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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Birds of Passage
Flight the First.
Santa Filomena
 
          Published in the first number of the Atlantic Monthly, November, 1857. “For the legend,” Mr. Longfellow writes to Mr. Sumner, “see Mrs. Jameson’s Legendary Art. The modern application you will not miss. In Italian, one may say Filomela or Filomena.” The reference is to Miss Florence Nightingale, who rendered great service in the hospitals during the Crimean War.

WHENE’ER a noble deed is wrought,
Whene’er is spoken a noble thought,
    Our hearts, in glad surprise,
    To higher levels rise.
 
The tidal wave of deeper souls        5
Into our inmost being rolls,
    And lifts us unawares
    Out of all meaner cares.
 
Honor to those whose words or deeds
Thus help us in our daily needs,        10
    And by their overflow
    Raise us from what is low!
 
Thus thought I, as by night I read
Of the great army of the dead,
    The trenches cold and damp,        15
    The starved and frozen camp,—
 
The wounded from the battle-plain,
In dreary hospitals of pain,
    The cheerless corridors,
    The cold and stony floors.        20
 
Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
    Pass through the glimmering gloom,
    And flit from room to room.
 
And slow, as in a dream of bliss,        25
The speechless sufferer turns to kiss
    Her shadow, as it falls
    Upon the darkening walls.
 
As if a door in heaven should be
Opened and then closed suddenly,        30
    The vision came and went,
    The light shone and was spent.
 
On England’s annals, through the long
Hereafter of her speech and song,
    That light its rays shall cast        35
    From portals of the past.
 
A Lady with a Lamp shall stand
In the great history of the land,
    A noble type of good,
    Heroic womanhood.        40
 
Nor even shall be wanting here
The palm, the lily, and the spear,
    The symbols that of yore
    Saint Filomena bore.
 
 
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