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.
 
Rhone, the River
The Roman Cities of the Rhone
Bessie Rayner Parkes (1829–1925)
 
THE RAIN had ceased, and in the watery west
Enough of daylight lingered to beguile
A traveller’s footsteps from the narrow town
And past the mighty wall, beneath whose shade
The streets have clustered, to the tranquil road        5
Which leads to Orange from the distant north.
And there, on my amazed and ignorant eyes,
Rose the fair span of a triumphal arch,—
A strange pathetic witness of the chains
Which Cæsar fixed on Gaul, and bound her fast        10
With network of his causeways, east and west.
I passed beneath it, as the evening fell
Misty and golden-green with southern March;
And looked up at the sculptures undecayed,
And at the vast proportions, square and strong,        15
In which Rome wrought her masonry. It seemed
A strange, sad exile from that dearest land
Where stand the other three, beneath the crests
Of Capitol and Palatine, and groves
Which crown the churches on the Cœlian Hill.        20
 
But Nismes I saw in sunshine, when the light
Flooded the great steps of the Golden House,
And painted it against the tender sky,
As any time within this thousand years
And half as much again. And all the Place        25
By which the Golden House is girt about,
Was thronged with citizens’ feet, which have not ceased
Their hurrying tread since first that house was built
In honor of a god.
                With Arles the same,—
Whose accents yet retain a Roman note,        30
Whose dark-eyed women smile with Julia’s eyes
And grave Cornelia’s pride; whose people sit
Unto this hour upon their seats of stone,
Spectators of the game;
                    For far and wide
Within the valley of the rushing Rhone,        35
Beneath her stony hills, and where the vine
Mates with the olive on the sunburnt slopes,
This mighty Nation of the seven mounts
Planted her eagles; and her legions laid
Their arms together while she built in peace,        40
And dwelt in peace for centuries.
                            All the land
Is vocal with her presence; the swift streams
Are spanned by her embrace, and as the Rhone
Bursts from the snow-fed crescent of the lake
Which cradles his young streams, he sweeps his course        45
Through famous memories, second but to those
Which Tiber bears to Ostia, where the waves
Of yellow water whisper to the sea
The latest word from Rome.
 
 
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