wider sty;        30
  He! with a glory round his furrowed brow,
  Which emanated then, and dazzles now,
  In face of all his foes, the Cruscan quire,
  And Boileau, whose rash envy could allow
  No strain which shamed his country’s creaking lyre,        35
That whetstone of the teeth,—monotony in wire!
 
  Peace to Torquato’s injured shade! ’t was his
  In life and death to be the mark where Wrong
  Aimed with her poisoned arrows—but to miss.
  O victor unsurpassed in modern song!        40
  Each year brings forth its millions; but how long
  The tide of generations shall roll on,
  And not the whole combined and countless throng
  Compose a mind like thine? Though all in one
Condensed their scattered rays, they would not form a sun.        45
 
 
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