Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > France
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X.  1876–79.
 
Nîmes
Nîmes
Jean Reboul (1796–1864)
 
Translated by Charlotte Fiske Bates

NO old cathedral here doth skyward tower,
Nor ancient cloister with dark corridor,
Where blazoned stones are said at midnight’s hour
        To rise from out the floor.
 
Here are no steeples fretted to the light,        5
Whose heaven-invading spires with pride upshoot;
With joinéd hands here kneels no sculptured knight,
        At Gothic coffin’s foot.
 
Here no Madonna of the woods doth stand,
Where for her absent lord the châtelaine prayed,        10
Nor by the herdsman, lifted cap in hand,
        Are Aves longer said.
 
And here no crenelled castle’s mossy wall
Bristles with turrets and with parapets,
Which ocean, with its ceaseless rise and fall,        15
        Monotonously frets.
 
But pagan Rome still lives here, though asleep;
Her flying eagle, with all-conquering wing,
Left nowhere else her talons’ print so deep
        As in the place I sing.        20
 
The palace, circus, temple here are seen,
A noble monument though in decay,
And everywhere the Past shows what has been,
        The Future to dismay.
 
There fallen front of some triumphal gate        25
Foreshows the destiny of bright To-day;
Here gods and death now share the same estate,—
        Mixed in one urn are they.
 
The Gaul and Thracian stained the arena’s space,
Content to be applauded ere their death,        30
Before this people-king who wished with grace
        To have them yield their breath.
 
Steeped in delicious perfumes came the knights;
In Eastern robes that swept these stones they pressed
Midst venal beauties and these fierce delights,        35
        To charm the listless breast.
 
Brilliant effeminates! alone amused
(Pleasure’s abuse had hardened so their heart)
With scenes of passion where life’s blood effused,
        Where only Death took part.        40
 
And then the basilic with splendid frieze
Like to a god bronzed in the censer’s glow;
And carved acanthus leaves that evening’s breeze
        Seems swaying to and fro.
 
Showing its crumbling wall through smiling bowers,        45
The triple goddess’ temple in decay;
Just like a wrinkled forehead under flowers,
        Peep out the ruins gray.
 
Ruins where poets come to dream at eve,
Ruins wherein are lesser ruins pent;        50
As exiled prince doth still a refuge give
        To those in banishment.
 
Diana, as she holds her nightly course,
Seems seeking still with melancholy light
On altar riven by the wild-fig’s force,        55
        An incense taken flight.
 
And here the tower which into ether springs;
Neighbor of lightnings is its summit bold;
The aqueduct through air the water brings,
        Two mountains in its hold.        60
 
Near to these ruins time dissolves so fast,
Brilliant with splendor, the new city see;—
As from a trunk shattered by lightning-blast
        Shoots up a thrifty tree.
 
 
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