Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
 
Appendix
II. Unacknowledged and Uncollected Translations.
The Gleaner of Sapri
 
        
By Luigi Mercantini
  Published in the Supplement to The Poets and Poetry of Europe. “This poet,” says Mr. Longfellow, “is a professor in the University of Palermo. The following simple and striking poem from his pen has reference to the ill-fated expedition of Carlo Pisacane, on the shores of the kingdom of Naples on the summer of 1857, in which says Dall’ Ongaro, ‘he fell with his followers like Leonidas with his three hundred.’”

THEY were three hundred, they were young and strong,
            And they are dead!
One morning as I went to glean the grain,
I saw a bark in middle of the main;
It was a bark came steaming to the shore,        5
And hoisted for its flag the tricolor.
At Ponza’s isle it stopped beneath the lea,
It stayed awhile, and then put out to sea,
Put out to sea, and came unto our strand;
Landed with arms, but not as foemen land.        10
They were three hundred, they were young and strong,
            And they are dead!
 
Landed with arms, but not as foemen land,
For they stooped down and kissed the very sand.
And one by one I looked them in the face;        15
A tear and smile in each one I could trace!
“Thieves from their dens are these,” some people said,
And yet they took not even a loaf of bread!
I heard them utter but a single cry:
“We for our native land have come to die!”        20
They were three hundred, they were young and strong,
            And they are dead!
 
With eyes of azure, and with hair of gold,
A young man marched in front of them; and bold
I made myself, and having seized his hand,        25
Asked him, “Where goest, fair captain of the band?”
He looked at me and answered, “Sister mine,
I go to die for this fair land of thine!”
I felt my heart was trembling through and through,
Nor could I say to him, “God comfort you!”        30
They were three hundred, they were young and strong,
            And they are dead!
 
That morning I forgot to glean the grain,
And set myself to follow in their train.
Twice over they encountered the gens-d’armes,        35
Twice over they despoiled them of their arms;
But when we came before Certosa’s wall
We heard the drums beat and the trumpets call,
And ’mid the smoke, the firing, and the glare,
More than a thousand fell upon them there.        40
They were three hundred, they were young and strong,
            And they are dead!
 
They were three hundred, and they would not fly;
They seemed three thousand, and they wished to die,
But wished to die with weapons in their hands;        45
Before them ran with blood the meadow lands.
I prayed for them, but ere the fight was o’er,
Swooned suddenly away, and looked no more;
For in their midst I could no more behold
Those eyes of azure and that hair of gold!        50
They were three hundred, they were young and strong,
            And they are dead!
 
 
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