Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Spain, &c.
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV.  1876–79.
 
Portugal: Cintra
Cintra
William Gibson (1826–1887)
 
NOONDAY languors of summer-tide
Voluptuous hang on Cintra’s side,
Luxuries of languor, deep
And rich as a dream ’twixt wake and sleep;
Over all a delicious drowse,        5
As—seen in an opium-eater’s vision,—
Goddesses, with slumberous brows
Beautiful, droop in bowers elysian;
All adown the mountain’s side
A hazy sunshine mantling wide,—        10
And the golden quiet gentliest falls
Round Montserrat’s deserted halls.
Lo! the ruin,—the site romantic!
Wanderer o’er the broad Atlantic,
Sick at heart of the restless ocean        15
That rolled thee hither, thou deemest hell
To be a whirlpool of driving motion,
Motion incessant and forced and frantic,
As Vathek did; and thou as well
Wouldst choose in so sweet a place to dwell;        20
A haven for the stormy-stressed,
Where all that blooms, that breathes, seems blest
With the fulness of a heavenly rest.
    Yet a shadow haunts the ruin lone,
      And voices are echoing mournfully;        25
    This the burden of their moan:
      Vanity! All is vanity!
 
I wander about the grassy knoll,
Whereon the crumbling mansions stand;
And, O, the scene that the site commands        30
Might charm the least enthusiast soul!
Smoothed from the door is a sunny slope,
Changeful as the kaleidoscope
With wild-flowers, which so gayly flaunt
That the green is not predominant,        35
For a young child’s fall in a butterfly-chase
Smoothed even to the mountain’s base.
And thence away to the eastward roll
In light and shadow the sea-like hills;
And a kingdom’s breadth the vision fills.        40
Then, turning, I see above the browned
Bald mountain’s forehead, with turrets crowned,
Where topples ever, our eyes to mock,
The House of Our Lady of the Rock,
All soft with a color of amethyst        45
Through lazy up-coilings of long-drawn mist;
A mist whose moisture is dropped again
In myriad threads of waterfall
Down sunny valley and sunless glen;
And I hear the descent all musical        50
With silvery tinklings. From the frown
Of a blue-green gulféd gorge, behind
The mansion’s site, bursts, vast and white,
One torrent, in large flakes snowing adown,
With a mellow yet hollow roar rolled on the wind,        55
Treble and base in harmony,
A chorus of waters, and breathlessly
Hang all things charmed on the lullaby.
    And it fills the halls and chambers lone,
      Ever so mournfully, mournfully;        60
    This the burden of its moan:
      Vanity! Hollow vanity!
*        *        *        *        *
Scarce in their mazes the midges move,
With the webs of gossamer interwove;
The lizard’s slim shadow lies motionless        65
On the mossy stone, in the path unthridded;
Droops, with still pulse, a trancéd life
Over rich fields with poppies rife,
Their deep eyes, snowy and scarlet lidded,
Heavy as with the consciousness        70
Of a secret weight, pregnant with power.
Death that sleeps never, and Sleep that dies
Into life, with the dawn of awakening eyes,
Differing in breathing mortal breath,
Dreamful or dreamless, O Sleep, O Death,        75
How are ye so of kin, born twin
From the selfsame womb of a simple flower?
Yet breathe on our brows, sweet peace profound,
Be it Sleep, be it Death; O, fold us round,
Or above or under the poppied mound!        80
    For life, saith the shade on the ruin lone,
      Is mutable, full of misery;
    A fever-flush, a fainting moan,
      Vanity! Hectic vanity!
 
A mountain-spur on either side        85
Shoots out, with the gray-mossed cork-tree hoary,
Like a long and lofty promontory
Into and over an ocean-tide;
And I, like an idle boat, embayed,
Embowered, like a bird, in aloe-shade,        90
Like a babe, embosomed in Love’s sweet zone,
Am possessed by the beauty all alone.
A glorious picture from mount to valley!
There the cork, shagging fantastically
The steeps; here, waveless in the calm,        95
The feathery willow and plume-like palm,
Where flow, developed to the skies,
Fair and fertile declivities,
Rounded into mound and dell,
Green ripples light on the longer swell;        100
Gardens perennial as the Hesperides;
Where, ever spangling one bough, we find
Fragrances of leaf and rind;
White-twinkling stars and planet-globes
Golden, pending in orange-glooms,        105
All untabled their ephemerides;
Trailers blowing trumpet-blooms,
And heavily purpled the grape-festoons;
All,—save the beating heart of June
Glowingly felt, which never a wind        110
Reveals by the lifting of lustrous robes,—
All would seem but a painting grand,
The silent work of a master hand:
That windless and unclouded air,
That seem so rapture-hushed and fair,        115
And the perishing palace frowning there!
    In faery land is a shadow lone,
      And voices that ever sing mournfully;
    This the burden of their moan:
      Vanity! Dissonant vanity!        120
 
And now, shut in from the scene’s expansion,
In the central hall of the lonely mansion,
Around me are but the crumbling walls,
Weather-embrowned and mossy-dank,
And a shadow of cold and darkness falls        125
Upon me. Weeds and grass are rank
Where undistinguished lie roof and floors,
And, choking the gaps which once were doors,
The ivy. Yet more in their prime superb
Than now did the intruding pile disturb        130
Nature’s juvenile, jubilant choir;
For jangles less the shattered lyre
Than when its false note sounded high
And loud in a lovely harmony;
And joy hath a tone, dark, tender, holy,        135
That often, ay, ever is but twin-brother
To the music-tears of melancholy;
Blending still the one with the other,
Even as with the beauty around
These bare walls, toppling to the ground,        140
Blending closelier seem to be,
Evermore wasting silently,
Like icebergs in a torrid sea.
    Haunted by a shadow lone,
      And voices that echo mournfully;        145
    This the burden of their moan:
      Vanity! Perishing vanity!
 
Ah! here the accomplished voluptuary
Had found the content he sought, if the faery
Loveliness of the still seclusion        150
Could of its own sweet self suffice
For a soul like his; but wealth’s profusion
He poured around him, never stopping,
Any more than a drainless fountain,
Silver-dropping, for the counting,—        155
Esteeming his affluent heart and mind,
His gorgeous fancy, his masséd treasure
Of knowledge, no more than the silks and spice
And gold and gems of Orient Ind,
Valueless save to subserve pleasure,—        160
And lo! a palace in paradise!
Holy the garden-bloom of Eden;
And he turned it into a Moslem Heaven!
Youngest Eve its genius maiden;
And to her was the flush of an houri given!        165
The one philosophy throned in his thought
Was that which the sage of Cyrene taught;
Until, his finer perceptions dull,
Even in the fane of the beautiful,
The hierophant turned from the shrine,        170
And bowed to a light that was not divine.
That pomp can pall and pleasure sate
He proved, as was preached from his proud estate
By a prince in his grandeur not elate.
    And a shadow lay on his own heart lone,        175
      As now on the ruin, audibly;
    In the words of Solomon making moan:
      Vanity! Vexing vanity!
 
And Vathek measured, O Israel,
The height of thy crownéd wisdom hoary:        180
Changes he rang on the same old story:
Blight to the bloom, and gloom to the glory,
From the inward upon the outward fell.
The restless fiend of satiety
Into the hell of his very thought,        185
Into the hell of unrest, had wrought
His Elysium of idlesse and luxury,
Ere he left it lone. In northern-more climes,
Not wiser grown, hill-brows less faery
Did he tiara with towers aery,        190
Which all in turn, like these, grew dreary,
Like these, which are mine for my moral rhymes;
While the south is sunning bower and hall,
Desolate and dismantled all,
In their solitude paradisiacal.        195
    While a shadow haunts the ruin lone,
      And voices are echoing mournfully;
    This is the burden of their moan:
      Vanity! Restless vanity!
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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