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.
 
Florence
The Venus de’ Medici
Lord Byron (1788–1824)
 
(From Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

  BUT Arno wins us to the fair white walls,
  Where the Etrurian Athens claims and keeps
  A softer feeling for her fairy halls.
  Girt by her theatre of hills, she reaps
  Her corn and wine and oil, and Plenty leaps        5
  To laughing life, with her redundant horn.
  Along the banks where smiling Arno sweeps
  Was modern luxury of commerce born,
And buried learning rose, redeemed to a new morn.
 
  There, too, the Goddess loves in stone, and fills        10
  The air around with beauty; we inhale
  The ambrosial aspect, which, beheld, instils
  Part of its immortality; the veil
  Of heaven is half undrawn; within the pale
  We stand, and in that form and face behold        15
  What mind can make, when Nature’s self would fail;
  And to the fond idolaters of old
Envy the innate flash which such a soul could mould.
 
  We gaze and turn away, and know not where,
  Dazzled and drunk with beauty, till the heart        20
  Reels with its fulness; there, forever there,
  Chained to the chariot of triumphal art,
  We stand as captives, and would not depart.
  Away! there need no words, nor terms precise,
  The paltry jargon of the marble mart,        25
  Where pedantry gulls folly,—we have eyes:
Blood, pulse, and breast confirm the Dardan Shepherd’s prize.
 
  Appearedst thou not to Paris in this guise?
  Or to more deeply blest Anchises? or,
  In all thy perfect goddess-ship, when lies        30
  Before thee thy own vanquished lord of war?
  And gazing in thy face as toward a star,
  Laid on thy lap, his eyes to thee upturn,
  Feeding on thy sweet cheek! while thy lips are
  With lava kisses melting while they burn,        35
Showered on his eyelids, brow, and mouth, as from an urn!
 
  Glowing, and circumfused in speechless love,
  Their full divinity inadequate
  That feeling to express, or to improve,
  The gods become as mortals, and man’s fate        40
  Has moments like their brightest; but the weight
  Of earth recoils upon us;—let it go!
  We can recall such visions, and create,
  From what has been, or might be, things which grow
Into thy statue’s form, and look like gods below.        45
 
 
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